Two Saint Leo Performers Sing in Transatlantic Choir

July 09, 2013

Two vocalists from Saint Leo University’s faculty and staff choir are lending their talents to an international choir led by Grammy Award-winning composer Eric Whitacre during England’s Coronation Festival, which is scheduled July 11 to 14 to honor Queen Elizabeth’s 60th anniversary as monarch.

The festival includes days of events, including a performance of a new musical composition by Whitacre, and featuring Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise. The Virtual Choirs (1, 2, 3, and now 4) are also creations of the American composer. He invites singers from around the world to learn his music and submit audio-visual files of their performances, which are then blended into a single, global track. Photos of the individual choir members are projected on a screen during the performance.

Whitacre, who now lives in London, has been conducting Virtual Choirs since 2009, and uses social media to recruit singers. In June, he asked for submissions for a new choir for the July celebration. The combined performance of all the choir singers will “take place” from Buckingham Palace gardens.

The call for submissions caught the attention of Brook McGinnis, an instructor of fine arts at Saint Leo (pictured in the yellow sweater) . She has been following Whitacre’s career as the two share some commonalities: Ms. McGinnis is a singer and earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where Whitacre studied music as an undergraduate.

The Virtual Choir seemed to Ms. McGinnis to echo the Saint Leo value of community (one of the university’s six core values), and she was eager to take part. She also recruited Kara Winkler, (pictured in the Saint Leo top) another Saint Leo employee who sings, as does Ms. McGinnis does, with the popular faculty-staff performing group Just the FACTS (also pictured at top of article). Ms. McGinnis would like to have recruited even more singers from the group, but during the summer months many members are away. Since Ms. McGinnis and Ms. Winkler both hold admissions positions (Ms. McGinnis has a dual role as an instructor/admissions affiliate), they remain at University Campus even during the summer, and so worked their vocal submissions into their respective schedules.

They recorded their submissions individually in Ms. McGinnis’s office, using her computer, a camera, a microphone, and black cloth backdrop. Both chose to sing the alto parts. Ms. McGinnis has learned from website updates that nearly 6,000 people from 101 countries have submitted performances. The number of singers attracted to the project increases with each new choir, she said.

Ms. Winkler said it occurred to her that Virtual Choir participation could be a good outlet for singers intimidated by live audiences. “If there are people who are deathly afraid to perform on stage, this allows them a way to be part of a recording.”

More information on the Coronation Festival is located at