Taking flight with a music video — Angel City Chorale

Choir releases a life-affirming music video to remind the people of LA and beyond – “We will fly again!”

We just love what Angel City Chorale has done: they’ve created an inspiring video performance where they remind us all that, “We Will Fly Again”.

The 4-minute video features the chorale members pursuing their daily safer-at-home routines – ranging from home schooling and cooking to providing medical care – and pulls these disparate yearnings together for a moving expression of determination and resilience. The soundtrack is the Chorale’s live concert recording of Christopher Tin’s “Sogno di Volare” (The Dream of Flight), a soaring expression of the indomitable human spirit. Tin’s lyrics originate in the writings of Leonardo da Vinci about his own imaginings of flight.

As a choir, we exist to bring people together, to elevate the human spirit and celebrate our unity of spirit and diversity of expression

Sue Fink

Director Sue Fink says, “We may be separated by walls and distance, but not by heart – not from each other or from the beauty and diversity of the city we represent. We firmly believe that we will make it through this crisis, that we will come together again, sing together again and fly again.”

We asked them more about this project and the challenges of producing it.

When did the thought first come about doing this – did anything trigger it?

We knew we wanted to engage our singers in a project as as soon as we realized we wouldn’t be able to hold a concert this spring. Producing a video was the logical choice.  We wanted to do something right away while we learned the ins and outs of choral virtual recording.

How did it come together?

It happened pretty organically. One of our operations committee members suggested we use a song we had already recorded for our first one, as it would be easier, technically. Sue Fink, our Artistic Director, suggested we use Sogno di Volare because it was so inspiring and hopeful, was mostly homophonic, and we also have an ongoing relationship with the composer, Christopher Tin. We approached him, and he was happy to be involved. Then as luck would have it, our Artistic Director’s daughter’s boyfriend is a talent manager (one of the benefits of being located in the center of the entertainment industry!). He suggested one of his clients, Jill D’Agnenica, as a potential director. We met with Jill over Zoom, and she loved the idea and agreed to do it, pro bono no less! Then together we worked out the concept of the choir members singing along to the song while going about their safer-at-home activities, intercut with drone footage of LA. The final piece of the puzzle came about when the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, gave a speech that concluded with, “We are the city of angels, and we will fly again.” We knew at that moment what the theme of the video would be.

Is this a new piece for Angel City Chorale to sing?

No, we’ve sung it several times. It was composed by Christopher Tin as the theme song for the videogame Civilization VI, and Angel City Chorale recorded the original soundtrack at the historic Abbey Road Studios in London back in 2016. We have sung it in concert as well. The performance in the video was recorded live, and it appears on our album One World, released in 2018.

What has been the hardest thing about making this project a reality?

Honestly, once we were introduced to our wonderful director, Jill D’Agnenica, the rest fell into place pretty easily. Again, due to being in Los Angeles, many of our members have successful careers in the entertainment industry, so we had a good amount of experience within the group to pull off this project. For example, our producer, Yen King (Alto I) has been a commercial producer for decades. Our Managing Director, Winifred Neisser (Alto II), worked in TV development her whole career, and our marketing director, Adam Waring (Tenor II), is a digital marketing director with Showtime. Jill is a rising Hollywood director who was happy for the opportunity to spread her wings (so to speak) into trying a music video. She was very organized and had a clear vision for the project from the beginning, and thoroughly understood what we wanted to portray. The hardest part was waiting for it to be completed!  We worked well together as we went through several edits to more closely portray our story.

A snapshot of Angel City Chorale singing virtually together in their ‘Sogno di Volare’ video.

Was there anything that you thought was going to be difficult that ended up being easy?

Since most of the footage in the video was recorded by our singers, we were very concerned about how that was going to go. Would our singers who are used to being group performers be willing to step up and record? Los Angeles has strict safer-at-home and social distancing policies in place, so the singers had to be pretty self-reliant about filming themselves and submitting their footage to our director. We were so pleasantly surprised by the huge variety of activities they came up with to represent how they were handling the quarantine, and how well-shot so much of it was. On one hand, it made the director’s job that much easier, but on the other, there was an embarrassment of riches! Culling down the shots to just the 4-minute running time and making sure everyone who submitted footage was represented was a real challenge.

What were some of the surprises that happened along the way working on this project?

We’re all pretty surprised by how well it turned out. We knew we had a good idea, and we all love the song, but the end result is way beyond our wildest dreams. And we’ve been overjoyed by the overwhelmingly positive response the video has gotten and continues to get. At this point, it is (almost) selling itself. The most rewarding aspect for us is that folks outside our choir have been so deeply touched by our story of hope and resillience.

Do you have to have technical wizards enlisted in order to pull something like this off?

We actually don’t, the video is pretty low-tech. Our director is an amazing editor, and we hired an assistant editor to help her as well, but besides the drone footage, the vast majority of shots were filmed on the individual singers’ phones.

Drone shot over Santa Monica Pier from Angel City Chorale’s video ‘Sogno di Volare’.

Did anything surprise you about the drone footage?

I think we were all surprised by how stunningly beautiful the drone footage was, and how closely the finished product was to how we envisioned it. We hired a professional drone operator to capture the footage, and it was worth every penny.

What about the dream footage?

Only how much easier it was to shoot than the singing footage! Most members spent a fraction of their total time on the dreaming footage, as all it really required was for them to stand outside and gaze longingly into the distance.  We loved how everyone felt free to be themselves and to share their own experiences during this crisis.

Singers represent themselves day dreaming while singing ‘Sogno di Volare’ (‘Dream of Flight’) by Christopher Tin.

What insights do you have for choir directors at this time – what tips do you have for them as they try to keep their isolated members energized with music?

Make sure everyone is up to speed with Zoom (if you haven’t already), and don’t give up! We find that in zoom rehearsals make sure original sound is on and make use of the break out rooms. Thursday nights are our regular rehearsal nights, and we have tried to have some communal Zoom-based activity almost every Thursday since the lockdown began. We have had sing-alongs, meetings about how to navigate the future, a film festival, talent nights, you name it. We try to incorporate at least some music into all of them, and it’s just a great opportunity for us to get together and socialize. Obviously, it can’t replace learning music together, but at least it is keeping us connected until we can do that again.

What’s on the horizon for future projects?

Our next two projects will involve sound recording and video. We also obviously had to take a hard look at our finances. We are largely funded through concert ticket sales and member dues, and one of those revenue streams is gone for the foreseeable future. We have pared our expenses down to the bone, and we are constantly looking for ways to raise additional funds. The video is turning out to be a valuable tool for that. Our next two projects will involve sound recording and video.

Where can we go to support the ACC?

To learn more and donate, you can visit our website here. Like arts organizations everywhere, Angel City Chorale is struggling currently and appreciates any received contributions to our mission.

Angel City Chorale is a nonprofit arts organization located in Los Angeles, CA, USA. You can also support them by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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