For student musical groups at Northeastern University, the chance to once again perform in front of a live audience of family and friends this semester was thrilling. For the College of Arts, Media and Design’s Chamber Singers, the first live performance was in front of an audience of over 2,000 at Boston Symphony Hall.
Assistant Teaching Professor and Director of Choral Arts Katherine Chan was contacted by AWR Music Productions who were looking for a small student singing group to perform during the Boston leg of the Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour, a music tour based entirely around the globally-recognized video game series. The Chamber Singers group proved to be a perfect fit – and were the only university choir in the city invited to perform.
Students committed to extra rehearsals during the fall semester to learn the Final Fantasy score in addition to the program for their end-of-semester concert.
“I’m really proud of them for everything that they’ve done,” said Chan. “We really didn’t get a lot of time, and this is why I’m also really proud of the students is how quick they were able to adapt because they were well-prepared, they knew what they were doing, and they were just super excited and eager … To think about having a live audience definitely motivated the students.”
The week of the November concert, students had a piano rehearsal with the conductor and a 45-minute soundcheck on the day of the concert. Yet they were up to the challenge.
The University and the Symphony Hall’s strict Covid protocols made it possible for students to performing selections from the video game alongside the Shinra Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Grammy-award winner Arnie Roth. While they sang, scenes from the video game were projected behind them.
“It was a packed house,” said Chan. “The audience here knew the music back to front because they play these video games …There was one particular scene where there was nothing on the screen [yet], the orchestra started, and the audience just erupted. They know the music so well. For the students to be part of that, I think, it’s a memory that they’re going to now carry forward. I just love that as an educator, providing my students with as many unique experiences as possible.”
This triumphant return to singing in front of a live audience came after a very difficult year for the performers.
“Last year, it was hard,” remembered Chan. “How do you teach hybrid to an ensemble? It’s an in-person participation experience. It’s not the same to sing on Zoom. It’s you and no one else.”
Ultimately, the Chamber Singers found a way to rehearse in small groups in person, capped at 30 minutes at a time – enough time to warm up their voices before they had to take mandatory 30-minute breaks.
Yet the students carried on, and continued to broaden their repertoire outside the classical canon, building a reputation for versatility that ultimately brought them to the attention of the Final Fantasy tour organizers.
“We’re starting to be known a little more than just a campus choir,” says Chan. This semester’s Boston Symphony Hall performance may be the first of many for CAMD’s Chamber Singers as live music makes its post-pandemic return.