Friday, August 31, 2012

Fun Friday - Enthusiasm Personified

Talk about enthusiastic love of music.  The choir is interacting, the conductor is dancing and Rev. James Moore is just amazing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tonal Tuesday - The Best Practice

It is hard to believe that summer is quickly coming to a close.  Nothing says that more than the resumption of regular activities after a summer lay off.

Our Embro Thistle Singers has started the last 2 years by having a pot luck at our place and then a practice.  Now ordinarily I would not recommend eating a full meal and then singing.  I definitely would not recommend that for a performance but a practice is a little different.

Our choir is amazing at bringing a real spread.  We had meat balls, 7 layer salad, cheese dip (to die for) and a Caesar salad made just before we ate.  We had goulash and chili, sliced meat and green salads.  We won't even mention the cake and cookies and squares.  Oh my.

While I was getting some things organized in the kitchen, the choir moved into the living room and began to sing as our amazing Kristy played.  They started with For the Beauty of the Earth by John Rutter just because they really like it.  they stood about in mixed parts and simply sang.  What a treat.  We went over our music for the Embro Ambassador Evening.  A Wee Deoch and Doris is a fun Scottish pub song we are going to use as a sing along so we played with that too.

When we finally got to California Dreamin', the choir was really rocking.  They have never sung it so well.

All in all I recommend that you have some social time with your choir.  You will find that they are not only great singers but fun people to be with.  Last Sunday we even christened 2 new sopranos.  Talk about being thrown into the deep end.  They swam very well.

What social events have you had with your choir?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fun Friday - Birdland Russian Style

You may know that the group, Weather Report, gained a great deal of fame with its first fusion album, Stormy Weather, with Birdland as its main piece.  No, well neither did I.
I found this video on another web site and was taken by the  amazing opening that looked for all the world like a fashion show.  Very cool idea.
The conductor is my kind of musician.  It is a long piece but more than worth the effort.  Jazz it seems has no geographic boundaries.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - More Than Confidence

It has been said that anything is possible if you want it badly enough and you are willing to pay the price.  I do think many people are unwilling to do the latter.

Our daughter, Colleen sent me a BBC article about a young man, Nicholas McCarthy, who was born with just one arm.  Click on his name to see the full article.  Below you can see him with his small electronic piano playing away.  You can also hear him playing and talking about his journey if you go to the complete article.
Nicholas McCarthy

Last weeks, Tonal Tuesday, was about Confidence.  Well this young man has that in spades.  Not only did he have to be confident but absolutely committed to his goal of becoming a pianist.  His parents were very supportive but those in the music schools less so.  Unfortunately or perhaps, fortunately, he was denied an audition at first because at first blush, one hand seemed an insurmountable obstacle for Nicholas to overcome.  Little did they know that he had all ready gone round that corner and it was the officials who had the road block.

The mind is an amazing thing.  When you put something into the subconscious, the mind does not differentiate between what is actual and what is an unrealized goal.  Obviously, Nicholas saw himself as a pianist and could feel and see that happening and just didn't let anything stand in his way no matter what anyone said.

The lesson here is that no matter what, if you want something badly enough and are willing to "do the work" to make it happen then it is yours.  Are you willing?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fun Friday - Banks of Doon

This is a beautiful presentation indeed.  What really stood out for me were the comments on the original You Tube from many of the young people involved.  They loved performing and were so happy to be able to relive this performance.  We can never diminish how special these moments can be to each involved.  We will be singing this a the Embro Fair Ambassador Evening, Friday, September 14.  I think we will make every effort to video tape that weekend and open our own You Tube Channel.  Cool.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Confidence

Are you a confident musician?  Of course you are.  In the shower we all are confident.  What is it about showers that emboldens us?  Scientifically we know that all the hard surfaces cause the sound to reverberate and that enhanced music sure sounds great.  We also know that usually,  (exceptions left to your imagination), we are alone in the shower and so no one knows if the notes are right or wrong.

Confidence or the lack thereof is gained through training and experience.  If you get great support and feed back then you are confident to do something again.  I remember well, as a young girl doing a tap dance at a hall that had a very shiny floor.  In the middle of the dance, I fell but got up and continued on.  At the end, my mum said that I had fallen so gracefully no one would have know it wasn't part of the dance.  I never worried about falling again as I knew that I had the ability to make it all right.

Another time, as an adult, I was singing Abide With Me at the funeral of a friend's dad whom I had really loved.  I had my head in another space so that I could get through it and at the end my stone wall crumbled and I became emotional.  Fearing I would "lose it", I took a breath, anchored a note and slid through the final cadence.  My friend's brother said afterwards that it was typical of me to get fancy at the end and never do something just straight.  It was that "fall down gracefully" confidence that allowed me to fake it to the end I believe.

I know you like me have heard people sing or otherwise perform and you wonder how they ever got to make it to a stage at all never mind record the thing for sale.  I believe that sometimes people can be confident or even brash enough to push through a seeming lack of talent to achieve their goal.

So why then are there so many people with their music unplayed?  Lack of confidence.

I firmly believe that it is our job and our pleasure to build confidence in those around us.  Unnecessary criticism or harshness has NO place in the world of community choir.  Oh yes, we have to point out where changes need to be made and how sounds can be improved.  We don't accept poor sound.  However, it can be done with humour and redirection always keeping in mind that the confidence of the choir and its singers is paramount.

One of the reasons I don't audition people is that singing all alone and on the spot can put an end to someone's wish to sing.  If you want a soloist then that kind of audition is necessary.  However, for choir members, having them sing in small groups and with others gives you the information you need.  Building on their strengths and encouraging their endeavors is what builds that ever important confidence.

Know that singing a wrong note or having a dissonant chord will not bring the world to a roaring halt.  Even if you are a "professional" let yourself make a mistake or two and join the rest of us who are less than perfect.  Fear cannot exist with action.  So often lack of confidence boils right down to fear.  So act confident, learn and work and fear will be at bay.  Then you will look back and realize the YOU DID IT! and survived.  Yahoo.  Confidence builds and you are away.  Once you are confident you can share it with others.  Learn from mistakes, keep your sense of humour and think of others and how you can best serve them.  You are great and getting greater by the minute.  Believe it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Super Special - After the Riot

I had heard that the Gladstone School in  Haringey, Tottenham in England had gotten together to write a song called, Everybody Dreams.  You may remember that one year ago, a terrible riot was started by --  well why don't I let the video tell the tale.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fun Friday - Beethoven's 9th Flash Mob in Italy

Oh my.  Watch the kid on the lamp post.  Watch the little one riding his dad's shoulders.  Watch the older lady. Just watch it all.  I had goose bumps.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Practising with Purpose

Our choir has regular practices every OTHER week.  That means that we need to make every minute count.  We will not compromise on the quality of our music so we don't take short cuts.  As mentioned before, we will change an ending or chord here and there if it improves the sound.  

I recently read about a choir called Village Harmony, that got together for only one week, spent 7 hours a day and prepared 30 - 35 songs to sing in concert.  Another conductor prepares choirs in 6 weeks, using no sheet music and often including dance moves in a workshop he calls Singing Safaris for a concert.  He contends that they work so fast, the conscious mind has no time to accept the impossibilities.

I think it is amazing that the choirs and the leaders have the energy to want to work with such speed and intensity. I know that before a concert or a musical, the practices can be intense but the time is short.  I know you can relate when I say that during those moments, you can wonder why you thought this was a good idea.  That kind of intensive, time sensitive work on something as pleasurable as choir music really does not turn my crank. I would feel like the fellow in the clip art minus the cigar.
I really enjoy our practices.  We work hard but we have fun.  I am certain the people who work under self-imposed short deadlines may have fun too as their personalities may be suited to that.  However, it isn't my style.  We have had to step up the pace by times when needed but I don't think I would ever want to do that on purpose as a format.

Practise is important so that camaraderie  as well as sound be considered.  You work as a group and the more comfortable you are together, the better the sound.  I wonder if that kind of feeling can be created in a short, intense time.

We start our season off with a pot luck dinner and practice.  It is so fun to be more casual and to learn about each other as people.  I love our choir.  Each of the member is different and brings a different level of skills and background that enriches us.  That kind of connection would be lost in the speed singing format.  Perhaps it would form after given the chance.  To me, it is the people who enrich me and the music and the people for whom we perform.

Do you agree?

Friday, August 3, 2012