Birmingham theater family’s project reaches a global audience

One Voice Birmingham
30 voices, one community. Photo via One Voice, Birmingham: One Voice on Youtube.

Comfort, light, unity—they’re all qualities we seek out during moments in our lives where negativity takes stock. Birmingham’s theater family materialized those feelings into actions when local musicians and artists created “One Voice.” Then, the world took notice.

When theaters went dark, computer screens lit up

Screen Shot 2020 06 01 at 1.01.28 PM Birmingham theater family's project reaches a global audience
The first video featured nine theater members, but that number nearly tripled for the video to follow. Photo via One Voice, Birmingham: You’ll never walk alone on Youtube.

As curtains closed not because it was the end of a show, but the end of live theater indefinitely, it left artists feeling lost. Many were in the middle of rehearsals, putting months of hard work and time into a show that would never be seen.

But when have you ever known an actor that stays quiet for too long? Local artists Barry Austin, Jan Hunter and Joe Zellner joined forces to record and edit a video of Alabama theater members singing, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The catch, of course, is that it all had to be done virtually.

“We’re very grateful that we’ve joined together in the midst of a global shutdown and created something together. We did something we love, with people we love, to share a message of hope in these uncertain times.

Years from now, when we look back on this period in history, we’ll remember many things: fear, disease, toilet paper, masks, financial insecurity. And we’ll remember One Voice Birmingham. Thanks for listening to our voices. Our hope is that you enjoy and that it offers some light in this dark time. We may be isolated, but we are not alone.”

Barry Austin via a Facebook post in One Voice Birmingham

Putting it all together

With such a positive response from the first vide—over 9,000 views—the theater fam set out to make a second one. This time it featured over 30 members from nearly every Birmingham theater. The group individually recorded themselves singing “One Voice” and views topped more than 13,000.

Although the actors recorded their sections separately, seeing everyone’s faces on screen was a moment of connection for the artists. Barry contacted Birmingham theater member Emily Hoppe for the second video, who was happy to be reconnected with the community.

“As a teaching artist stuck at home, I have spent countless hours since March 13th  sitting in front of a camera recording lessons and singing for an audience I can’t see, not knowing if they will see me. It was really beautiful to talk with my colleagues and friends before recording, and know they were doing it too when it came time to sing alone yet again.

I posted a photo in our little group after I had finished which was a screenshot to show all of the many failed attempts at my portion of the video. It was great fun to commiserate about starting that recording over and over again because we missed a word or our voice sounded off or we made a funny face or the washing machine in the background got too loud! To then see all of our faces side by side and hear my voice blended with others once more was truly magical.”

Emily Hoppe

Celebrities and other countries and more resonate with One Voice Birmingham

Even Barry Manilow took a break from cha-cha-cha-ing at the at the copa Copacabana to not only listen to the song but share it with his huge fanbase. Soon, speakers in Italy, New Zealand, Cuba and more were filled with Birmingham voices.

While we definitely love hearing Birmingham voices are spreading around the world, our city has fantastic resources for anyone looking to get involved in the virtual, creative community.

“I have immersed myself in the virtual world of music, following Birmingham organizations like the Alabama Symphony Orchestra as well as international stars like violinist Itzhak Perlman.

I joined a Facebook group called Quarantined Cabaret where I could post videos of myself singing and watch others, performing just for the fun of it. Because my students’ Spring Concert was canceled, the faculty and staff at Alabama Waldorf School came together to record themselves performing as a gift to our community. That was a truly special video for me to produce.”

Emily Hoppe

We don’t know when life will look like it used to again, if it ever will, but we do know that lifting our voices—whether through song, activism, words or social media will hold everyone together.

“You’ll never walk alone”

“One Voice”

What do you think Birmingham? Let us know on social @bhamnow.

Irene Richardson
Irene Richardson
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