Want to sing together safely? Check out how this London, Ont. choir is doing it

This is the second concert members of Amabile Choirs recorded from their own separate vehicles. Choristers met in a parking lot for the Remembrance Day concert. This time they moved to Level P2 of the Westmount Mall parking garage.

Amabile Choirs recorded their Christmas concert in a parking garage

Choir members each performed in a separate vehicle, with microphones feeding back to a central sound mixer. (Submitted by Mark Payne)

"Like everyone in the arts, we've been sorely disappointed that we can't get together," said co-conductor of the London, Ont. Amabile Men's Choir, Mark Payne.

Choir members have been meeting on Zoom since the COVID-19 pandemic began but that has its challenges, said Payne. "You can't actually sing together. One person sings, everybody else listens. You talk about what you would do, but you can't actually do it."

London choir performs in mall parking lot

CBC News London

5 months ago
The Amabile Choir overcame COVID-19 distancing rules and performed using some modern mixing and a large indoor parking lot. 0:32

So Payne and founding co-artistic director Carol Beynon had a brainwave: What if the choristers met in a parking garage and sang from inside their own separate vehicles?

It worked. On Saturday, choir members met in level P2 of the Westmount Mall parking lot.

The award-winning Amabile Choirs of London, Ont. is comprised of eight different choirs and has a long-standing history in the city that began in 1985.

Mark Payne is the co-conductor of the Amabile Men's Choir. He was instrumental in rigging up the system that allowed the choir to record a concert from the singers' cars. (Submitted by Amabile Choirs)

"We ran a number of humongously long microphone cables out to cars and put a microphone in each car for each singer," Payne explained. Next he fed each those cables into two mixing boards.

And the pièce de résistance? A little FM transmitter. 

Then, once the choristers tuned into the same FM frequency, they began to sing.

"They heard each other live. I recorded each channel independently on the computer. And then it's my job to go back and mix them all together afterwards," said Payne.

"To say it's a cathartic experience is a bit of an understatement," he said.

"All the technical wizardry and all that stuff aside, the beauty of seeing their faces and having them feel each other nearby, even if they're in separate cars, was something money and time can't buy."

'Amabile Family Christmas' is available to stream between December 18th and 25th. Tickets are available online.

Mark Payne, co-conductor of the men's Amabile choir tells London Morning about overcoming Covid-19 distancing rules by using some modern mixing and a large indoor parking lot. 0:00
The concert will be available to stream from December 18-26. (Submitted by Amabile Choirs)