Friday, September 28, 2012

Fun Friday - Hallelujah

I remember hearing a moderator say that there was no definitive rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".  For my money, it is anytime k.d. lang sings it.    What do you say? Hit the word COMMENT below and tell me.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - What Does It Mean?

Mrs. B, that adjudicator just doesn't know what he's talking about.  Yeah, like how does he know we can't understand that stuff?  How come he can say stuff like that?  Did he ask us if we understood it?
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That was on the bus ride back from the Kiwanis Music Festival.  My grades 7 and 8 choir were incensed that the adjudicator would automatically assume that although they sang the song well the meaning would be above them.  They all knew that no matter what, we never sang something we didn't understand.  We would sing through a song, say the words as poetry and then I would ask them what they thought it meant.  Here there can be no wrong answers.  How the words and music make you feel is a very personal thing.

The great thing about discussing that with others is that sometimes other opinions open up possibilities you might not have seen yourself.  Good songs have words that work as poetry.  There is an article that has listed 100 songs that the writer considers poetry.  A few are in our repertoire such as  "Over the Rainbow", "Wonderful World" and "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.  We could have some major discussion about what constitutes REAL poetry but being broad minded, as I know our readers are, we will say that each of these songs has a story to tell and uses words well to do so.

Now, I have to admit that as a university student I studied Cohen's poetry in my Canadian Literature course and saw or heard nothing redeeming about it.  Our professor was a person who expounded his philosophy and never asked us what we thought.  Maybe if I had been challenged to think about the poetry, I would have felt something.

Now of course that we get to sing some of Cohen's words, I love it.  I understand it in my own way because I must to sing or lead singers.  Cohen is a poet of the people but early on I would have sworn he wrote gobble-dee-goop.

The song must become personal for you to be able to express feelings to your audience.  The music notes and the words must meld with dynamics to create feelings.  You, the singer, whether solo or group, must feel to share that with your audience.  You don't have to tell anyone how you feel.  They should just know there is emotion there by your intensity, facial expression and sound.  Whether it tickles your funny bone or brings tears to the surface, it is the sharing of your understanding you bring to the music that makes or breaks the presentation.

I feel a song coming on - "Feelings, nothing more  than ---"  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fun Friday - Ella Sings Mack

As mentioned in Tonal Tuesday's blog, Ella Fitzgerald famously improvised the lyrics to Mack the Knife and that became a standard.  Here is that amazing talent singing in Stockholm, Sweden.  Listen for the fun things she does with the words.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Singing at the Embro Fair

The community of Embro is such a super supportive group of people.  They have added to the arena and community centre and enlarged it quite a bit.  Luckily, even though the facility is so spiffy, they still want us to sing there.

On Friday evening, we were invited to be the entertainment for the Fair Ambassadors' Evening.  The Ambassadors past and present are amazing young people to be certain.  Mary Walton is this year's ambassador.  We sang Banks of Doon for the first time and had Heather and Leslie Galloway who played the violin obbligato for us.  

They did a fabulous job.  Our rendition of A Wee Deoch and Doris (last drink of the evening) was lots of fun.  We asked the audience to join in the chorus.  This turn of the century song is about that last "dram a'fore we gang a'wa".  The Scots being ever wise, had a test to see if you should have that last wee drink.  If you can say, "It's a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht, then it's a'right ye ken."  Have a listen to Harry Lauder on You Tube and enjoy the fun.

We have these pictures because my friends Mary and Chipper came all the way from Sarnia to hear us.  Chipper took pictures.  They are regular readers of this blog.  It was one of those marvellous surprises that are rare but such a gift. 

And do you wonder why our amazing accompanist has shorts on?  Well, we sang at 7:30 and finished just before 8 and Kristy was playing ball in Ingersoll (15 minutes away) about that time.  She literally jumped off the stage when we finished and booted it to her game (which they won).  We cheered her on as she raced away.  

The next day was the Talent Show.  Thankfully, we were last as Kristy's team was now in the championship round.  We practiced without accompaniment in a hockey change room and then went into the hall to find it half empty.  Barb looking stricken, said she thought perhaps we had missed it.  Well, no, they were having an intermission.  Apparently, they forgot to tell the crowd that because they never did come back.

However, we sang our California Dreamin' medley and acquitted ourselves very well.  Everyone got into the theme with Hawaiian shirts and leis and various summery gear.  Barb was dressed for the 60's and brought us fun smiley stickers to wear.  She even had her huarache sandals on.  

Yes, yes that is "moi" with flippers and snorkeling gear on.  And notice that Kristy is still in shorts.  Yup, she won her game and had to go back for the championship game at 5.  This time she just walked off the stage.  
Did you notice that we had a witch in our midst - literally.  Yes that is our Elaine.  She is the wicked witch in the Embro Thistle Theatre's musical, The Wizard of Oz and was promoting that.  Put on a fun hat and she is California Dreamin'.  Our singers are involved in so many activities.  Doug, is on the Fair Board, and Harold who is the Community Service Award Winner, was the parade marshal that morning.  

What an amazing group of people these Embro Thistle Singers are.  I am thrilled to be with them.  Next practice Sunday, September 23 Knox United Church, Embro 7 p.m.  Lots of new music to explore!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Memory Work

Mack the Knife: The Complete Ella in Berlin

One of the goals we have as a choir is to perform our pieces from memory.  I do have the music in front of me so that I can mouth the words.  Soloists don't have that luxury as they are usually out there alone.  I know if you let your mind wander or you think too hard about the words they fly away.  There is a great story about Ella Fitzgerald who was doing a live recording of her concert in Berlin and the words to Mack the Knife escaped her and the ensuing improvised words became very famous and won Ella a Grammy.  Mistakes are just opportunities for creativity.  Check out Fun Friday this week to hear her sing this famous song with her version of the words.  Listen closely.

When you are singing in a group, you aren't as able to be creative in that way.  You really do want to know the words.  I have taken the suggestions for soloists and reworked them for choir members.
We do have our practices on CD now and so we have at least one recording of each of our songs.  We also have the printed music for each song.

1. Be sure to have your CD or iPod to listen to and the music to the song you want to work on.  Have a pencil, highlighter and writing paper with you.

2. Listen to the song all the way through marking where there are choruses, bridges (that contrasting section between 2 verses).  In other words, pay attention to the parts that are the same and parts that are different.

3.  With your pencil or highlighter, listen again and this time, listen for the words that repeat and times when there are changes to the words.  Especially mark the words that you find are surprising or different than you might have expected.  For example, when we were doing  Purple People Eater and I kept wanted to sing my childhood words "FIVE Purple People Eater" instead of the correct "FLYIN' Purple People Eater". I still have to think about those.

4. This is optional but if you choose to take the time, you will have the words down in no time.  Listen again to the song and start writing out the words.  This may be a start and stop kind of exercise.  Remember, if your hand writing is terrible, it doesn't matter.  This is for no one but you.  The writing will merely focus your mind on the words.  Incidentally, you will be singing your part and reinforcing that as well.
Smiley emoticon writing on paper

5.  Finally, hide the paper and the printed music, put on the CD and sing.  Note where a word or two gives you pause but do not stop singing.  You will find that those words have become part of you.

Now this doesn't have to be done all in one sitting.  I will love to hear how you do with these suggestions.  Click on COMMENT below and tell me what happened.
Have fun above all!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fun Friday - Harmonica Man

On ChoralNet this last Saturday, Scott Dorsey featured this wonderful video of an amazing man who gives music to every child he can.  Not only is he sharing his music but teaching others how to share as well.  His music will live forever.  Watch how absolutely thrilled these young people are.  Music is that language that speaks to all ages.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - The Wigglies

I remember very clearly while teaching kindergarten music one day, I asked the children to sing a phrase back to me somewhat like call and response.  The children did as asked with the notable exception of one young man.  When I saw that he wasn't participating, I asked what the problem was.  He simply looked up at me and asked if they had to make their voice wiggle just like mine.  Oops.  I knew I needed to smooth out the sound for the young ones.

When I was taking vocal lessons, we never did really cover controlling the "wigglies" or vibrato in the voice.  In fact, until an adjudicator told me he like my use of vibrato in a particular piece, I really hadn't ever thought about it.
entertainment,females,music,occupations,opera singers,operas,people at work,persons,prima donnas,singers,vocalists,women

However, I do remember well, an older lady in our church choir who had magnificent vibrato.  Her voice could have loosened plaster (maybe it did).  There was so much wiggle in there that it was well nigh impossible to sing beside her and sing in tune.  She had been the mainstay of the choir for a very long time and it was really hard for her to rein it in to blend with the rest of the choir.  Perhaps, she like me, didn't even know that you could control the "wigglies".

When singing as a member of a group, you really must listen more than sing.  Someone said that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.  We must hear how our voice blends with others.  People with very strong voices have to work hard at that for sure.

We have some awesome choir members.  Some read music, some are learning but all working together make a marvellous sound.  Once I explain the sound we are looking for, we practice it until it works.  It takes a concerted effort and because our choir is smaller, we cannot have voices that "stick out".  Cupping your hand behind your ear does help you to be able to hear yourself.   Also, because Damon is recording our practices, we can not only have a practice CD but I am able to hear the blend or lack thereof.  We continue to work on that.

Listen to some of your favourite groups singing.  Why do you like their sound?  What makes it work?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fun Friday - Ball Game Fun

My dad sang in a Barbershop Chorus when we lived in Chatham, Ontario (that's in Canada don't you know).  We enjoyed some wonderful quartets and choruses over the years.  The Barbershop sound has always had a special place in my heart as it certainly brings back great memories.

This video is short and sweet.  As the baseball season winds down, please remember that the very first recorded baseball game was played just down the road from here in Beachville, Ontario despite protestations to the contrary.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Magical Hat of Confidence

On Sunday evening my husband found a program on TVO (TV Ontario) called The Choir: Military Wives.  Knowing I have a "small" interest in all things CHOIR related he suggested I switch it on.  I found it was originally a BBC production of course.  Gareth the choir master,  comes to the military base to form a choir of the military wives left behind when their husbands are deployed to Afghanistan.  Gareth even goes out and tries the military exercises with the remaining forces to really try and understand the life of the base.

He holds no auditions.  One of the things he told the ladies to do at the beginning was to make certain to make mistakes he can hear so that they can be corrected.  The phrase he used was "be wrong and strong".  I love it.

He stood at the front and told them he had a hat for each of them and then mimed throwing out hats and then they put them on.  They were the "magical hats of confidence".

He even went to a couple of the homes to do singing lessons with some of the wives.  One lady was so terrified, he had to work to get her to hum.  But hum she did.  Even with that fear, she got so much more out of the choir she was willing to keep going.  After their concert her comments about how great she felt and her huge smile are a testament to the power of the choir.
Image for Military Wives

They sang their first concert to the troops still on the base and did a grand job.  Mind you, Gareth didn't let them know ahead of time so they wouldn't get over nervous.  However, they sang with confidence and WITHOUT SHEET MUSIC.  

This choir had just begun and yet it made such a difference.  Music was such a wonderful vehicle to create camaraderie, confidence, and a voice to allow the wives to share who and what they are.   It is totally amazing to watch the growth that is happening.

All of you who are in a choir, this is YOU!!  Thank you for all you commit and bring to the choirs.  Have you noticed this growth and change?  Do you want more?