Peter's Blog

Virtual Choir Notes For Pentecost

Written by Peter Johnston on .

We are really looking forward to a celebratory worship service for Pentecost on 31 May 2020. We will be joined by the Moderator of the new Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, Rev Hutton Steele, with the new presbytery beginning the following day, 1 June. We will have a video message from the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as part of that service. We are also looking to expand our Virtual Choir / Orchestra for this service and have been delighted by the response so far from folks seeking to join in.

There will be a Zoom meeting to talk through what we are doing on Saturday 9 May at 3 p.m. and details of that will be sent out to those who have expressed an interest. You can join us by clicking here and following the instructions (if you have not used Zoom before you may need to download the programme).

If you need to join the meeting manually the Meeting ID is 845 7354 4671 and the Password is 005039.

In the meantime, here are some notes and resources so that you can start to prepare, listen to the song and get yourselves ready!

Hail Thee, Festival Day!

A vivacious Pentecost hymn (Church Hymnary, 4th Ed, no. 581). You can fiind the score here.

This is a unison hymn so we are all singing the same notes, however we will split which voices are singing which verses for a bit of variety. I have noted who will be doing what on the score that you can download above. It will go as follows:

Verse 1 (Refrain) - ALL

Verse 2 - WOMEN

Verse 3 - MEN

Verse 4 - WOMEN

Verse 5 - ALL

The refrain (verse 1) is sung by ALL after each of verses 2-5.

Do note that the tune is different for verses 2 & 4 and verses 3 & 5.

Kevin has prepared the audio backing track which you can listen to below or download from here.


And this version includes a sample vocal track that you can use as a lead and to follow:


Download here.

If you would like to listen to the tune being sung there is an excellent Songs of Praise version, but do note that THE WORDS ARE DIFFERENT!

O Breath Of Life

This is a Pentecost anthem. It is in simple harmony for Soprano, Alto and Men's Voices. We begin all together for the first verse. In the second verse Women will sing the melody with Men providing some harmony beneath "God, remake us,...". In the final verse Altos and Men will sing the tune with Sopranos singing the Descant.

This is a really lively one so while we have generally been recording ourselves singing sitting down when doing the Virtual Choir pieces thus far, I would really recommend, where possible, that you stand up to sing this one (not a bad idea for Hail Thee, Festival Day either). Especially for that final verse and the long held last note it will stand you in good stead (see what I did there?)!

You can find a copy of the score here.

Kevin has prepared three different backing tracks for you to use with each of the three parts highlighted for you to follow. Please download or listen to the one you need.



Download here.



Download here.



Download here.

Men (with vocal guide)


Download here.

Technical Instructions

How this works is that, once we all know what we are doing, we go our own paths to practise and then to record ourselves. You do this by playing the audio backing track through headphones so that only you can hear it (you may just want to have one headphone in your ear so you can also hear yourself better through your other ear) and then record just your vocal part.

We have used a combination of people recording directly in the Zoom app and people recording onto their phones. Either works fine. The files are a lot smaller if you use Zoom which makes it a bit more manageable. We will go over this on the Zoom meeting.

If you are recording using Zoom on a desktop or laptop computer there are some audio settings to tweak:

  1. Turn off "Automatically adjust volume" and then set the slider yourself. Start around the half way mark and then try singing as loud as you are going to get and watch the blue indicator line - you do NOT want this to go much over half way at your loudest - adjust to suit.
  2. In "Advanced" (button at bottom right of the Settings window) checking the box to allow "Enable Original Sound"
  3. In this same section turn the options for "Suppress Persistent Background Noise" and " Suppress Intermittent Background Noise" to Disable.
  4. When you then go to record your session on Zoom ensure that you have clicked the link at top left hand corner that would say "Turn on original sound" so that it illuminates in blue and says "Turn off original sound" - it is a bit of awkward language, but when it is blue then you are recording the original sound from your microphone.
  5. Ignore all of this if you are using Zoom on a tablet or smartphone as these options are not available!

Please try to record in "landscape" format rather than "portrait" - it makes life much easier when editing if we are all using the same proportions!

Also, make sure to keep filming and looking at the camera at the end of the piece right through until you hear the accompaniment fade out before you stop recording. That again helps us with editing.

We have experimented with different ways to get the files to me once you have recorded them and I have a new method we could try!

For files relating to Hail Thee Festival Day you can upload the files using:

And for O Breath Of Life you can use:

Note that if using Zoom to record then both the audio (m4a) and video (mp4) files are useful for us to have for the edit - you should find these in a folder titled "Zoom" under "Documents".

Looking forward to our combined efforts!