Video of EMU Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir goes viral

shenandoah-valley-childrens-choirThe Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir singing “Shenandoah” at Shenandoah National Park? Yes, and there’s a music video to prove it. The video went viral after it was posted on Facebook Sept. 12. Within hours, the 3.5 -minute video was viewed 16,000 times. Nine days later, the total is more than 180,245 views.

The video was part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the National Park Service. On June 20, the choir, a program of Eastern Mennonite University, performed at the park’s Byrd Welcome Center as part of the “Sing Across America” project.

“We thought it would be fun to create a video that would showcase their work and that iconic song in the beauty of the park,” said Claire Comer, a park ranger and interpretive specialist in the media department.

Added Janet Hostetter, the choir’s artistic director, laying emphasis on the repetition: “I suggested the idea of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir singing ‘Shenandoah’ in the Shenandoah National Park.” She used an arrangement by Mark Patterson of the old American folk song.

Production of the music video took place over a four-day period before the choir’s concert at the park. First, the choir—with pianist Maurita Eberly and violinist Tara Davis—made an audio recording of “Shenandoah” in a Harrisonburg studio.

The following day, the concert choir travelled to a scenic overlook along the famed Skyline Drive to record the video. Park media staff Neal Lewis and Brett Raeburn were videographers and editors.

Gary Kerlin of Gary’s Pianos in Harrisonburg donated the use of a Baldwin grand piano. “It baked in the sun for four hours and needed extensive re-turning later,” said Hostetter.

Soloist Augusta “Gussie” Nafziger and five other singers returned to the park the next day for more filming and recording.

Since the video project and the concert were organized after the concert choir’s 2015-16 calendar had been set, about one-third of the members had conflicts and were not able to participate, said Hostetter. But all the choristers and their families seem thrilled about the experience.

One parent shared the video with a friend in an airport lobby. Soon the lobby became quiet as people heard the video and began exclaiming, “How beautiful,” “Who is that?” and “They sound like angels!”

Meanwhile, back at the park, Superintendent Jim Northup viewed the video alone in his office for the first time. “It made me cry,” he admitted later. “It is magnificent!”

In addition to posting on Facebook and the Shenandoah National Park website, the video will be used for other educational and promotional purposes. “We do lots of this type of work in-house,” said Comer.

Shenandoah National Park­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­, established in 1935, consists of 200,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a short drive from EMU and 75 miles from the nation’s capital.

SVCC, founded at EMU by Julie White in 1991, has grown to include more than 160 children in three auditioned performing choirs and two non-auditioned early elementary classes. Hostetter became artistic director two years ago. SVCC’s fall concert will be Nov. 20 at EMU, performing alongside the Shenandoah Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra.

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