Despite the pandemic putting a stop to in-person lessons for more than six months, it failed to bring the curtain down on pupil performers at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi.
A video posted online showed pupils from the school’s performing arts department re-enacting a famous chorus from the popular musical, Les Miserables.
Dressed in colourful costumes, children blasted out their solo vocals in style against a white backdrop, before each clip was edited and combined to create the entire musical, including the tuneful chorus of One Day More.
At a time when it was unable to celebrate the performing arts on school grounds, Cranleigh said the production was “monumental in connecting our community”.
Stephanie Sell, vocal coach at the school, told The National the pupils performed the historical musical using modern technology.
“The vast majority of rehearsals for the show were conducted online via Google Meet,” she said.
“Teaching and rehearsing songs online was challenging as there was a delay between playing the music and the pupils hearing it.
“The solution we found was for the soloists to download the backing tracks themselves to play and sing from their side, then we could give feedback on each section.”
The online clip, which is about one minute long, is the finale to act one and included pupils from pre-prep, prep and senior school.
Every voice heard in the musical was individually recorded. Once confident with their songs, pupils listened to the backing track through earphones while recording their voices into a second device, said Martin Barraclough, head of music performance.
Once the backing tracks were edited, the cast got into costume and filmed themselves against a plain, white wall.
They sang and lip-synched to their own edited vocal tracks, which allowed the footage to align with the audio.
While the editing process was challenging and time-consuming, Jo Lee, director of performing arts, said the final outcome was a checkerboard of faces singing passionately.
“The chorus choreography was pre-recorded videos for the cast to copy. All the videos were then submitted, and the final editing process began,” she said.
“This was an enormous undertaking with hundreds of videos to be cropped and edited into the final version that was shared with the Cranleigh Abu Dhabi community.
“Usually, a school production of this size would take one term to rehearse and stage.
“This process started in the first term and culminated in the final term. It is safe to say that it was a highly unusual and much longer process from a distance, but we were determined to continue our performing arts traditions.”