Online Chamber Ensemble | Using Real-Time Rehearsal Software

While they have allowed music lessons and classes to continue, we have all discovered that online platforms such as Zoom and Teams have not been suitable for carrying out ensemble, music-making activities. The latency has not allowed musicians to perform together as they normally would.

However, there were a number of platforms and technologies that allowed real-time rehearsals, while musicians were not in the same room!

Funded by the Arts Council under the Capacity Building Support Scheme 2020, IAYO, supported by the Irish Chamber Orchestra, worked to develop an online chamber ensemble with 8 young musicians (aged 15 – 19) from across the country who used real-time audio-rehearsal software (mainly Jamulus) to enable the musicians to rehearse and perform together in real-time, almost like they were in the same room!

Led by Katherine Hunka, Leader of the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and working with Caitlin Kelly for technological assistance, the musicians worked together on a weekly basis, from their own homes over a number of months. It was not without its difficulties, mainly technological, but the result has been fantastic!

We asked one of the members, Hannah O’Shea, to write a piece for us on her experience as being part of the Online Chamber Ensemble:

“The past year has been very tough on young musicians, as month after month, in-person lessons, chamber ensembles, live orchestra, and many other music-related groups have been cancelled. As a violinist living in rural Kerry, the lack of contact with musician friends has been particularly disheartening, because I’m far from any of the major music hubs in Dublin, Cork, or Limerick.

But when I received an email from IAYO offering a place in an online ensemble made up of young people from different parts of the country, I immediately seized this opportunity of playing the beautiful Mendelssohn Octet for Strings online, even while being stuck at home. Then came the set-up of equipment and the performance software, Jamulus, which allows simultaneous performance without latency or “lag”. It was certainly a new and educational experience setting up digital music software, and learning to play the violin right into the microphone to produce a good sound. The first session was more of a try-out, as some of us could hear, others couldn’t, and we adjusted to the unfamiliar aspects of the interface, like “gain”, or the “jack” to connect headphones. By the third or fourth session, we were up and running, and diving right into the captivating melodies of Mendelssohn.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges was not being able to see each other. For musicians, we have always been able to watch each other, cue our entries, etc., until this time. We did start some of the early sessions with a Zoom “meet-up”, just to say hi, see everyone, and then we hopped onto Jamulus for Octet playing. We couldn’t leave Zoom on while playing on Jamulus, because it interfered with the sound quality and internet connection. With practice, however, we got used to the lack of visuals, and I would say that, having been a part of this online chamber group, my listening and concentration skills have definitely improved.

I am happy and grateful that I have been able to be a part of the Online Chamber Ensemble and play with such fantastic musicians!”