Friday, June 29, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Memorize

ChoralNet is a wonderful resource for singers and directors.  There are many links and comments about  various topics.  Today however, the topic of memorization bears repeating.

In my opinion, the music in front of you becomes a crutch.  You know that music.  You can sing it without the printed music in front of you.

This is the article by Scott Dorsey including a video with all the musicians including the conductor having memorized the music.

Did you know that it takes exactly thirteen hours to memorize a piece of music?  Yup!  Twelve hours to complain about it and one hour to get the job done.
Of course, I’m being glib.  Depending upon the complexity of the work at hand, memorization can be almost instantaneous, or it can present significant challenges.  It stands to reason that the latter is the case here in this performance of Bach from a recent ACDA divisional conference.
What are some of the benefits of having singers memorize a work?  Improved posture, better sound (choir folders make great baffles), and continual visual connection between the conductor and the choir are just the three most obvious answers.  Are there risks?  Yes, there are; a singer having a memory slip in an intricate work (such as the music of Bach), could bring the whole thing to a halt.
As an aside:  note in this performance that not only are the singers performing without a score, but our colleague also took pains to memorize the work.  What are the benefits to the conductor who has the score memorized?  Since it's summer, why not start memorizing your scores right now?

 I would love to hear what you think.  Now, in the piece above we aren't going to notice as much if a word has been missed or are we?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Concert at Relay for Life

The Embro Thistle Singers' reasons for being are song, service and fun.  Well, we fulfilled those last night at the Relay for Life in Ingersoll.

Last year we were asked to sing and although they really enjoyed our songs, many said that there just weren't enough.  This year we were given 20 minutes to sing and we presented, Hallelujah, Over the Rainbow, Because We Believe, I Have a Dream, You Raise Me Up and Wonderful World.  The choir outdid themselves and sang like angels.  A number of cancer survivors came up and hugged one streaming tears.  They loved our choices of music as they seemed to be just for them.  Indeed, that was our intention.

It is a tiny stage and the sun was shining right at the singers.  Hence, I stood to the side.  Now if you notice in the corner, our wonderful Kristy is playing our accompaniment.  As is often the case when performing outdoors, the wind was ruffling her music.  She couldn't turn the pages if they were all pegged so our Mayor, Ted Comiskey, became our page turner.  Kristy is also a Town Councillor.  How many choirs can boast that the Mayor turned pages for a performance for which a Town Councillor is the accompanist?  Therein lies the FUN.  Ted was trying to hold down the current page and be ready to turn the next.  Kristy was trying to read over his arm.  Once,he turned the page too fast and she missed a couple of chords so he turned it back but by then we were on to the next.  It is a good thing Kristy can improvise.  Check out the concentration on these two in the next picture.
Check out the placement of Mayor Comiskey's arm and the lift on Kristy's chin.  Oh the fun we have.

This is the tenth anniversary of the Ingersoll Relay for Life.  To celebrate that, a massive cake had been made which was cut in a ceremony during our singing of What a Wonderful World.  How cool is that?
Our local paper took pictures of that and I will include those in the next post.

We have our last practice before the summer break this Sunday.  I have to say that I will miss our regular musical meetings and will look forward to our August 26th Pot Luck and practice.  Food, Fun and Music.  Now that is a fine way to get back to business. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fun Friday - How Come We Remember These?

When I was a young teacher, this commercial was popular and nothing would do but I learn to sing it up to speed - and I did.  I am certain that my first attempts were just like some on this video.  However, to this day I can sing it verbatim and cannot pass the Golden Arches without at least thinking of those words.  Brilliant isn't it?

But this has got to be the one that we ALL know.  Sing along.  

Now wasn't that fun?  But what is it that makes them stick in your head so long?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Why Working Together Matters

Last week our daughter, Colleen, sent me a link to an article from the BBC.  The article suggests that children who participate in muscial group activities learn empathy and understanding.  Because you must think of others while working together, you become more aware of others and their needs.

When my sister lived in Guyana, in South America she began one of the first choirs in her town.  Guyana had been under dictatorship for 25 years previous to the time she and her family had come.  These people were very distrustful of others.  They were not allowed to meet together in groups larger than 2 people or they were denied bread.  As you know, you must work together to create a choir sound.  Learning to trust and listen was a very big stretch for people who had learned to survive by not co-operating.  It was very exciting to watch these wonderful people learn to trust and work together and create a marvellously harmonious sound.  Music helped people to work together once again.

During my teaching career, one of the most rewarding activities was mounting musicals.  The cast would come from all grade levels, age groups and talent abilities.  They learned to work as a unit and create an amazing experience for their audiences.  The team spirit that seeped throughout the school was amazing.  Because this wasn't a competition or a game, it only became successful if they all worked in harmony to make it happen.  The people who didn't want to be on stage worked back stage.  The teachers took on many roles but in all ways were supportive.

Music is a marvellous way for very diverse individuals to come together to create something they love.  Music is the reason and the result.  I have met and worked with more people through music than I ever would have met otherwise.  It matters because people matter.  Music brings us together and keeps us together as we create what we love.  What have your experiences been?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fun Friday - Scottish with a Twist

With our Scottish background as a group from Embro, Ontario, I thought this video was particularly fun.  This is a group of professionals from Scotland who sing the gospel songs of the deep American south and add their special Scottish flavour.  Who knew the bagpipes could do this!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - What Makes Us Great!

Last Sunday we sang at Knox United Church.  Some of the songs we presented were what are becoming our standards but we had a couple that were newer and the choir acquitted themselves beautifully.  How did we get from random people enjoying singing together to a choir that sings so well they make people weep.

I do think that to do that you have to be constantly challenged.  New pieces of music are the most obvious choice there. If you always sing in 4 parts, sing in 3 or 6.  If your style is always classic, try a more popular style or folk music. I know that many choirs have one style to which they adhere and I suppose that is fine.  However, I truly love being able to dabble in various forms of music  which to me makes us a more well rounded music group.

When I suggested a few weeks back that we would be mixing up our parts to practise and even practising in the round so that we could better learn to listen and blend, the choir members were aghast.  It seemed impossible.  Well, we were practising in the Sunday School on Sunday before the service and they were standing randomly, mixed and in a circle.  Amazing how that happened and now they can never say "can't" because they can and did.  The challenge of practising while the ladies were setting up for tea created an opportunity to stretch and learn.

As I have mentioned before having soloists is not something of which I am fond.  I know that there are some pieces that require soloists but I would seldom choose those for our choir if ever.  I love using the choir in different ways to create interest in the pieces.  That in itself creates challenges for us to keep us sharp.  in some arrangements, the altos carry the tune while others it is the basses.  Variation is great for singing and listening.

We are working towards singing all of our music by memory.  One of our members who was sure he would never be able to do that, managed to make it happen on Sunday.  That was his personal challenge, wrapped up in our collective challenge.

We don't work towards putting on one or two big concerts a year but rather participating in fund raising concerts or being entertainment or as last week being the choir for the day.  June 22, we will sing at the Relay for Life event in Ingersoll.  In these ways, we can fulfill our mandate to be of service to our communities.   That in itself can become a challenge for us.  For Relay for Life, we get to perform on an outside stage.  Last year for this event, it was raining ever so slightly.  The stage itself had a cover but I couldn't fit on it with the choir.  So I stood on the ground in the rain while they sang.  They had to look down to see me and thankfully I had my music in page protectors so they didn't get soggy.  Just another challenge.  In fact, through all of that the only criticism was that we didn't sing enough songs.  This year we will double our count.

We are a volunteer choir.  Every one of us volunteers.  We started with no money and borrowed music.  Now we get donations for some of our presentations and can now purchase music.  I know there are many choirs who have paid leadership, expect dues from their members sell tickets for concerts and raise money in other ways.  We do not charge to be a member nor do we sell tickets etc.  That means that every person who comes does so because he or she wants to.  We do it for the sheer love of making music.  Have we had members leave us even in our short time as a choir? Yes of course we have.  Our core has remained and we have added a number of new singers.  It is just another challenge that helps to keep us working to be the best we can be.  

Personal and collective challenges keep us sharp and create that wonderful feeling of accomplishment.  Each time one of our new members participates in his or her first presentation, the sense of accomplishment is amazing.  We need to see each challenge as a learning opportunity and grow.  Have we done that from the beginning.  The only way that happens is that we do it together. This is the most extraordinary group of singers.  Everyone takes a piece of responsibility for making our music the best it can be.  We work co-operatively and care about the quality of our music.  We are ready for the next challenges.  That is what makes us great!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fun Friday - Soupy Sales with Pookie and White Fang

When I was a kid living in Windsor we got 4 channels on the television and one came from Detroit.  At lunch we sat at the little wooden table in the living room and had our lunch with Soupy Sales.  Today while we were walking, my hubbie and I were reminiscing about that show and much to the chagrin of those who passed us on the street were grunting like White Fang and throwing in a few steps of the Soupy Shuffle.
What I didn't know then, was that Soupy loved jazz and this video shows that.  The musicians are Clark Terry and our own, Oscar Peterson.  Note how the back stage people are the audience and laugh and interact liberally .

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Singing for Knox United

On Sunday, June 3, 2012, we had the privilege of singing at the morning service at Knox United.  It was a very special service to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the United Church Women's group.  The Charter Members of the Knox UCW were give a rose and many had on hats from the era.  There were 15 of the original ladies present and all came down to the front to be recognized.

The hymns chosen were those sung most often 50 years ago as was the service format.  All in all it was a wonderful service.

We were so pleased to be able to share our music with Hallelujah, Over the Rainbow, Because We Believe, You Raise Me Up and we ended with the Parting Blessing.

We practise at Knox United every second week so being able to say thank you for their wonderful generosity was a pleasure.  Here is a picture taken by Norm from the balcony.  You will notice that our Embro Thistle Singers name got a wee bit changed on the screen but it didn't change our sound.  What a good looking and great sounding group.

Tonal Tuesdays - You'll Never Sing Alone

Well the title is a bit deceiving, I agree.  Music is a communication tool.  It is but one way to connect thoughts, feelings, history, beliefs, and so much more.  Because music can come with words or not, one musician or hundreds, actors on stage or off, costumes and lighting or street clothes and dark corners, it is a hard animal to pin down.  They say that love is the universal language but I truly believe it is MUSIC.

Music can be a seemingly solitary activity.  You can play or sing or listen by yourself.  However, no matter how alone you are, there is always someone there with you.  The composer, the publisher, the performer, the instrument maker and Sometimes, you have to work hard to find that audience and then you have to really make certain you are communicating.

The music needs to "speak" to your audience.  I used to get the Canadian Opera Company to come to schools in my area to do workshops.  Now, you wouldn't think that opera would be a format enjoyed by 12 to 14 year olds but presented the right way, they love it.  The members of the  Canadian Opera Company were adept at telling the story of one of the operas they were performing that year.  They brought fun props and had the students help them act out the story then would add few phrases of music.  By the end, the students understood the story and were ready to listen to a scene and truly enjoy it.  Now, that is real communication.

Music is a joy whether you are the creator or the receiver.  As a choir, we strive to tell a story and most importantly, respect the audience to whom we sing.  We never sing alone and would love to have you there.

We will soon be adding some MP3's for you to hear.  Stay tuned.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Fun Friday - Choral Speaking

This must be at a festival of some kind.  Although this is a long video, you can move it along to watch.  If you watch any other choral speaking of this type you will see they all wear gloves and the clapping of the conductor is always done.  Check out the movement.  Whew!

Please note, no words in front of them for 8 minutes but don't notice that the conductor also does it without notes.  Wow!