MARQUETTE, Mich. – Baritone-for-hire David Newman was looking forward to a year of singing gigs.
Then, in March, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, two members of a choir in Washington state died, and dozens more fell ill after their two-hour practice became a super-spreader event.
Concerts were quickly wiped from calendars around the world.
"The piercing irony of having to cancel is that the joy this music brings is what we now as a culture need more than ever," said an email Newman received from Wisconsin's Madison Bach Musicians.
Singing had been the centerpiece of his life. It got him through high school and into Westminster Choir College, a music school in New Jersey, where he majored in vocal performance.
When he wasn't singing professionally, he taught voice as an adjunct professor at James Madison University near his home in Virginia.
Now singing could kill.
The choir world went into deep think. Some directors took to using software that allowed singers to record individual soundtracks to be layered into virtual concerts.
Newman, who is 52 and a commanding stage presence at 6 feet 3, believed computer tricks could never capture the magic of harmonizing in person.
Trying to sing together over the internet using programs such as FaceTime presented another problem: an audio delay known as latency that makes it impossible to sync up in real time.