Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Sweptaways vs ABBA

You know how much we love ABBA's music and enjoy performing various of their songs.  Well, The Stairwell Carolers posted this video and I just loved it so much I had to share.  ABBA has the and so do the Sweptaways.  ABBA has a unique sound and comes from Sweden and so --- you get the idea.  
So tell me, what do YOU think makes a group enjoyable.  Please leave your comments.  We would love to learn from your ideas.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fun Friday - Service is our Middle Name

The Embro Thistle Singers' motto is Song, Service, Fun.  This is a very effect video.  We share this as our part of our service mandate.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - The POWER of Singing Together

An article in the Guardian from the United Kingdom, tells about a choir made up of "homeless and socially deprived people".  They meet weekly and as expected the numbers are different each time.  


The choir's leader is a soul and jazz singer, Jocelyn Smith and she says, 

     "Everyone has a voice in this choir," said Smith, originally from Queens, New York, 
      who puts the stress not so much on the dynamics, or the accuracy of the notes, 
      as on developing a sense of conviction in the singers in what they are intoning.
      If I can get them to sing from within, to put themselves into the notes, then I'm happy."
That quotation made me think.  No matter who we have in our choirs we must:
1. Have fun!  Embro Thistle Singers are on the right track.  We have FUN.   Yes music can be serious but who says you can't enjoy making some seriously good sounds.  Relax and enjoy the process.
2. Sing from within.  I have said it before that singing is an inside job.  It must come from your heart, soul, boots if you will.  When you love or even like what you do, it will show.  The notes are important but the heart is the key.
3. Make sure people count.  The people with whom you sing and direct are the most important ingredient.  I don't mean just their voices but the WHOLE person.  We won't wax philosophical here but their feelings, hopes and fears are not irrelevant.  They are integral. 
4. Be real.  In the article, you will see that the people who come don't always sing.  They sway, they hum and sometimes even sleep.  I truly believe, we take people where they are and teach and share until people begin to gain confidence.  That is what it is all about. 
The music is our vehicle and the people are our reason.  The power of singing is what each person both performing and listening gains.  We may never know how much the music we present and work on means to each of the people it touches.   Let me know what you think as a singer or director!!  I love your comments.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fun Friday - Military Wives Choir

I got the new Military Wives Choir CD for Christmas.  Oh heaven.  I have been following them since seeing the first program about their forming.  This is a bit of a synopsis as well as some lovely sound.  With Christmas behind us for another year, it is a a treat to hear the music just once more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Building Confident Singers - Yes YOU!

At first blush, one would think this post would be directed to choir directors but I think it is an inside AS WELL as an outside job.

1. Gotta Be Perfect - No.  Somehow, people think they have to know how to sing absolutely properly to join a choir or sing alone.  Back in September, I wrote about the Magical Hat of Confidence that Gareth Malone told about.  He had started a choir with those wives and girlfriends of soldiers left behind to keep the home fires burning while their men were in Afghanistan.   If you watch the programs on BBC you will see how he builds almost non-singers into confident choir members and even soloists.

2. Practise - Sing.  Sing alone, sing in the shower, sing with the radio and sing into a recorder even your computer will do.  Sing at church.  Sing with a group like ETS.  Just SING!

3. Choose Music You LOVE - The Embro Thistle Singers love ABBA.  We are adding more to our repertoire all the time.  Are they easy to sing?  Gosh no but we are enjoying them so much we continue to work at getting them well learned.  If you are singing by yourself, and a song doesn't feel good, stop singing it and pick another.  The better it feels to sing something the more confidence you will have.

4. Choose Music with Meaning - Okay so we have sung, Purple People Eater and it means, well whatever you want it to.  Did we have fun?  Oh you bet.  We also sing Wonderful World, Hallelujah, Over the Rainbow, Because We Believe and You Raise Me Up.  For each of us the meanings are personal but we bring part of ourselves to the music.  As you lose yourself to the music, your confidence builds because you forget to be too self aware.

5. Sing for Others - When you sing for the Embro Fair, or Relay for Life or even the Japan Event the reason is bigger than yourself.  When you are giving, you can lose your fears and sing for a reason beyond the normal.

So give yourself a break and sing anyway!  Stop thinking so much and open up your mouth and SING!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fun Friday - We Love ABBA

We keep adding more ABBA songs to our repertoire because we love to sing them.  Enjoy this flash mob who surprise the 100 Anniversary picture with a great dance number.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - Piano or 76 Trombones as Accompaniment?

A trombone is an interesting instrument.  Brass instruments by definition are a loud bunch.  The trombone is tricky to play because there are no valves to press to get a certain sound.  The trombonist must know just where the slide must be pulled to make the tubing the proper length  for any given note.    Like a singer, the trombonist has to be able to listen and make sound at the same time.  Brass instruments, however, cannot be drowned out but voices can.

When we sang Banks of Doon at Embro Ambassador Evening, we had Heather and Leslie  Galloway who played the violin obligato for us.   It was a wonderful addition to the sound.   Anything louder would have spoiled the overall feeling.

Recording your practices really helps you to hear the blend.  If you have lots of microphones and mixing board and talented technicians, then you can do lots of things and even 76 trombones would work.  For most of us, who use simpler equipment, a  piano is usual.

I think we will stick with our amazing Kristy and the keyboard with occasional additions like guitar and violin.  Having a truly good accompanist is a blessing not to be ignored.  You can have all the wonderful equipment in the world but if your accompaniment is played poorly, it spoils the sound.  Period.

The bottom line is that you must choose what works best for your singers and your sound.

Keep listening.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fun Friday - Happy New Year with Music Legend Guy Lombardo Tribute

As a child and young adult, to me, Guy Lombardo WAS New Year's Eve.  Today we seldom watch television on December 31st.

The Lombardo's were born in London, ON and his boat Tempo VI was housed in London, ON and the Miss Canada that beat and then was beaten by Lombardo's hydroplane was from Ingersoll, ON. 

I think of that wonderful New Year's Eve music each and every time I drive over the Guy Lombardo Bridge, the only tangible monument to the musician left in London.

With all those local connections to the Embro Thistle Singers (one of the drivers of Guy's boat was from Embro, ON) I couldn't help but share this great video full of Guy's music and history.
Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tonal Tuesday - How to Make Time to Sing in a Choir

Time.  It is an abundant commodity that many of us THINK of as scarce.  We all get exactly 168 hours each week.  No more, no less.  If you tracked your time like you might track your food intake, you would be surprised at how much of that time is actually available to do the activities you WANT to do.

1. List ALL Activities - Put down EVERYTHING you do from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night.  If you do the clothes washing put it down.  If you do the car washing put it down.  If you have children or others to drive to school activities or appointments, put them down.  This may take a day or two as you remember all that you do.

2. Put a Time on Each Activity - following the list from above, put a start and finish time on each activity.

3. Highlight Activity Types - Check to be certain your list contains a balance of each of  a,b,c,d below.  Then, use a coloured highlighter pen for each activity type.

         a) Faith or spiritual activities whether it is traditional church attendance or walking through the woods or volunteering, this must be in evidence.

         b) Family activities & responsibilities are important.  Meals fit in here.  If you have young children then bedtime routines may need to be included.  Ball games and dance recitals etc. are all here.

         c) Career and/or outside employment.  This must include your time spent in preparation or practise or paper work.

        d) Time for YOU.  This is your time to recharge and have the energy to do all the above.  These are activities of YOUR choice.  If you love the choir then here is where you put that time.  Make sure that your work out time or walking or other physical activities are accounted for.  Don't forget to include date night with a friend or partner or even on your own.

4. Create a Timetable - a) Draw by hand or computer a chart with 7 columns and as many rows as you have hours awake in your day.  If you wake at 7 and go to bed at 10 then you have 16 hours awake so 16 rows.  That accounts for 8 hours of sleep.
b) Post the timetable on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror and when the family starts that "you don't spend enough time" song you can just point to all the areas in family coloured highlighter.  Each family member should have his or her own timetable.
Now, your choir time and other important times are sacrosanct.  You will respect your family's personal times and they yours.

Time is your friend and you do have enough to do what you need and want to do.  
Make it so, Number 1.

P.S. Click on the timetable below to get a full sized copy.