By Brian Li (V)

Every year, the Buttondowns and Balladeers, led by Dr. Andrew Moore and Mr. Jay Winston respectively, provide Valentine’s Day Serenades around the Upper School, as they belt romantic songs to unsuspecting individuals. However, due to the restrictions amid the ongoing pandemic, the process for this year’s serenades needed to be revised.

After careful deliberation, the solution involved virtual serenades that would be pre-recorded and played back to faculty, staff, and students who received one. Each acapella member would record their own voice part by playing a click track of the song in one ear and singing along. By using the click track, every recording could be synchronized. Then, the recordings were sent to Paula Roper, an editor that Dr. Moore has worked extensively with in the past. Roper and her son Eric, who works for Apple, created a video for each song by displaying the recordings of each choir member next to each other in a grid format.

The Buttondowns recorded four songs, each arranged by president Ore Shote (VI); these included “Baby” by Justin Bieber, “Grenade” by Bruno Mars, “My Girl” by The Temptations, and “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. The Balladeers’ song options were “Electric Love” by Børns, “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse, I Won’t Say I’m in Love” from the film Hercules, and “Easy Love” by Alivia Clark (V).

The recordings were distributed through a variety of avenues, one of which involved the Balladeers/Buttondowns joining a class’s Zoom meeting and then presenting the video by sharing their screen. For those who received serenades individually, a choir member simply played the recording on a laptop for them. According to Dr. Moore, the best method, after multiple trials, was by “sending [the serenades] to a Zoom address and hav[ing] the seniors go into the class to watch the reactions.” In addition, those who ordered serenades after the deadline were still able to receive the recordings by email. Each serenade cost $5 and around $100 were raised in total. The proceeds will be donated to Morris Habitat for Humanity in support of families in need. 

Despite the success of the virtual serenades, there were areas that could be improved in the future. Since the songs were recorded over a three-week period and finished during the week of Valentine’s Day, Dr. Moore noted that recording earlier might have provided extra leeway for editing, redoing recordings, and more. Furthermore, “it might [have been] nice to have a student do the editing if they had the time and appropriate skills.” In order to prepare teachers for the unavoidable interruption of class due to serenades, also allowing them to complete a survey to choose which day of the week is best may also be introduced next year.

COVID-19 serenades were, overall, a huge success and are truly a testament to the adaptability, creativity, and resilience of the Pingry community.