Friday, March 29, 2013

Fun Friday - Ode to Joy?

Some practices can go just like this video.  Maybe not quite so dramatic but it feels that - well - messy.
And we need to laugh and put it down to experience.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - How Old or Young Should Your Choir Members Be?

I was once asked when being considered for the leadership of a choir a number of years ago, just what I would do with aging singers.  I was stumped and stunned to be asked that question.  All I could say was that I would work with them as I would any singers.

Is there an age cut off for singers?  Maybe if you have a certain mandate for a choir you would have specific ages but I couldn't work with that.  I would never be able to tell anyone you are too old or too young to be in a our group.  Besides, I enjoy the people so much I am sad when they leave.  It was always hard as a school teacher that the young people had to move on.  So when I have the choice, I don't want anyone to HAVE to leave especially for something as arbitrary as age.

If you read a previous blog you would know that singing in a choir increases your health both mental and physical regardless of your age.

Well there have been studies on the effects of singing in choirs and aging and they have found  clear differences in the health of seniors involved in the arts programs and those in the control groups. The intervention group, for example, reported an average of 30 fewer visits to the doctor as well as fewer eyesight problems, less incidence of depression, less need for medication, and fewer falls and other injuries.

I really don't care what age anyone is.  If they want to sing and are willing to show up and work as best they can, I want them.

The choir above is again one of Gareth Malone's community efforts.  What they lack in perfection they make up for in enthusiasm.  They are all ages and stages.  Check out the smiles on the singers and audience.  What could be wrong with that?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Words - Bane or Blessing?

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” 
― Maya AngelouI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  

Last night we were practising "Grandma's Feather Bed".  That song is full of words.  Check out this video.  The late John Denver is singing this quite bit faster than we were BUT you can hear every word.  This song tells a funny story so you have to hear all those words.  (Check out Fun Friday for another very funny version!!)

So how does he get all those words out so clearly.  Here is my take on that idea.

1. He KNOWS the words.  You can tell the words are second nature to him.  They flow.  He doesn't have to think about them.  AND he doesn't have his head buried in a sheet of music.  Are you listening out there?

2. He OPENS his mouth.  that seems like an obvious statement but not so.  Watch some singers and they barely move their lips.  Open your mouth and move your lips.  Words are clearer by far.

3.  He FINISHES his CONSONANTS.  I can hear my choir now.  They are brilliant at enunciation BECAUSE they finish consonants.  Try understanding something with no consonants.  Yikes.  They are like the bookends for vowel sounds.  

4.  He has FUN singing this song.   It is obvious that he enjoys this song.  If you watch a number of performances or listen to recordings you will notice that he does it a bit differently each time.  He really enjoys it.  Even when a song has a serious meaning, you have to be IN the song and truly enjoy it. 

As Maya Angelou says in the quotation above, we the singers bring meaning to the words.  Words on paper are just that.  You, like me, probably remember studying works like Shakespeare from books and not enjoying them until you got to see them come to life on stage.  The actors brought the meaning.  The words stayed the same but the delivery was oh so very different.  Songs require the PEOPLE POWER to help them come alive.  

So go ahead, have fun!!  Be John Denver in the shower and make those words dance!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fun Friday - Hallelujah - Gareth Malone

Can you tell that I love the work Gareth Malone is doing with choirs?
In this piece there are some wonderful moments.  There is a mix of ages and people here but all with one focus.  Hair, outfits, tattoos and all together singing their best.  This is what it is all about.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Take a Dose of Choir & Shazam - Good Health

Check out our previous post about singing making you happier.   It is true if you watch these boys singing.  Gareth Malone is an amazing conductor.  He gets people who don't believe they can sing to not only sing but have a great time doing it.  Check out the faces and smiles and happy body language.

Not only does it make you happier it actually improves your health.

1. Hans Guenther Bastian from the Institute of Musical Education at Frankfurt University, concluded singing not only strengthened the immune system but also notably improved the performer's mood.  If
you click on this link you will see the details of the study.

2. Even when problems loom large, singers seem to have better coping skills.  A study published in Australia in 2008 revealed that on average, choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than the public -- even when the actual problems faced by those singers were more substantial than those faced by the general public.

3. The connection between health and the arts – choral singing in particular – seems stronger than ever.  Not only is your health positively affected but you will feel and LOOK younger.  You can read the details but in a nutshell, the over 55 group that participated in choir had 30 fewer visits to the doctor as well as fewer eyesight problems, less incidence of depression, less need for medication, and fewer falls and other injuries.  Now, that is amazing.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stompin' Tom Connors - A Canadian Original

 Stompin' Tom Connors remained unashamedly Canadian.  He wrote about things like Sudbury Saturday Night and Bud the Spud (my grades 7 & 8 students LOVED that song) and of course, what is more Canadian than The Hockey Song.

We actually sang this one at choir one night as a fun warm up.  Thanks Stompin' Tom.  You were a marvellous entertainer and a true original.  Do you know why he always had a piece of plywood to stomp on?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Play Recordings at Practice? Why Not?

It is always interesting to read what other choirs are doing.  There are so many styles and genres represented by these singing groups that is is certain that no one way of doing things will work for all.

The use of recordings to help teach songs is one of those tools that some think are good and some the opposite.  I believe, that as with most teaching ideas, there need to be many paths to the same goal.

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Oh yes, we do use recordings to help with learning a song.  But here are my tips for their use.

1.  We DO NOT sing with recordings.  We listen to recordings of songs we may be wanting to learn.  We do not sing along with them.

2. We listen while reading the music.  Especially if you have people who don't read music, this is a great exercise.  They learn to follow along with the notes, the markings like D.S. al CODA etc.  It is also fun to play the game of "What are they doing differently in the recording than what we see in the music?"  If a rhythm, speed, harmony etc. is different then it is a perfect reason to go over those bits and point them out before those differences are set in their memories.
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3.  We don't always use a recording.  Sometimes, it is better NOT to use a recording especially if your arrangement is unique and you can't find a suitably similar one.  We also don't want the choir to rely just on recordings.  Various learning opportunities keep things fresh.

4.  You Tube is a great resource.  Oh my goodness.  The plethora of recordings on the web is an amazing resource when used with care.  Use only very good quality performances as examples.  Sometimes, just playing something once or twice is enough to give an overall impression without imprinting a style you may not completely want .
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5.  We do not use taped accompaniment.   This is a horse of a totally different colour.  However, it is a particular bugaboo of mine.  Accompaniment tapes can be helpful for those who have limited access to proper accompanists but recordings are unforgiving.  You cannot use "rubato" or various dynamics for effect unless they were built into the recording and then only that one way.  If you are working with children, I cannot emphasize enough NOT to use recorded accompaniment.  Beat the bushes and ask for favours but find an accompanist.  Electronic keyboards are very available and comparatively inexpensive these days.  Make it so, Number One.

Use recordings to add fun and variety to your practices.  Used with discretion you and your singers will learn and expand your musical horizons.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fun Friday - The Muppet Glee Club

Okay gang.  This is really is fun!!!  Giggle at will. Okay so we won't try this one.  I promise.