Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Passion and Then Some

This week I have been thinking about PASSION.  Not the breathless kind of the "B" movie fame but the kind it takes to pursue your art in our case. singing.

We may think that the lady in the opera with the difficult aria to sing is the one showing passion but really you are showing passion when you show up ready to learn and give of yourself.

There are times when you would rather not come to rehearsal or indeed even a performance but you do.  Perhaps you don't think of it as such but it is PASSION.  There are those who really want to sing and have many skills to learn and it is that passion for the music that drives you forward.  You have to want to more than not to show up and work at making that music wonderful.  Sometimes, the director may make decisions you aren't keen on but your love of music in general moves you past that.  The Voice Council Magazine has many articles mainly about professional singers but this one I think pertains to anyone.  In fact, you can extrapolate (don't you love that word?) and apply these tenets to any skill worthwhile to you.

"In creativity, self care means identifying and overcoming those personal barriers which prevent you from expressing yourself fully...These barriers may be emotional, behavioral, social, situational, existential, spiritual, or a combination of them all. Consider Self Care as a muse to your creative process. How are you treating your precious muse'?  Susan Raeburn, PhD in 'Care Enough to Create'

What do you think?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fun Friday - Anything Goes

Another Fun Friday offering from just down the road in London Ontario.  What a fantastic group of talented and energetic young people.  Wow!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Philosophy of Music

When I was a teacher, we didn't get too deeply into the philosophic ideas of music but just got at it.  Indeed, even during my university days we took care of the music at hand but never talked about why it was important or indeed anything like the Roman philosophy below. this comes from    http://www.choralnet.org/     

In case anyone tells you that the exclusion of music from the list of "real" academic subjects is a new invention, here's a quote from Roman philosopher Seneca:
And what of those who are engaged in composing, hearing, and learning songs, while they twist the voice, whose best and simplest movement Nature designed to be straightforward, into the meanderings of some indolent tune, who are always snapping their fingers as they beat time to some song they have in their head, who are overheard humming a tune when they have been summoned to serious, often even melancholy, matters? These have not leisure, but idle occupation.
Writing on Joanne Jacobs' excellent education blog,Diane Senechal has her high-school students read this letter from Seneca (which also condemns such frivolous activities as chess, sunbathing, spectator sports, and getting one's hair cut) as a starting point for classroom discussion about such activities as Facebook and texting.

Imagine getting your hair cut being a frivolous activity.  I guess it is in the eye of the owner.  In the 60's they certainly espoused that one.

So what place do you feel music should hold in our education and life?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fun Friday - Singing and Swinging

There is so much good music out there on You Tube and elsewhere that  I have decided to make Friday our Fun Day.  If you find videos you think we should share then send them on.  
Our first fun Friday is brought to you by the unofficial winners of the Kaltzberg Festival.  Nice harmony.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jingle Bells Hallelujah Chorus - Chicago Acappella

Two songs we know oh so well have been done here with such fun but musically almost faultless.
If you check this on You Tube you will see that some people had comments about disrespecting Handel or the religious nature of the music.
I say "Relax, enjoy and don't let preconceived notions get in the way."  What do YOU think?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - All God's Creatures Gotta Place in the Choir

Gary one of our tenors sent me an e-mail with this video attached.

Click here: "A Place in the Choir" - YouTube

This is an old folk song and is great fun to watch.  The fact that the Celtic Thunder aren't hard to look at is no deterrent.

Look at how much fun they are having.  Look at how much fun the audience is having.   Watching the video is the next best thing to being there.

“I love to hear a choir. I love the humanity to see the faces of real people devoting themselves to a piece of music. I like the teamwork. It makes me feel optimistic about the human race when I see them cooperating like that.”

A choir is made up of diverse personalities, voices, backgrounds and in many cases, ages.  What keeps us together is our shared love of music.  Paul McCartney is oh so right.  If you love to sing and are willing to learn, you sure do have a place in OUR choir!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Singing in French - Just for Fun

I can't help but share this video of these two fellows singing.  Because this came from an American site, you can see why French seems to be so foreign to many in the video.  The tune is even catchy.  Have fun.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - It Takes a Village

It was just a little more than 2 years ago when Harvey dropped by and told me of his dream to start a community choir in Embro, Ontario.  He had spoken to a number of people who were interested in singing and had permission to use Knox United Church as a practice venue.  And so it began.

The first practice was down in the basement with 16 wonderful people.  Most of those people are with us today and we have grown to 20 people all of whom contribute more than just their time and singing.  You see, it takes more than an idea and place to create a choir.

Kristy, our accompanist, is just wonderful.  We have been working together since Kristy was just a grade 9 student.  That relationship has created a shared musical leadership with my having the final say.  However, there are a few times when Kristy is not available and sometimes without any notice, Carolin will hop up to the bench and play away for us.  Always with a smile and great ability, Carolin shares her talent generously.  We often break into groups for part practising and Elaine takes the ladies off to the other keyboard while Kristy and I work with the men.  I bet there aren't many choirs out there who can boast that much talent in a group of 20.

Harold, a main stay of the Embro Thistle Theatre, helped us to gain their support and allow us to use their constitution as a guide for our own.

Doug is on the Embro Fair Board and suggested that we sing at the Fair in the talent contest where we won first prize and earned our first $100 to pay for music.  In those 2 years we have gained a number of singers.

Kay has loaned us music from her church choir, Elaine found music being discarded and Kristy found music at an auction.  Bonus.

John made wonderful black folders with out logo on the front to be used those few times that we don't do our concert by memory.

Kathy is our contact with the church and taught me how to lock and unlock doors, turn on lights and heat and most importantly, turn them off again.

Harvey got us to get donations for coffee and goodies made by the choir members to earn a bit of money at the Embro Highland Games last July 1.  It was a hot, holiday but there they were pitching in.  This year we all baked for the Embro Fair Dinner Theatre to get more donations.  Every single choir member donated goodies and Elaine and Attie served and collected the donations that evening.

Our newest venture is that we purchased a digital recorder with some of our earned money, and Damon sets it up each practice.  We are learning where and what settings to get the sounds that will help us make practice CD's and perhaps put some of our music on this blog.

Although I get to direct the music, it takes all of us pitching in to make this choir happen.  We don't pay fees nor do we charge for our participation at concerts so our money comes from donations.  We have the most amazing group of people willing to learn, and sing and pitch in to sustain our choir.  I am greatly blessed to have each and every one of them.  Indeed, it does take more than one person to make the Embro Thistle Singers become the choir it deserves to be.  It truly does take a village and each and every person in our choir makes it happen.  Thanks to you, it works and I am so very grateful.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Sound with the Works

I remember when we a couple of pieces of music written only in unison.  After a few practices, the choir decided they didn't want to sing them in unison and so we found one in a 3 part arrangement and Elaine, one of our awesome sopranos, wrote the other in 4 parts.  They really were more fun to sing and we enjoyed them both as did our audiences.

It is not easy for a choir to sing well in unison.  If you have many different voices, the listening that must happen in order to create a great unison sound is really intense.  In fact, I feel that it is almost harder to sing well in unison than in a multi-part  harmonies.

Our choir is just under 20 voices strong and so each voice is very important to the overall sound.  Each person and each unique voice adds to the richness of the result.  We sing in 2, 3 and 4 parts sometimes splitting into as many as 8 parts in various chords.  Because we sing in such varied styles and harmonies, our sound changes constantly.  I love it!

Picture a "Dagwood" type sandwich.  If you are old enough to remember Dagwood of Blondie comic strip fame, you will know that these were sandwiches piled high with everything in the refrigerator and then some.  If you aren't old enough then "google" the word "Dagwood" and Wikipedia will fill you in.

Eating one of those sandwiches can be a real treat or a real terror.  I usually have to use a fork and knife.  I can make a huge mess trying to bite into something like that.  Stuff shoots out the sides and it is just not pretty.  I lose more than I gain it seems.

I feel that sometimes the music chosen by a group to sing can be like trying to eat that humongous sandwich.  It can be rich in harmony and really yummy sounding.  The dynamics are like the Grey Poupon and attention to diction and phrasing akin to a specialty bread.  The result can be a really unique treat. However, sometimes, with too little attention the musical detail the sound can turn out  like the tuna sandwiches my landlady used to make for my college lunches, white bread with tuna straight from the can oozing oil.  The result is a pulpy mess assigned to the bin.

You really have to know whether the harmony and richness of sound suits the music you are performing.  If you have the numbers and or the talent, then that harmony brings great depth to your understanding of the music.  Harmony can become that sodden mass if not well considered.

Sometimes, you only want ketchup on that sandwich.  Other times, the works is just right.  I truly believe that our music is much the same.  We have an opportunity to interpret thoughts with words and music and it isn't always appropriate to lather on "the works".  Whether it is harmony, or loudness or even speed, too much can be like a Death by Chocolate dessert, way richer than necessary.

Even if you have a large group, your use of various, suitable arrangements and expressive devices should always be to give the song meaning.  A big, rich, loud sound can be very impressive but like a "Dagwood", can be excessive and unmanageable at times.  Variety is the spice that keeps us listening, don't you think?