Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Celebration 2015 - A Review

If you are one of my Facebook friends (and in some cases, just a friend of a friend), you have seen at least some of the videos of piano arrangements of favorite Christmas carols that I recorded this year and referred to as my Christmas Celebration. Now that the project is over, I thought I should share some of details about the process as well as some lessons I learned.

How it all began....

While with my family over Thanksgiving break, several comments were made around the dinner table about how family members were going to miss hearing me play Christmas music during the holidays. I decided it would be fun to record a carol arrangement for each day leading up to Christmas to share with them on Facebook. When I returned home on November 30, I began the recording process.

Making the videos....

This project was originally intended for my family, so production value was not a primary concern. The videos were recorded in my piano studio at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas using the Camera app in my iPad. I literally balanced the iPad on a music stand, punched the record button and sat down to play. After getting an acceptable performance -- a daunting task at times -- I used the video editing capabilities found in the Pictures app in order to clean up the beginnings and endings of videos.

The plan was to daily upload videos to both Facebook and my YouTube channel. All 25 videos currently reside on YouTube for easy retrieval in the future.

What happened next was surprising.....

On December 1, I uploaded the first video to my Facebook account and explained what my plan was for the month in this initial post. I expected this video (an arrangement of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) would have 75 total views or so. As the day progressed, I watched the view count climb. By that evening, the video had been viewed over 1,600 times. Facebook friends were thrilled for me and expressed their excitement for this project. (When I compiled the final tally of total views on December 26, this initial video had over 2,600 views.....the highest viewed posting of the project!)

With so many views, I quickly realized that this project had the potential for reaching a large audience and I wanted to give the best performances I could. In order to use the best instrument available -- the Steinway grand in my office -- all recordings needed to be completed before leaving Plainview for the holidays on December 14.

The final results.....

On December 26, I revisited each video on Facebook and YouTube to determine the total number of views. During the 25 days of my Christmas Celebration, I had 14,956 views! (Incidentally, 1,347 of those views happened on December 24 and 25.)

Because I enjoy looking at statistics, I could not resist determining which videos were most popular. The top 5 videos of this year's project based on number of views were

  1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (posted 12/1) - 2,626 views
  2. Grown Up Christmas List (posted 12/4 in memory of victims of San Bernadino terrorist attack) - 1,066 views
  3. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (posted 12/3) - 1,021 views
  4. Away in a Manger (posted 12/5) - 724 views
  5. O Holy Night (posted 12/24) - 677 views
What I learned from the project....
  • Recording and editing takes a lot of time! Even though I was just using apps on my iPad, the recording process ate up a lot of my spare time. I will definitely allow more time when planning future projects.
  • Consistency is vital. While driving home to Arkansas, I experienced some technological difficulties that prohibited me from posting at my normal time. My Facebook account was flooded with questions about when the next post would appear. People had gotten used to a routine and noticed when things did not happen as scheduled. I quickly stopped at a rest area, cleaned up my profile of the questions, and posted a statement that the day's video would be delayed until I arrived at home.
  • Sharing videos greatly expands the reach of social media. My profile is public, so anyone can see what I post there. However, as family and friends began to share the videos on their own timelines, my audience grew immensely. I began to receive friend requests from people who had seen the videos on a mutual friend's page and wanted to make sure they didn't miss any of the fun. I had not asked anyone to share the videos...but I'm certainly glad they did! The more people viewing the videos, the more fun the experience became.
  • Comments and likes are very encouraging. As I reached the middle of the project, I began to get tired and wondered if people were beginning to get annoyed with the volume of posts I was making. It was great to hear encouraging comments from friends I haven't spoken with in years, letting me know how much they were enjoying the daily videos. I tried to reply to as many of these comments and messages as I could, but I quickly realized it would demand all of my time to do so.

Where do we go from here?

This has been the question I have been asked repeatedly in the days since the Christmas Celebration ended. Are you going to do this again next year? Will you post something throughout the year? Some of these are easier to answer than others. Let's see if I can provide some answers now.

  • Will I do another Christmas Celebration? Plans are already underway for the Christmas Celebration 2016. I had a lot of fun recording the music and sharing the holiday spirit with friends near and far. The videos were repeatedly referred to as a Christmas gift and I want to give the gift again next year. My intention at this time is to offer 25 new arrangements (although you may hear some of the same carols) to keep things fresh.
  • Will I continue to record throughout the year? This is still up in the air. Offering Christmas videos is possible because it comes during a slower time in my academic life. I'm not ready to hang up my video hat entirely though. I am considering posting videos -- featuring hymn arrangements as well as Classical repertoire -- each month. Bear with me as I figure out how (and if) this is a realistic goal.
  • Do I take requests? Sure! I'll gladly take suggestions of carols or hymns you would like to hear recorded. I just don't promise that I'll necessarily do them. It depends if I can find a nice arrangement that speaks to me musically.
Beyond that, I don't know a lot more. I'm considering posting the videos on my blog site instead of to my personal Facebook account. I'm checking into obtaining microphones and cameras to improve the quality of the videos. An audio recording (that often-requested CD) is not entirely off the radar. At this point, I'm just enjoying the process of sharing my music with friends and family near and far. Thanks for being a part of the 2015 edition of the Christmas Celebration. If you have ideas that you think might be helpful for future projects, feel free to share them in the comments section below.