The old saying, “The show must go on,” rang true for Malibu student singers Friday night, Oct. 16. Even though school has been remote for seven months, no pandemic was about to stop Malibu Middle and High School’s annual showcase for singers—Cabaret.

Putting together a virtual show was challenging. From the first day of remote learning, students from Malibu’s four public schools started preparing for the cabaret that highlights choirs and individual performers. 

“It was very difficult,” MHS choir teacher Krysta Sorensen explained. Each student sent in a video of themselves singing their part that had to be edited by Sorensen and MHS pianist Joellen “Cha Cha” McNaughton. It was a process learning the software to compile videos. The videos were then synced together to match audio. 

“It’s a lot. It’s fun, but we had to learn how to do it and pay for the software,” Sorensen acknowledged. 

Sorensen had to send each performer a guide video of her conducting along with McNaughton’s accompaniment. The virtual audience was then treated to a prerecorded video of all the choir performers singing together.

“It’s a huge learning curve on their part, too, especially for the little ones,” the choir teacher remarked. Both Malibu and Webster elementary choirs joined the older students in a poignant song for today’s times: “We Won’t Stop Dreaming.” However, due to the difficulties of some younger students preparing their videos, some elementary singers were left out. 

“It’s tricky,” Sorensen explained. “It’s not easy to figure out how to play one video in your headphones and record on a different device and then try to upload it.”

The recording process became tedious after students were sometimes asked to rerecord to perfect each piece, but, as Sorensen pointed out, “They’re learning skills of today. 

“You have to do multiple takes,” she continued, “but once they saw the finished product, it was all worth it. They loved hearing themselves singing together.” And the audience of about 100 seemed to love it too. After each performance, Zoom audience members were unmuted to clap and cheer on the performers.

All but two of the solos in Friday night’s event were live. And there were some bold solo performances including from students Mahsun Mirmohammadsadeghi, Nick Ortiz and Reyn Smith, to name a few.

“The work that all of us did to put this together was totally worth it,” Sorensen said. “It’s amazing to get those student videos and to hear their individual voices and see how talented they are; because when we’re on Zoom during class, we can’t sing together. The sound cancels everyone out.  They can see each other singing, but they’re all muted. So, I haven’t been able to hear their voices until I got these videos.”

Sorensen said one of the best parts of the experience was simply having something to work toward.

“The kids have said it was really important to put on this event just to have something to look forward to—to have something to feel like the old days—like normal,” she described. “It’s still Cabaret, just in a different platform. They were really excited about it.”

MHS senior and co-master of ceremonies Briana Plank said the connection felt among the young performers was a highlight of the experience.

“It was nice to connect, especially in the hard times we’re going through,” Plank said. “It’s hard to connect with people now. We were able to have a dress Zoom dress rehearsal for our teachers and that was terrific.” 

Sorensen shared that she received a text from a senior participant who was also exuberant after the performance: “Tonight was so amazing! I got so emotional because I forgot how much the concert meant to me. Hopefully we seniors can have a live concert this year before we leave.” 

Sorensen agreed.

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