“Choir-intine”: Joliet West Choirs continue to sing together amid pandemic


Tim Deboer

Choir Director, Mr. Deboer, arranged for The Joliet West Choir sings The Star Spangled Banner together from home. Photo taken from Joliet West Vocal Music Facebook

Kaitlyn Gibson, staff writer

The Joliet West Vocal Music program has decided to present some of their performance pieces by creating a virtual choir. During the first week of April, the Joliet West Vocal Music website was updated to include an audio track of the Concert Choir singing “you (i do not think)” by Rachel Whelan.

The message above the file explains that the students were given practice tracks to listen to when singing their part. Once they submitted their video clips, the audio was stripped and lined up to create a combined piece. “There are so many great things to notice on this track, ranging from the background noise of the singer being outside or an occasional dog bark. These things could have been stripped of the track, but humanity was more important than perfection of sound,” Director Tim DeBoer said of the performance.

They didn’t stop there. Two other songs were posted on the JTWVM Facebook page and the JTWVM YouTube channel: “Born into a Fairy Tale,” a combined piece with the Ensemble and Concert Choir women; and “Dear Theodosia,” a combined piece with the Mixed Chorus and Concert Choir men, which also features sophomores Braden Brophy and Micah Klima as soloists. This time, however, the students’ video clips were included in the final products; a few of the girls can even be seen with costumes and props to fit their fairy tale theme. 

One of those girls is senior Alexa VanLengen, who can be found in the top row of the women’s video wearing a tiara on her head and a stuffed frog on her shoulder. “The virtual choir has really done a lot for me in being able to help me kind of feel like I’m still with the choir, even if we aren’t physically together,” VanLengen confessed. The desire to perform together is a common feeling among the program’s members. Their spring concert, which was supposed to be themed around “Togetherness,” was set for May 7; however, it had to be canceled, as no one was actually allowed to be “together.”

Although the vocal music program at West is beloved by its current students, it has a special place in the hearts of alumni, too. One virtual choir piece that DeBoer put together during quarantine was “I Have Had Singing.” The video features Joliet West alumni Danny Mulligan (2015), Jonah Klima (2017), and Caleb Klima (2019) in addition to DeBoer and his former student teacher, Matthew Butler. “As an [alumnus], it’s always great to give back to the program that helped shape where you go, and that’s why I liked this project,” explained Caleb Klima. “My hope was it would give students in choir now some motivation to continue music in this weird time.”

As Klima hoped, the students have continued to make music. In fact, they have a few more songs in the works, including an arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the JTHS virtual graduation ceremony. DeBoer revealed that 30 students took part in this project, and he’s been working non-stop to get it edited together. He explained that when trying to line the audio up correctly, some of the videos got out of sync. The sound is the most important part, though, and according to DeBoer, “it sounds fantastic.”

The choir’s performance of the national anthem can be seen at the virtual graduation ceremony on May 29, and all other performances can be found on the JTWVM YouTube channel.