Friday, September 27, 2013

Fun Friday - Irish Version of the "Cups" Song - Amazingly Catchy Rhythms

These young people have worked hard to make this come together so well.  The rhythms are incredible.  There is a really good reason why I am not a drummer.  Yikes.  I do appreciate that others can do what escapes me.  What do you think?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - What Happens When They Don't Come

balls,baseball,baseball bats,baseball diamonds,baseball fields,baseball gloves,baseball mitts,baseballs,bats,gloves,mitts,sports,sports equipmentBuild it and 'they' will come.  The movie Field of Dreams was based on that idea that the hero hears a voice telling him to build it and he will come, he being Shoeless Joe Jackson (I bet he never thought a restaurant would be named after him).

Often we think that if we have a great program, we will never have a problem getting our members to attend practices and gigs.  Well in short, that is just not so.  There are many reasons why people don't show up and most of them have absolutely nothing to do with you, your program or their enjoyment of being in the choir.

1. Your singers have a life.  It may be a surprise to you but your singers have a life outside the choir.  They have children who get sick, and parents, partners and dogs who need attention.  Some people let life dictate their timetable and so you will not see them when they are admonished for going out yet again.  They may love choir once they get there but getting there through the minefield of home stuff and personalities may present difficulties.

2. They might really be sick.  Enough said.  In that case, please stay home.

3. Personality conflicts.  There may be friction between singers.  When you have dedicated people they can get very upset by others who don't see things the same way.  Sometimes, sharp words can be exchanged.  You really do have to to have moles they will keep their finger on the pulse of the singers.  If you have a large group, this can be the job of the section leaders.  Personal private discussions are sometimes a necessity.

4.  Don't take it personally.  You really must not think what you think people are thinking when they really aren't thinking that at all.  If you are concerned that something is wrong, ask.  You can ask some of your key people or make it a general question and ask for private feed back by note or e-mail.  They can be anonymous if they wish.  Remember each person has different  view of the world never mind the choir and what happens there.

5.  Don't focus on the negative.  You have created (or someone has) a great singing tradition.  When only a few show up, work with them  Honour them.  We had a small turn out for choir last practice and the sound was amazing.  We sang through songs we hadn't done in a long time.  We didn't focus on who wasn't there but those who were.  Man they were awesome.  Go with the good and be elated at the result.

Sometimes, the cat throws up on your shoe, and you just have to deal.  It is never as bad as you imagine.  In fact, it can be a great thing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fun Friday - Jail House Rock with Enthusiasm

This young man is just 2.  He knows there are words there and mouths at the appropriate time.  Clapping, posing and just loving the music.  We should all take a lesson. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Enthusiasm Takes Thought & Effort

Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.  There is actually a whole 'self help" workshop system to get you to do this.  Check it out on You Tube.  

The great news is that I am going to share some ideas for FREE.  You don't have to take a workshop.  As a matter of fact, what I am going to tell you, you can practise everyday and I guarantee that it will be fun.

1. LOVE IT! - If you hate, loathe and despise an activity or song or bunch of people, guess what?  You will find it very hard to be enthusiastic.  in a choir, you have to enjoy most of the songs.  You have to enjoy the process of learning then.  AND enjoy sharing them in your gigs.  If you aren't enjoying these then you will find it hard to find enthusiasm.

2.  IT'S CATCHING - Surround yourself with people who are happy to be there and enjoy showing that.  You would call that, enthusiasm.  In a choir, you are choosing to be there.  So if you are going to be there have fun.  That enthusiasm is like measles and you can allow yourself to catch it!

3. FORGETABOUTIT - Leave the nasty workmate at work.  Leave the miserable kid at home.  Leave your "stuff" in a box and just enjoy the moment.  There are times I go to choir feeling less than perky.  Someone has said something, or I just feel a bit tired.  Once I get into practice and we make some great sounds, all that other stuff is gone.  I decide to be in the moment and have fun with the music and those wonderful people who made the effort to be at practice.  Enthusiasm is a state of mind.

In the 3 examples above, you will see that being enthusiastic is a choice.  When you don't have enough of your own energy, borrow some from those around you.  Find the good.  It is there.  Make it a point to feed others with our enthusiasm when you are up.  Let others feed you when you aren't.
Best advice, let yourself enjoy the world in the way of a 3 year old.  Don't worry about what anyone thinks but YOU!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Embro Fair Talent Show 2013 - Thank You For the Music

It is amazing when you watch the video to see how many people walk about and all the noise around you.  It is a good thing that while we are singing, we don't notice.  We are just having too much fun!

E.T.S. at the Embro Fair 2013 - Sparkling Like ABBA

We had fun singing at the Embro Fair again this year.  We have fun supporting our community.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fun Friday - 12 Pianists. One Piano

This is truly a performance piece and so fun to watch.  They are really into making this happen.  I love all the creative ways they use the possibilities of using all parts of the piano to make unique sounds.  Talk about Dynamics!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Terrific Tuesday - How to Find The Emotion Needed to REALLY Sing a Piece

As a 13 year old singing student, I had the dubious pleasure of learning "Hast Thou Seen But a Bright Lily Grow" to sing for the Music Festival Competition.  I had no idea Ben Johnson had written it.  I also had no idea what it meant.  I just know that I did not like singing it but I sang it like my life depended on it because I wanted to beat out my arch rival, Jeanine.  I did!  Apparently, that was the emotion that got me through that song.   Notice how these words have been modernized.

Have you seen but a bright lily grow                                                                                                     Before rude hands have touched it?
Have you marked but the fall of snow  
Before the soil hath smutched it?
Have you felt the wool of beaver,
Or swan's down ever?
Or have smelt o' the bud o' the brier,
Or the nard in the fire?
Or have tasted the bag of the bee?
O so white, O so soft, O so sweet is she!

I mean really - SMUTCHED - for a 13 year old?  I have been checking on You Tube and the seriousness of the tenors singing this poem is a glory to behold.   Now, that is not the tune I remember but apparently, they are finding something in those words I still do not. 

To present a song and honestly connect with your audience you must FEEL something.  My passion to win got me beyond the non-understanding of this poem.  There must be a passion there.

1.  WORDS - The words in the poem above certainly have great meaning and as an adult I sort of get what Ben Johnson was saying but would ever sing that with passion?  Nope!  It doesn't mean that others don't, however.  If the words are saying something that really hits you where you live then let those create the passion to make this the best song it can be.  For many in E.T.S., the words in "You Raise Me Up" or "Wonderful World" really create that depth of feeling.

2. HARMONY - Sometimes, it is the intricacy of the harmonies that can make emotions flow.  Once you have mastered a particularly tricky or rich harmony and understand how the parts work together and why, the piece goes beyond just presentation and enters the heart.  Then, it connects. We have 3 really tricky chords in "Over the Rainbow" that took some doing to get just right.   Now, when we get to that spot, it gives me chills and audiences have remarked similarly.

3. BODY LANGUAGE - If you slouch, lean back or just look rather dour, your audience with lose interest.  Lean into your music with a balanced stance, good posture, lowered chin, and above all dancing eyes.  Your eyes tell the tale.  Sometimes, you can smile with your mouth but most often it is only your eyes that can tell the story without affecting the necessary rounded vowels .  Whether you are having fun or feeling the love or deep sad emotions telegraph same to your face.  Your music will be so much more interesting to sing and you will create that bond with the listeners.

4. CONDUCTING -  There are as many opinions on how best to conduct a choir as there are people. My personal style is to use my hands not a baton which would be very dangerous to the safety of those in the front row.  I am told, I really get into the music.  I try very hard not to distract so there is a fine line between getting too involved and just enough to help the choir "get it".  I loved the conductor from The Lion Sleeps tonight.  Now that elicits emotion that easily transfers to the audience.

Get the words to mean something.  Enjoy the music you are making.  And above all HAVE FUN!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fun Friday - The Muppets and the Lion Sleeps Tonight

On Tuesday  we explored how dynamics can add interest to your choral presentations.  Here the Muppets sing a version of the same song although they have applied some rubato to the rhythm. The dynamics are achieved mainly by varying the voices and type of presentation.  Still effective don't you think?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Terrific Tuesday - Dynamics Make a HUGE Difference - The Lion Sleeps Tonight

When you listen to this wonderful young choir, you will be hit by the differences in dynamics.  Often, singing loudly is what happens.  Getting a choir to uniformly get quieter and louder as needed takes practice and care.  I think there are a number of ideas at work here.

1. WHY?  Make certain your singers know what you want. You need to communicate to your singers where you need the differences in dynamics.  Once they understand WHY they will be half way to making it happen.  This means that you have to review your music carefully long before the first rehearsal.

2. WHERE?  a) They all need to see where in the music you want the changes.  For instance, this choir uses dynamic changes to enhance repeated phrases.  The second time the phrase starts out softer and grows in loudness.  Very smart.  They obviously know that perfectly.

b)  The second part of WHERE is the actual venue.  This church has great acoustics.  It really helps both the audience and the choir to hear those differences.  Some venues may require just loud or fairly soft sounds.  We have sung in small, tight venues and it is necessary to keep the sound more controlled.  When singing in a huge space, loud might be required.

3. HOW?  This conductor is using big movements and a great smile to connect with his singers.  We don't get to see him all the way through, but when we do we can see why the choir members watch so intently.  His motions are clear and helpful.  Giving clear, concise directions is so important. Consistency is also essential.  If you keep changing the spot where you want softer or louder sounds, the choir may get confused.

All in all, working at dynamic versatility, creates excitement in the singers because they are challenged.  It creates excitement in the listeners because they are never quite sure what will come next.  Keeping both audience and choir on their toes is just a lot more fun.