Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tonal Tuesday - Is Talent a Necessity?

I was reading an article about a music teacher who had long taught at one high school and had many very successful musical groups.  He was very well respected by his students and the community.  He opined that "talent" was way down on the list of what it took to be a good musician.

I look for someone who really wants to learn.  Obviously, they have to enjoy music and if they are willing to work at learning new things, they are the people I want in my group.

I always want to make it abundantly clear that it is a two way street.  We all have to be on the same page.  There are people in my choir who have sung in many groups and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience.  They suggest music for us and create a centre of stability that allows our less experienced members to learn.  Even those the experienced members are willing to learn and try new ideas.

I love the juxtaposition of willing inexperience and giving experience in our singers.  The bottom line is that I am growing in my musical understanding all the time as we work.  You all teach me more than I could ever learn from books.  As a director, I need to be able to see the music from both sides and that makes it a great adventure.
Screen Beans group of carolers, singing

I follow a number of music blogs and I really am out of my league with some of the intense, technical discussions.  They have names for ways of singing I have never encountered before and delve into cerebral discussions that really go away from the what I consider the core of choral music - enjoying the singing.

I know we have those who explore and study the intricacies of music as science or as a study but that is not my area for sure.  I want to "get at it" and do it so that we all benefit.  Don't get me wrong, I want to learn.  I just want to be able to apply it to the task at hand.

Those of you who work hard at learning as you sing are treasures.  Whether or not you have extensive musical training or background, you bring your energy and joy to the music and it makes our sound just delicious.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for making that effort and letting me be a part.  Now, let's SING!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fun Friday - Star Wars

Star Wars was (still is for many of us) a great series of movies.  Our son loved them and he had all sorts of Star Wars characters and toys.
When the RCMP Orchestra was coming to town, they advertised that they would be playing the the STAR WARS theme.  That was the key.  We went and what a great concert it was.

Enjoy this short video with Darth Vader conducting with a Light Sabre and the orchestra made of LEGOS.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tonal Tuesday - Our Audience

As a young performer, I always knew that my mum would be right there in the front row no matter what.  I had an ally who thought I was perfect and that injection of ready support always made it easier to try new things.

As a young soloist at church, I would turn to the congregation and stand in my spot at the rood screen and sing knowing that when I turned back to get in my spot, I would look at my dad in the bass section and get my wink.

That simple but effect endorsement is invaluable.  I know that when our Embro Thistle Singers sings their families are often in attendance.  When they come back afterwards, their comments on the concert are really important.  Why else would we sing if not for our audiences?

The type of audience we have often dictates the music we choose.  In the case of one international charity group, we were not allowed to sing about Christmas.  It was explained that because they are represented in many countries with various belief systems, no Christmas references were allowed.  Hmm.  That was interesting.

Just as important are the audience members that you can ask for an evaluation.  How did those last 3 chords in Over the Rainbow work?  Too slow, too fast?  Were the words clear?  My mother always called that kind of look back a "post mortem".  With my mum, it was often done over a cup of tea and some kind of "slushy" dessert.  Oh yeah.

Appreciation of your audience is a key element.  And when we work with the audience in mind, they pay us back with great support.  Thanks to all of you who come to listen.  You are what it is all about!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fun Friday - Traditional Goes Modern

Here is the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir singing their cover of New Order's Blue Monday.
Having travelled to Wales with a choir, I got to see first hand how marvellously musical the Welsh are.  Their choirs are amazing and this one no less so.

Thanks to our daughter for sharing this find.  How delicious was that?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tonal Tuesday - Why Choir?

I was reading the Voice-Council Magazine  last week and the article Why Choirs Aren't Dead caught my eye.  I was happy to know that in the professional world of singing it is considered important that the singers belong to a choir as this quotation mentions.  

Contemporary singers consider choir as part of their career –says Mark De-Lisser

So why do we who are not perhaps contemplating a professional career, coming out to choir on a regular basis?  You can see the reasons that the article above suggests but I will give you my ideas.  See if you agree or have others to add or subtract.  

Many of us at some time have been a part of a school or a church choir or both.  Church choirs add to the liturgy during services and help lead the congregation in singing the psalms and hymns. No matter, you learn to sing well and enjoy making music in a group.  Much of the church music is classic and a great way to start.  School music is more of a potpourri but offers many opportunities for learning too. 
Here is my list.

1.  Singing makes you feel.  See I didn't add the word "good".  Depending on your memories or experiences the music bring emotions to the fore.  Singing is a great way to "let it out" as it were.  Singing in a choir makes it safe as if you miss a note or two, someone is sure to pick it up for you.

2. Our choir is a great social experience.  We can go to places we might not otherwise visit and do it in the company of people we know and trust.  My first visit to Britain happened when I belonged to the Woodstock Choralaires.  What a fantastic experience it was.  But, you don't have to travel to Europe to see new places and add to life experiences.  I find that going to churches or residences or nursing homes are also great as you meet new people, and see new places all the time .  
The Embro Thistle Singers start the fall season with a potluck dinner at our place.  We see each other in a more relaxed manner and eat REALLY well.   One thing you know for sure, is that you are not alone.

3.  You learn new things.  Sometimes the music is what you have loved in the past and sometimes it is what you have never come across before.  sometimes you even learn more than the music.  Imagine!

4.  You hone your musical skills.  I am constantly researching new ways to teach the music and vocal skills.  Our choir is hungry to learn.  It is a treat as my learning curve just keeps curving.

5.  Learning to listen critically is so important.  Nothing improves that ability like doing more of it.  Each singer needs to listen well to blend.  We all must work as a well oiled machine and listening well is key. 

6. Vocal skills only improve with practice.  Being in a choir is a safe way to improve those skills.  With others singing with you, it makes it easier to try new vocal tricks. 

Our choir is purely volunteer so when people keep coming back, you know it is because they are getting something out of the experience.   I look forward to our biweekly practices.  I can't imagine life without ETS now!!  Having FUN is key and as you can see, we make sure there is lots of that.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fun Friday - Jingle Bells Through the Ages

Oh what fun!  An amazing group indeed.  We are working on this song and this choreography is NOT going to happen but doesn't mean we can't appreciate it.  Click on the link below to see them. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tonal Tuesday - What Songs to Sing?

A number of years ago, my husband and I went to see Neil Sedaka in concert at the Stratford Theatre.  As luck would have it, our seats were on the left quite close to the stage and Sedaka was just in front of us.  He wore a white suit and sat at the piano.  That was it.  Just Neil Sedaka, a piano and the audience.  I was mesmerized.

Sedaka sang and talked about his music.   The setting was intimate and Sedaka made you feel as if you were in his living room.  You could tell he loved what he was doing and made you feel it too.

In an article that Sedaka just did for the Voice Council magazine, he talks about choosing your music to make it enjoyable.

He says to sing in your range and songs you enjoy not just what you think the audience wants.  Sedaka has last a long time in this career and he has been able to change with the times for sure.

One of the songs he sang was the ever popular "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" in both the fast, original version and the slower ballad version.  He explained that he changed it to suit the change in musical tastes and it has worked.

As choirs, we need to suit ourselves for sure but also remember just to whom we are singing.  Maybe the song isn't the strongest in musical value but is a whole lot of fun.  If it suits the purpose of fun or a particular need, and doesn't compromise the music, then it is worth it.

We never want to compromise our standards to suit an audience for sure but it doesn't mean that we can't do something different.  I really am not into just one style of music.  I love that we do classical pieces, secular and sacred, modern and everything in between.  Sometimes, it is in 4 parts and sometimes 3.  Our bottom line is that the music is well done and we are having FUN!!

What do you think?  Click on "comments" below and tell us.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fun Friday - What Creative Voices Can Do

This is a sound check that was recorded.  I have no idea how the other voices kept up their parts.  They sing harmony and accompaniment.  Quite amazing. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tonal Tuesday - Our Early Impressions

This last week Sam Sniderman, the originator and founder of Sam the Record Man died.  What I remember  about him was that wonderfully bright, flashing record sign outside his Young Street, Toronto business.  Recordings were in high regard and high demand, Sam's store was one where they lined up to get the new Beatles' albums at the crack of dawn.  Sam was also a great philanthropist using his wealth to change the lives of many.

There were a number of "regular" people who told stories of how the recordings purchased and the visits made to Sam's made a difference in their lives.  For me, even though I didn't go to downtown Toronto often, the huge sign was like a beacon to the world of music.

As I thought about the words said about this venerable "music man", my thoughts went back to those people who made a huge difference in my musical life.

When I was 8 years old, we got an old upright piano.  It was painted white and had an oil painting in glass right in the front.  It was a piece of art itself.  Apparently, someone was moving and glad to get rid of it.  Piano now obtained, my mum signed me up for group lessons after school with Miss Flavell.
academics,children,kids,metronomes,music,music lessons,musical instruments,musicians,piano lessons,pianos,sheet music,students,teachers,women
I LOVED Miss Flavell.  I don't remember how many of us were in the class but she had private teaching time with each of us and while that went on the rest worked away at theory in our work books.  I loved music theory and I loved playing the piano with Miss Flavell.  She was warm and supportive.  She corrected mistakes but first gave praise for what you did well.  I think, had I been able to stay with Miss Flavell, I might have mastered piano.  But we moved to Chatham then and my two years of group classes were history.

Other memorable moments for me were Bobby Curtola's visit to our high school, going to see West Side Story at the O'Keefe Centre on my 13th birthday and playing leads in our high school musicals.  My high school music teacher Mrs. Archibald was a huge part of all I learned.  Not only did she do the musicals but choirs as well.  We sang through every lunch hour.  The other half of lunch we studied music one grade ahead.  I learned to read scores, orchestral forms and listening.  We appreciated opera and popular music.  She really was the reason I loved and still love music and most of all vocal music.   All of those people and experiences shaped my life and certainly enhanced my musical learning.

So what experiences have you had that made a difference in where you are today?  What sparked your musical interests?  Do you have a Miss Flavell in your life who left you with positive feelings?  Click on comments below and share your thoughts.