Sunday, December 28, 2014

Musical Monday - New Year's Resolution Song

It is that time of year again.  How many of you set yourselves up with resolutions?  Well this is one cute song about resolutions and why they may not be a great idea.  Have fun!  AND Happy New Year as we look forward to more musical challenges and FUN!!  Did I say - FUN!!?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fun Friday - Christmas Night Flash Mob

Happy Boxing Day to our fellows Canadians and friends in the U.K.  Imagine trying to finish off your shopping and having this rhythmic interruption  Check out the faces on a couple of the young ones listening.  Precious.  He wants them to do it again!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - PEACE, PEACE......SILENT NIGHT

This is a somewhat different arrangement than the Embro Thistle Singers sing.  Note how beautifully they manage the bigger intervals with no sliding.  Yummy.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Musical Monday - What Child is This - The Stairwell Carollers

One of the first choirs I connected with was this wonderful Stairwell Carollers from Ottawa, Ontario.  Their history is wonderful & the sounds they produce just lovely.  Thank you Holly for all your support & encouragement.                Enjoy this amazing new arrangement by Pierre Massie. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Musical Monday - The Legend of Harvey

Our choir, the Embro Thistle Singers, would not exist if it were not for a dream that came to fruition through our very own Harvey.  There he is on the far right. No YOUR right.

It was a day in 2010 that Harvey came to me with this idea for a choir and asked if I would consider being the choir director.  Oh yeah, count me in!  He had asked a number of people to come to an inaugural practice.  We had 16 at our very first practice.  Amazing.  

As I had no idea of exactly who would come nor what skills they might bring we sang a number of songs in unison.  Well, it was immediately evident that we had some proficient singers.  Harvey is really good at getting people to do things. 

Knox United Church has given us space to practise for almost 5 years.  We started in the basement and have moved into the church.  We are very lucky to have such a lovely practice facility.  Harvey asked Kathy if she could make it happen.  She did.  

The first accompanist Harvey asked was Ann.  During the first weeks of our inception, she was taken ill and had to have surgery.  Kristy came to us ostensibly as a fill in.  Ann decided that adding ETS to her roster was just too much and Kristy agreed to stay.  

We have had number of people come and go as the years have gone on.  Some found that their schedules were busier than they liked.  Others just found other things to do or had enjoyed what they had done and were ready for a change. Of course, we were terribly sad to lose Damon unexpectedly last year.  Losing a treasured member really makes us be more mindful of just how special each person truly is.  

We have learned many pieces that if asked in those beginning months, we might have thought impossible to do.  We have grown immensely in experience, skill and repertoire.  None of these would have been possible without Harvey's dream and the footwork that it took to get us together.  Once we got started, not even snow storms, extreme cold or major thunderstorms could stop us!

Harvey is a legend in his own time.  Do you have a legend in your group who was a key founding member or is part of the glue that keeps things going.  Share with us.  Maybe your "Harvey" will appreciate knowing just what an important role he/she plays! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - ICC and IYC Angels Among Us

This is a lovely sound from a huge combined choir.  They leave out the first spoken or sung story words.  Notice the sign language interpretation to the side.  The descant is really a beautiful addition don't you think?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Musical Monday - How to Work with All the Voices in Your Choir

If you are a singer in a choir, you know that there are very different voices all around you. You have unique vocal abilities and sometimes it is hard for you to hear how your voice fits.  Your leader has the job of recognizing all those voices and helping each to be the most effective at being a part of the whole.  Maybe if we all understand the process we can each help to make it work best.

1. Classically Trained Voices - Just because someone has had vocal lessons doesn't mean they remember everything they learned nor does it mean that their teacher  is or was on the same page as you.
It is imperative that ALL voices be reminded of proper posture, breathing and sound production ALL THE TIME!
Any skill needs updating.  Our son is a licensed technician for those huge trucks (lorries) you see on the roads.  He constantly takes upgrading courses.  So we must update ourselves constantly so that we can lead our singers to better sound and care of the voice.
The worst mistake you can make with "trained" singers is to ASSUME that they all ready know everything and that exercises in breathing, tone matching & production etc. are unneeded.  Coach them constantly.

2. Natural or "Untrained" Voices - Ethel Merman was an amazing singer. Her strident sound was legendary.  However, had she not used proper techniques she would have had no voice left for singing like this later in life.
Forced sound is harsh and often out of tune.  Our job as directors is to teach correct sound production techniques.  You don't want anyone to lose their unique sound but you want to protect it.  Proper breath control and tone placement are paramount.  They may not be able to hold phrases as long as a "trained" singer but they will be able to be comfortable singing.

3. Easy, simple tricks for ALL Singers  
     a. Stand with your weight on the balls of your feet & use the heels just for balance.  Sing a simple song (Frere Jacques) with the weight on the heels then on the balls of the feet.  Huge difference.
     b. Pull up the back of the head so that they picture the spine in a straight line.  Then, tilt the chin down.  Again, sing with chin pointing to the sky and then chin slightly tucked & back of throat open & tongue dropped.  Oh yeah.
     c. With the balance of a and the position of b, think of the sound as coming from a "magic whale spout" in the top of your head.  (I used this for absolutely every aged singer I ever taught.)  Your sound doesn't come from your mouth, but from the whale spout.  Oh no, you can't touch it.  Remember it is MAGIC.  Yup, the grade ones love that.  The high schoolers think it is hilarious that the little kids fall for such stuff.  Meanwhile, they are using that "silly" position to make great sound.
     d. Breathe without raising the shoulders.  I have people put their fingers on the diaphragm and feel it move in and out.  We use the balloon analogy.

Do you have to do these all the time?  No but each practice zero in on one or other.  It will depend on the songs you are singing whether you need long phrases and breath control or great consonants with the proper posture and a whale spout.  Whether you have young or mature singers, trained or natural voices, YOU must use reminders and practise the skills called for in your pieces.  Don't flog them.  Have fun with quick warm ups and silly faces.  Even the Hallelujah Chorus has some fun bits you can use to sharpen a skill or two.

What do you enjoy doing as or with singers?  Anything here resonate?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - The Calypso Carol

Does a song have to be slow or serious to be thoughtful?  I don't think so.  This group including the audience is having a great deal of fun.  It is very tricky to keep such a large group together including the orchestra and of course the audience is singing too.  Celebration is thoughtful too!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Musical Monday - Are You a Singing Choir Director?

One of my favourite sources for musical ideas is Choral Net .  The other day, there was a question about whether or not a choir director should sing while directing.  This is an age old question but as usual I have my own ideas.  I honestly feel that there are very few differences between how you work with singers not matter what the age.  Older singers often need help with tone placement or intonation as much as younger ones.  If you are working with so called professionally trained singers, I think you still have to remind them of basics.  Really, all of the following would apply to most situations.

1. Sing to set an example - Often times, it is easier to sing a phrase the way you wish it rather than try to explain it with words.  I remember my mum telling me that she had a teacher in high school who never sang.  She would get a student to sing examples for her.  Mum said that her teacher's inability to sing didn't stop them from being an award winning chorus.  So whether it is you or a ringer, sung examples don't hurt.

2. Sing if a part needs help - If we are short on sopranos, I will sing along.  If you are a tenor and they need help, by all means sing.  Although, it is usually inappropriate for a director to sing during a performance, circumstances alter cases.  I agree that if you are singing along all the time, you really cannot hear what is happening with the other parts as well.  So the rule is, there is no rule.  If you are in a competition, you better not be singing.  Otherwise, use discretion and help only if really needed.

3.  Be quiet most of the time - With the 2 suggestions above, it seems as if you should sing lots.  In fact, if you are singing all the time the rest of the singers begin to depend on you and don't then learn to be independent.  This is NOT what you want.  You can sing occasionally, emphasis on OCCASIONALLY for specific purposes.  Your choir must learn to be independent.  You can undo all the work you have done to get people to sing well if you just take over.   You don't want to leave your singers feeling overwhelmed but don't always rescue them.  Let them find their own way most of the time.  That is how we learn most effectively.

So the answer to the question is sometimes we sing to help but most of the time, we do not.  You are either the director or a member of the chorus.   That doesn't mean that you can't dismount and join the chorus for a sing along time or just for fun once in a while.  Because after all, it is about the music AND the fun!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - Glasgow Phoenix Choir - 'Because We Believe', A. Bocelli, D Foster and A...

This is one of our favourite songs to perform.  This rendition in the lovely old church but the Glasgow Phoenix Choir is quite lovely.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cambrocourt Rocks AGAIN

We had a fabulous evening last night at what has become our annual invitation to Cambrocourt Manor in Embro.  We are the entertainment after what seemed to be a sumptuous meal.

Poor Kristy had a work emergency so was a bit later getting on the road.  The Embro Thistle Singers rose to the occasion and we did our warm up a Capella.  After having done the Lighting of the Lights a Capella due to the weather, we were on a role.

Kristy made it and set up the keyboard and bless her heart sat right down and away we went.

It was last year that we were asked to learn Mary Did You Know and so it was one of our songs.  We still have more work to get it refined but it wasn't bad.
However, Calypso Carol, and Angels Among Us were stellar.  Now, we have to put Baby It's Cold Outside in a whole new category.  At the last practice, we slowed it down and suddenly, the words became more a focus.  Last night, the choir relaxed into the song and sang it back and forth to one another and really had fun.  Tops indeed!!

Thanks again to our friends at Cambrocourt for their wonderful support.  We have been asked to do Mary's Boy Child for next year so we will take on the challenge.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Musical Monday - Warm Ups for Fun & Purpose

This is a very busy time of year.  Sometimes when we are practising for our concerts we forget that a warm up can be useful in focusing on a skill that will help us do our best work on the pieces we are shaping up for concerts.  Here are some really simple but effective ways to fix a small problem and get the mojo going.  Click on the name of the song if you forget what it sounds like.  You may have another that will do much the same job.

If You're Happy & You Know It - If you have staccato or legato changes so that with this wee song.  You could also try  slides, clean phrasing
clapping, snapping, shake hands.

My Bonnie -  If you click on the My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean link you will hear a good rendition of this children's song.  The Intervals & pronunciation really make this one a good one to do.  this is always a great song to get the letter "b" formed correctly.  It's called the "bouncing B" for a reason.
P.S. If you have a children's choir or people who get restless here is a great bonus activity.  On the first word starting with "b" stand up.  On the next "b" word, sit down.  The chorus needs directing, Bring back, oh bring back, oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to me. REPEAT.  I LOVE this one.

Partner songs - Row, Row, Row Your Boat & 3 Blind Mice- These are songs you can sing together.  This is especially good for children or amateur singers to get used to harmony.  You can sing one staccato, while the other group is singing legato, then switch.  Sing with varying dynamics decided upon before you sing or with signals as they sing.

Hokey Pokey - or Hokey Cokey in the U.K.  You can sing this sitting or standing for just plain good exercise.  Then sing it watching out for slurs or do them on purpose. You can use these words to crisp up the diction.

These are just a few suggestions.  Anybody have any other ideas?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fun Friday - Flash Mob @ the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

What an appropriate place to have a musical flash mob.  Notice how the crowd doesn't just keep on but actually pays attention.  Such talented people. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - Mary, Did You Know? - Pentatonix

Last year, we were asked to consider singing this beautiful song.  You will remember we posted Mark Lowry singing his song in two different styles.  Here the group Pentatonix use their unique harmonies to interpret Mary Did You Know in a little different way.  Perhaps, we will get a recording of the Embro Thistle Singers singing this song at our gigs this season. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Musical Monday - How to Handle Negative Comments

As much as it pains us to admit, we do get negative comments from time to time.  How we handle those can set a tone for our choirs.  Getting upset or defensive can create a combative climate.  Bowing to each negative and trying to change according can create conflict and confusion.  So just what do we do as choir leaders & as choir members to handle those sometimes dreaded comments.

1.  See the good - First of all, know that someone is going to disagree.  It is the nature of people to have an opinion and even more often in the art world.  If someone is offering an opinion, (and remember that it is just that - THEIR OPINION - more on that later) then they have heard something that hit them where they live and want to comment on it.  That is good.  If no one says anything, then perhaps some re-evaluation is needed.  Something not worth talking about didn't make much of an impact.  So even seemingly negative comments are good.

2. Let the audience own it - One of the things I learned during my own children's teen years was that they were NOT going to like something.  Similarly, some people cannot find the good in anything.  They have to pick things apart.  some people are just simply having a bad day and you happen to be the target.
     When someone comes up and says, "I don't know why you would have chosen that song or interpretation or arrangement or whatever."  Your usual response is go into defensive mode with something like, "Our choir liked it.  Or we are too big/small for another arrangement. Or ---   S T O P !!!!!!!
DO NOT DEFEND!  Let the person talking own the comments.  You must respond with something like, "I am sorry you feel that way." or "What an interesting idea."  or "Perhaps, you will enjoy our other choices."  You see, the person with the comment owns it.  You take ownership when you try to defend.  Whatever you do, smile nod and when in doubt you smile, nod and say, "That's great!  Thanks for your feedback."  And then walk away baby, smiling all the way!

3. When the choir disagrees -  Depending on the constitution of your choir, you may have a committee that chooses music or you ask for suggestions.  In that case, it puts paid to criticizing choices.  However, their can be differences of opinion on interpretation or learning methods etc.  Our choir is always encouraged to share their opinions.  Some do it quietly, and some not.  We have no one who dissents just to be obtuse, thankfully, but you may have.
I believe that respect is earned.  I love to get opinions and ideas.  Some of them are really astute.  Other eyes and ears helping are great.  However, they know that in the end, I get to choose.  Earn that respect by first respecting the rights of others to hold and share opposing opinions.
The best solution is to be open to ideas and as often as practical, try them.  If however, you have a Negative Nelly or Ned you may have to do some quiet, private intervention and point it out.  Often they don't even realize they are being so negative.

Welcome the comments.  Do not defend to outsiders but take on their comments to see if improvements can be made.  All comments, negative and positive are signs of interest.  And that's a good thing - right?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fun Friday - Baby It's Cold Outside

Brrr.  What happened to our fall temperatures.  This song is really ringing true today!  Here is a jazz choir having a great time & really nailing the timing and harmonies.  P.S. Chris you will be happy to see they wear NO uniforms!

Now here is a contrast.  Switching the parts and some of the words.  Which do you like better?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - A Timely Video for Remembrance Day in Canada

The services to honour our men & women in uniform were well attended Tuesday this week.  Even the tiny ones seemed to know the gravity of remembrance.  Let's take that "pittance of time" from Remembrance Day and each day & think of how we can make life happier and fuller for others.  More people acting in peaceful ways will create and wave of peace.  In our own corners, may we share our music & our love for each other!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Do Christmas Songs Have to be "Christmas-y"?

Now, let's start off by saying, we at the Embro Thistle Singers do CHRISTMAS.  We don't say "holiday" concert.  We don't avoid the Christian story nor do we skirt around Santa.  That suits most of the people who ask us to sing.

We did sing a concert for an "Appreciation Dinner" at Christmas time for an international group that doesn't allow any reference to Christmas at all.  They wanted to be inclusive so no Christmas.  Because they work throughout the world, they don't want to be seen to support any religion or belief system in particular.  Interesting.

So how do you chose Christmas music.  There are secular songs like White Christmas and Christian songs like Mary Did You Know and everything in between.  So how do you choose.

1. Audience - Obviously, you have to know what they want.  It is most important to honour your listeners.  If what the people asking you to sing is unpalatable to you, then just don't accept that gig.  If you sell tickets, then you choose music you know your audience will come to hear.  Every year at Royal Albert Hall in London, England, there is a Christmas concert with various big name musicians. One of the enduring features is the sing along with the carols.  It is a staple and much anticipated by the crowd that comes.  Why would they change that?  It works and brings in the audiences year after year.

2.  Choir abilities - Be very certain that the difficulty level of your music suits the members of your group.  It is lovely to take on the Hallelujah Chorus if you are a large group with experienced singers.  Young, untrained or small groups will not do justice to such a piece.  There are pieces of music we have started and put aside.  We didn't have enough time to bring it to a concert worthy level.  If in doubt, throw it out.

3. What you like - We are singing Baby It's Cold Outside, Angels Among Us, and Mary Did You Know and Calypso Carol which are new to us this year.  What a mix.  Baby is just about a couple on a date in the winter.  Angels Among Us is a story of kindness and Mary & Calypso tell parts of the Christmas Story.  We have sung You Raise Me Up, When a Child is Born, Because We Believe, Wonderful World, Over the Rainbow as well as many great Christmas pieces.  We did the 12 Days After Christmas which gave us many laughs too.

So in answer to the question in the title, no Christmas music can be whatever moves you.  Our audiences appreciate our eclectic lineup of songs and we enjoy all the songs we sing.  We want to sing music that tells stories of hope, caring, love, humour and friendship.  Some music is just for fun.  Whatever we sing, it must be musically satisfying, appropriate to our skills with a chance to stretch and learn.  Sing, just sing and make it count.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fun Friday - Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better - Annie Get Your Gun

When I was in grade 13, I got to play Annie.  I loved singing this song & this pair does a great job.  I light of our post on Tonal Tuesday, you can see that sopranos & basses could do a great job singing this to one another.  Tee, hee.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Explaining the SATB Choir

There is a really fun explanation of the 4 basic choir sections as seen by a young person.  I don't know where the original document came from or I would give proper credit.  I am shortening it up somewhat for our busy readers.  Have a wee giggle but realize that those of us privileged enough to conduct a choir, know secrets not shared here.  Stay tuned for more.

The four parts of the choir can be easily distinguished and here is how.

entertainment,music,occupations,opera singers,operas,persons,singers,vocalistsSOPRANOSare the ones who sing the highest, and because of this they think they rule the world. They have longer hair, fancier jewelry, and swishier skirts than anyone else, and they consider themselves insulted if they are not allowed to go at least to a high F in every movement of any given piece. 

ALTOSare the salt of the earth - in their opinion, at least. Altos are unassuming people, who would wear jeans to concerts if they were allowed to. Altos are in a unique position in the chorus in that they are unable to complain about having to sing either very high or very low. They know that while the sopranos are screeching away on a high A, they are being forced to sing elaborate passages full of sharps and flats and tricks of rhythm, and nobody is noticing because the sopranos are singing too loud (and the basses usually are too). Altos get a deep, secret pleasure out of conspiring together to tune the sopranos flat. Altos have an innate distrust of tenors, because the tenors sing in almost the same range and think they sound better.

TENORSare spoiled. That's all there is to it. For one thing, there are never enough of them, and choir directors would rather sell their souls than let a halfway decent tenor quit. And then, for some reason, the few tenors there are, are always really good - it's one of those annoying facts of life.. So it's no wonder that tenors always get swollen heads - after all, who else can make sopranos swoon? It is a little-known fact that tenors move their eyebrows more than anyone else while singing.

Image result for TUBABASSESsing the lowest of anybody. This basically explains everything. They are stolid, dependable people, and have more facial hair than anybody else. The basses feel perpetually unappreciated, but they have a deep conviction that they are actually the most important part (a view endorsed by musicologists, but certainly not by sopranos or tenors), despite the fact that they have the most boring part of anybody and often sing the same note (or in endless fifths) for an entire page. They compensate for this by singing as loudly as they can get away with - most basses are tuba players at heart.
As for the sopranos, they are simply in an alternate universe which the basses don't understand at all. They can't imagine why anybody would ever want to sing that high. When a bass makes a mistake, the other three parts will cover him, and he can continue on his merry way, knowing that sometime, somehow, he will end up at the root of the chord.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fun Friday - Taylor Swift - Shake It Off

I love the words to this song.  It is so very real especially in this busy time of year.  We sometimes get all wrapped up in what DIDN'T work.  Well, as Taylor Swift suggests we sometimes need to shake it off.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - How to Keep Your Voice in Good Health

business,females,harmony,males,men,metaphors,music,people,persons,singers,teamwork,women,working togetherThis is the time of year for colds and sniffles and lots of singing.  With the changes in weather and here in Canada the turning on of heating, our voices can really start to feel less than great.

How can you tell if your voice is "sick"?  And more importantly, what do you do about it?

1. I can't sing softly or reach my usual sounds - When you have a cold or an overused voice, it is often really hard to sing softly.
             - stop talking & singing and DO NOT WHISPER.  Whispering can be really hard on your voice.  If you must talk, do so in a normal tone and try not to be too loud.  Your best bet is to rest your voice.

2. No matter what I do, my voice is scratchy after singing & talking.
            - you need to change your voice placement.  You probably have learned to keep your voice at the back of your throat.  It is a common speaking method these days.  Try standing feet apart, balancing on the balls of your feet.  Be comfortably tall.  Sing a simple song like Row, Row, Row Your Boat.   Now, without moving your stance pull up your spine, open up your mouth and pull your chin down slightly as you sing.  Feel the difference.  Do all of the above and pinch your nose just below the bridge.  Sing again and pay attention to how your voice feels.  If you can't change your voice placement yourself, perhaps a couple of lessons from a vocal coach will be worth the investment.  Your choir leader would be happy to help as well.

3. Why can the other singers sing without difficulty & I struggle with my vocal health?
           - heredity plays a big role in your vocal health.  Ask family members to find out if there are things you can do to minimize your vocal problems.
            - if you stay up late, eat poorly & talk and sing all the time, you are causing damage.  Regular rest is really important.  Maybe the other singers are not abusing their voices in the same way.  Rest, eat well and drink lots of clear fluids.

In summary, get enough rest, eat well.  Don't have milk before singing or speaking.  Check your voice placement and get help if needed.  Protect your voice and you can be like Tony Bennett at 85 or Tina Turner at 69 still doing concerts.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fun Friday - Iconic Melbourne Piano Street Performer

This lady plays no matter that her hands are very arthritic, that the wind is blowing, that the garbage is scudding by.  Wow!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Hamilton Children's Choir at the 12th International Youth Choir Festival...

We are so proud of our Hamilton Children's Choir.  Well done all.  Please note while you listen that they have costumes on.  We discussed this idea last year.
They also have some unique ideas about how to stand.   Enjoy at least one or two of their beautiful pieces send them a tweet.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fun Friday - If You Can Walk You Can Dance....

I couldn't agree more with these words.  The timing is really tricky in my mind.  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Oh Happy Day Or Not

Yes, indeed it has been a happy day.  It is our Canadian Thanksgiving Monday.  I spent the last few days at a large country fair meeting and greeting lots of people.  Happy days.  I talked to our daughter in England and she celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving making a typical feast and inviting friends to her new flat. Happy day.  It didn't rain on our day.  Even happier day.

It is every bit as possible that the same or opposite could have happened to some or all of your choir.  Then they come to practice.  They may start out the practice like this song starts out after the warm up. 

So how does Whoopi Goldberg get them on the same musical page?  Better yet, how will we do the same at one of those draggy, rainy day type rehearsals?
Why don't you try:
1.  Singing a fun song - Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Frères Jacques together.  a tongue twister like Betty Botter Bought Some Butter or Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.  Don't know the tune then make it up.

2.  Use a different voice - Sing as if you were a dog.  Ruff, ruff, ruff ruff ruff.  Woof, woof, woof, woof woof. Yip, yip, yip yip yip yip yip.  Bark bark bark bark bark is Row, Row, Row in "dog".  You get the idea.  Sing as if you are a small child, very cold, very tired.  

3. Sing a song replacing all consonants with "s" or "d" etc. - You will create some really fun words.  Remember that singing is REALLY serious stuff except when you are doing the above. 

You get the idea.  When the choir in the video loses their courage, Whoopi reverts to warm up sounds.  Will that work?  You won't know until you try.  The main thing is that you mix things up and don't get into ruts.  When you do things differently, you hear and understand differently.  Above all HAVE FUN!!!!!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Star Wars (John Williams Is The Man) a cappella tribute medley song - Co...

Thanks Elaine for finding this one.  Imagine how tricky it could be to record all 4 parts separately and make them work together.  Fun.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Happiness Is ---

Charlie Brown is an everyday hero who represents us all at one time or another.  When you listen to the words of the song you notice that Happiness Is all those things that are easily taken for granted.  

Happiness is all around us.  Here is my choir happiness list.
1. New Formation - We practised in a single line semi-circle last practice and the sound was wonderful.  A few of the choir mentioned that they enjoyed it as they could hear other parts better.  Yes!

2. New Song - We sang a Calypso Carol by Michael Perry new to most of the singers.  They really enjoyed it and sang oh so well.  We sang No Tears in Heaven as well which was a great contrast.  Then we ended practice with Peace, Peace a partner song with Silent Night.  Oh boy.  My heart was just so full.

3.  New Singer - We added a tenor & he fits right in.  He loves to sing & is lots of fun.  Our tenors are back up to strength.  The balance was oh so yummy. Hallelujah. 

4. Excitement, fun & singing - We were excited about using our songs from the past & adding the new ones.  Laughter reigned as we made our way through Baby It's Cold Outside ending.  When the bumps were ironed out (mostly), it was so good.  

Yes, happiness is choir & all its component parts.  Thanks ETS.  You are simply wonderful.  What is your happiness?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Then Why Are We Bothering?

Why are you or aren't you singing regularly?  Are you singing in choir or just the shower?  Have you ever wondered if you really should bother.  Check out this quotation.  

1.  Use it or lose it - If we don't join groups such as choirs they will disappear.  They won't be there to entertain, to raise money, to give a platform for others to share their music and arrangements.  If the choirs disappear from the communities then the example for others to follow also disappears.  The audiences for the professionals would greatly diminish because there would be less knowledge and understanding of music in general. 

2. Don't worry, Be happy - Being in a group with a common love such as music, gives us pleasure.  We can't fit the worry in because we are enjoying doing something for others.  In a choir, you must co-operate and work jointly.  It is no longer just about YOU or ME but US.  The joy of working on a common goal supercedes our singular needs.  

3. Hey Mikey, he likes it! - We like it.  We love it!  We enjoy it!  The "it" is the music we make, the people we meet and share time with, the effort to learn and grow creating our own personal growth.  I know I go to choir sometimes feeling less than enthusiastic but it changes with the first chords.  Somehow, I am transported from here to another plane.  I love it.  I go because I have committed to being there.  I stay because, gosh darn, it is all of the above and a whole lot more.  That feeling should be shared with as many people as we can.   If we are singing we aren't doing or thinking negative things.  

Yup.  That's it.  Let's get everybody everywhere, singing in choirs and we have the answer to world peace.  Really.  And that would put a stop to that particular statement at the Beauty Pageants.  Miss America would simply state that everyone needs to join the choir!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - To Talk or Not to Talk. Aye, There's the Rub.

Oh I know.  I am really stretching your patience mixing those lines in the title.  I just couldn't help it.  You see, I LOVE to talk.  I don't even need an audience.  I can talk until the wallpaper curls.

Smiling stick-person talking through a megaphoneI do remember many years ago as a student music teacher, after my first foray into the classroom, the music specialist asked the classroom teacher to give me some pointers.  She looked at me and said, "For Pete's sake, stop talking and get at it."  Apparently, she was onto me.  I spent WAY too much time explaining and not enough actually doing.  So how much talking should we be doing before we sing?

I love to learn information.  I am interested in people's jobs, ideas, history, geography, science - how the world works pretty much.  When I have that information, I really feel it is important, nay, my duty to share it.  So, I need some guidelines about how much is too much or too little.

1. Get at it - Whether it is with people at home or in choir, when you start a project, don't talk it to death.  If you start a warm-up, give them the chord, or a listen to the sound you expect and then direct them to sing.  When you have a new song, you can present it with a recording of another choir singing it (it could be a recording of a great or poor performance) and let them follow.  Sometimes, telling them too much about the music before you start can build a wall of resistance or an expectation of difficulty that doesn't actually exist.

2.  Share as you learn - For sure, you don't want them singing a piece and getting into bad habits.  No slurs in wrong places or extra long notes or indeed, wrong sounds.  But singing something through and allowing them to find the tricky bits will make them have a reason to listen.  For instance, if you are singing Rutter and they hit one of his famous time changes 4/4 to 3/8 to 2/4 to 4/4 all in 10 bars, they will notice something just didn't work out there.  Now, they are ready to hear what that is.  If you had spent time before they sang talking, talking, talking, it wouldn't have made as much sense and you would have ended up saying it again.  Yup, I have done it.  That's how I know.

3.  Praise, criticize, praise - Find something they did well, then point out the part to improve.  Then, tell them what was right about their effort.  Always, start with the positive.  Always!!

4. Ask them for input - Guess what?  You aren't the only one in your group who knows a thing or two.  I am amazed that once I stop talking and ASK, there are some amazingly astute ideas from our singers & of course Kristy who is just - well brilliant.  Sometimes, others come up with suggestions I hadn't thought of for tackling a tricky bit or an interval or harmony.  Use the experience of your choir.  Now, if you are wont to be positive, they will feel they can share.

5.  Sing - I reiterate.  Stop talking and get at it.  Way more fun and the learning curve is much faster.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fun Friday - Rockelbel's Canon (Pachelbel's Canon in D) - ThePianoGuys

Even with a well loved piece like Pachelbel's Canon an ill-chosen arrangement can make it less than pleasant listening.  The Piano Guys are totally amazing in their ability to "see" the chances to bring unique rhythms and sounds help us listen anew!  Rock on Piano Guys.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - What is Stopping YOU?


Isn't it the truth?  Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.  What is it that is holding you back?  Have you thought that maybe YOU should be the director of the choir.  You can see yourself there but --- .  Do you even know what that 'but' is?

1. Somebody once said you couldn't - Search your background.  Did it ever happen that you tried something new and someone made an off-hand remark about how it wasn't this or it wasn't that?  Usually those remarks come from that person's lack of self-confidence.  Most of the time they are talking about themselves and projecting it on you.  They mean to protect you but are actually chipping away at your confidence so it will be down at the same level as theirs.  It is really important to be able to recognize that kind of comment for what it is.  It is NOT about you and so you must not let it rule your choices. 

2. You don't feel prepared - Man there are people out there who need to read everything, take every course, and then practise for years before they peel a carrot.  I am not saying that you should walk off the street and be ready to conduct a symphony orchestra but you sure could start by singing in a community choir.  If the choir is like ours that doesn't require auditions, you just show up.  No one is going to judge you.  You just need to put together the courage to show up and then start learning.  At some point, you have to go from studying the driver's manual to getting in the car.  Well, get in the darn car - um - choir.

3.  What if I am no good at it - What if you are good at it?  You won't know until you try.  The big thing is you have to try it out.  You know that beautifully cut suit you have been eyeing the the window of your favourite shop.  I bet it will look great on you.  So get that handsome body into the shop and give it a try. 

4.  Give up on the what if's all ready - You know we could spend our whole life waiting until all the lights are green and the way is clear before starting out on any adventure.  We all know that just isn't going to happen.  There are no guarantees.  But, there may be some surprises out there when you you stop what-if-ing yourself out of every challenge.  

Be brave.  Trust yourself and try something new.  Even if it is a new hair colour, or different food.  Then, come on out to choir and see how much fun it is and how marvellous you truly are. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fun Friday - Tom Thum - Beat Boxer -Total Amazing Vocal Acrobatica

Thank you Elaine for finding this wonderful example of unique talent.  I had never seen or heard anything like it.  Amazing!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - How Do You Handle Mistakes

They sang the wrong notes and the chord is less than pleasing.
Do you have a break down?  I think not.
View detailsDo you make nasty faces & tell those around you what a bad job that was?  I hope not.
Do you smile & stop & say that it was a great effort but no cigar?  I hope so.

How you manage the mistakes, which by the way are absolutely necessary to learning, will set much of the tone of your choir.

If you have paid singers who are expected to learn their parts on their own time and come well rehearsed, well maybe you can be cross when something isn't perfect.  However. even then, you need to be thoughtful of others.  Just because you (and this could be the director, conductor, part leader, or fellow singer) know what it should be, don't be sharp or ruthless in your efforts toward perfection.  I always say you need to put yourself in the other person's place.  When you are perfect and NEVER make a mistake then you can get all bent out of shape.  Until the that second coming, here are some of my suggestions for handling the learning curves commonly called "mistakes".

1. Catch them doing something right.  - We are human and no matter what we will make mistakes.  Know that right from the start and keep in mind that humanity means mistakes.  You might want to review a piece and decide where they might have difficulty before the rehearsal.  When they do sing it AND avoid those pitfalls you get to praise them.  Even if they don't avoid the wrong notes altogether, find what they did that was really well done.

2.  Base criticism on what they did right - I know it sounds like repetition of #1 there is a bit of a twist here.  When something doesn't come out right, phrasing, harmony, timing, etc. make certain that you start the discussion with what they did right FIRST.  Then, point out the part that needs repair.  They certainly did a tricky rhythm well or attacked a consonant particularly sharply.  Find something right, then fix other bits.

3.  Maybe the cat threw up on her shoes - Please remember that everyone no matter how well trained or motivated or willing is human.  They may have had an argument with a spouse or spoiled dinner or just got bad news by phone. We all have less than stellar days.  If you add to that by being negative or having a "hissie" fit over badly done triplets you are not going to have happy people.  Sometimes people aren't paying attention because their life outside choir is taking their thoughts elsewhere.  Be mindful always that there is more to life than that particular choir practice or performance. It does not mean you accept those wrong bits.  It does mean that you don't let them be more important than those marvellous souls around you.

4. Have fun - We had a spectacular practice last Sunday.  The choir worked really well and the blend, harmony and phrasing were superb.  Well except when it wasn't.  We got to the cadence of one piece and although it wasn't horrible, it slid into some discordant sounds.  As I do my face scrunched up.  I told them that that cadence sounded like an unexpected dill pickle tastes.  It really did.  I had trouble getting my right eye to open all the way.  Now, I played it up for fun but when we went back, oh they nailed it.
So what did that do for us.  Firstly, they now know how a dill pickle sounds.  They know that I love them even when they are sour.  They know that sour can turn sweet with a pretty quick review.  Nobody's feelings were hurt and we fixed it.

Mistakes are inevitable and most often out of your control.  Your reaction to them is totally controllable.  My final word to our choir is that no matter what, all mistakes are mine.  If I lead them astray with an entry, rhythm, words - anything it is on me.  They are always great!!

Whether someone is sitting beside you or in front of you, encourage first and fix secondly.  NO do not accept inferior work but work to get it to better then to best without harming relationships and while building self-worth always!!  Keep your priorities in order.  People are precious.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fun Friday - Cups and Rite of Spring - Mixing the Metaphors

Now this is way too fun.  Remember back in 2013 when I first posted the Cup Song?  We did get lots of positive feedback from that including wanted to do this ourselves.  We even found a tap dance  that used those rhythms very effectively.

Well, here is another treat.  Mixing Stravinsky & the Cup Rhythms with 3 guys who keep amazingly straight faces.  Just enjoy the giggle and the ability to stay on task!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - How Do Know a Song Will "Work" for your Choir

Music conductor avatarWe have talked about choosing arrangements and choosing pieces that suit the choir you have.  Of course, you have to know your venue and audience but really how do you choose a piece that works for YOUR particular group of singers.

1. How OLD are they? - Now, you know that I am not talking about their chronological ages.  I am talking about where their thinking ages are.  Our choir is very eclectic.  They are happy to sing something very current as well as very classic pieces.  Of course, individuals enjoy some songs more than others but they all give their very best effort no matter what.  If your choir is reticent to sing one genre or another, you will have to work up to it.  Stick with pieces that light up their faces and that they do well.  Then, you can add a piece or two that challenge them differently.  You won't really know all of this until you get singing.  Some pieces may have to go on the back burner.  Nothing wrong with that.

2. What skills do they bring? - If you have sight reading capable singers and people who have had lots of choir singing then you can choose songs that have tricky harmonies and take more learning.  If however, like many choirs, you have a mixture of skills then please don't lean on your skilled people all the time.  Choose something that is fun to learn and that has repetitive phrases so that your less trained people can learn without having to hammer it home constantly.  A mixture of challenging & simpler songs will help bring everyone a feeling of satisfaction.

3. Have they got choir experience? - If you have soloists in your group then you will have to work on homogenizing the sound and lots of listening techniques.  Try choosing pieces they may know or learn easily.  That way you can work on creating that lovely blended sound without strong voices standing out.  Don't be afraid to keep it simple especially until the stronger voices get a better idea of how to blend.  If they are focusing on difficult passages then blending will be the last thing they focus on.

Above all, respect your singers.  When a song fits you will know by the smiles and the sound that they create.  I know sometimes I get so stuck on a song I just want it to work.  I have learned over the years to recognize after giving it a fair try and even a performance that it doesn't work and put it away.  We sang Mama Mia at the Embro Fair last year and although they did a good job, it just didn't suit us as well as other pieces.  It is gone from our repertoire.

The bottom line is that you don't always know that a song will work right away.  Be brave, try lots and then be wise and keep or let go according to your singers and your own brilliant assessment.  Life is too short to keep at something that isn't giving your choir a pleasant experience.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fun Friday - When Johnny Come Marching Home.- Movement and Then Some!!

Remember back when we had the post of whether or not to move when we sing?  Well that elicited some interesting ideas.  Now in the post from August 19 we had the Vocal Majority singing You Raise Me Up with some amazing phrases.

One of our sopranos, Elaine, mentioned that she had checked out other Vocal Majority videos and wondered if maybe some of our members could work on those cartwheels for our presentations.  Indeed, they do marching, cartwheels and full lifts while singing beautifully.  I thought you needed to see what Elaine was talking about.  What do you think?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Let a Smile Be Your --- FACE

Have you ever walked through a mall or downtown and "people watched"?  Oh my.  There are people walking around who, in my mother's words, would be horrified if their faces froze in that expression.  I have a friend who always says, "If you are happy, notify your face!"  But I say, even if you aren't particularly happy or better yet, having a BAD day, smile anyway.  When someone asks you how you are, always, but always reply with, "Great!"  You'll be surprised with how much better you do feel after 3 "greats".

Are you going to smile whenever you sing?  Yes!  But what if you are singing a Requiem?  Smile.  The most important part of your singing is your engagement with your audience.  Yes, it is.  If you don't have an audience, then why would you sing?  It is very much like the discussion of if a tree falls in the forest can anybody hear?  So if there is no one to hear then, philosophically, there is no sound.

Does that mean we always have to sing happy songs.  No way.  We can sing Palestrina, with a smile as much as we can singing Grandma's Feather Bed.  Well maybe a little differently.  Let me explain.

1. Smile before you sing. - As the leader, you must - LEAD!  So whether you are a section leader, conductor or president of the board, smile when speaking to your singers before you start.  Sing through a song you do really well as a warm up.  Make your singers feel warm all over.  No matter how scary the concert seems, lead with a warm smile and set the pace.

2. Smile while you sing - Smile at each other.  Whether you are a leader or a singer, smile at each other.  Even with great discipline in your choir, if you make a mistake, remember it is now done and SMILE.  It will relax everyone and they will feel better about their performance.  If someone beside you blows a note or phrase or something, suck it in and do not send frowns or negative vibes.  Smiling there could be construed as making fun but afterwards, you can laugh at the "oops" moments together.  Respect among you is so very important.  It is a culture you will always work hard to maintain.  Smiling helps.

3.  Smile with your eyes - No matter what the emotion of the music you are presenting, enjoying the process of singing and performing is paramount.  Although you must not smile while singing "oo". "ah" or "ee" sounds, you have eyes that need to smile.  If you knit your brow, you are definitely NOT smiling with your eyes.  Do some homework in front of the bathroom mirror and see if I am right.  If you don't want your face to freeze that way, change the eyes.

If you are the kind of leader who rants and raves to get the sound YOU think is correct, stop and re-evaluate.  Music is a treasure that must be honoured.  Our choir is working constantly at understanding and being respectful of each other.  I don't rant, although in my early teaching days I did.  I learned quite quickly than neither the singers nor I gained anything from sending out those negative feelings.

A true from your toes smile, is a must as an accessory.  if you must, practise with a mirror.  Make sure it isn't a smirk.  Laugh much.  If you have to, watch funny sketches or movies.  YouTube is full.  If you ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  Spread the cheer.  If someone near you doesn't have a smile, give them one of yours.  Like measles, smiles are catching.

1,2,3 --- SMILE!!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Another Beginning - Pot Luck and Then Some

Thank you wonderful choir members and your "groupies".  That is the preferred term isn't it Sharon?  We had amazing salads of all sorts with Paul's tuna creation (not to mention his Black Forest layered dessert), Kay's amazing Caesar salad, Marcie's quinoa, Bob's zucchini and cucumber dishes, John & Ann's cupcakes with the music motif and Sharon's apple crisp with ice cream.  Of course, we can't forget Elaine's bean salad and corn chips.  Oh my!!

We had a great privilege tonight in getting to sing through Karen Boyce's arrangement of Sting's "Fields of Gold".
Remember when I wrote the blog about Social Media and Promoting Your Choir?  Well here is something that you can't put a price on.  Karen and I have been chatting on Twitter & Facebook as she and I both write a blog.  She is an accompanist for the Hutt Valley Singers and the Major Minors  in New Zealand and now has written this wonderful arrangement which she has graciously shared with the Embro Thistle Singers.  My choir was opining that perhaps we should be thinking about doing an exchange trip.  From small ideas come some really rather grand plans.  Who knows?

Thank you Karen for your trust in us.  We loved singing the new piece and hope to add it to our repertoire.

Good food, good exchange and great music.  It just doesn't get better.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fun Friday - Celine Dion & The Canadian Tenors - Hallelujah

This is one of our favourite songs.  Talk about an all Canadian moment.  Written by Canadian Leonard Cohen, sung by the Canadian Tenors (they have since removed Canadian from their name - too bad) and harmonized with a surprise visit by Celine Dion.  Yummy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - It's All About the Phrase?

men,metaphors,mountain climbers,persons,uphill,uphill climbsThe phrase is that curved line in a piece of music that is like climbing a mountain.  You start out with lots of excitement.  It is hard work to go up that slanted side and you watch every step.  You reach the top and there you are and boy don't you wish you could stay but -- you have to come down again.  Sometimes in our excitement we come down too fast and we have a very bumpy landing.  Ouch.  Let's explore the science and art of singing in phrases.

Okay then is it the words that dictate the phrase or the notes?  If you are talking about orchestra this question is mute.   What is a phrase?  Now here we can get really particular or go with common knowledge.  I have studied "phraseology" (apologies to the mayor in the Music Man) and it can be very complicated.  There are antecedent and consequent phrases, one which sets the sounds and the second follows and finishes the musical thought.  Simply put, the phrase is leading to an ending (antecedent) or creating an ending (consequent).  If you treat every musical phrase as consequent, it would be like those people who make declarative sentences all the time.  You start to tune them out because you can't differentiate between the ordinary and important.  Nevertheless, a phrase happens when and idea needs to be made clear.  The sound starts off with less power, builds to an apex and then goes back gently to a cadence or a finish.

Now, we're cooking.  The phasing of the music helps us to hear what is important.  Phrasing is the words and music broken up by breaths to enhance the meaning and sound.
Listen to this choir who has some really lovely phrasing.  I do like this better no watching but just listening.  What do you think?

Their phrasing certainly adds to the meaning.  And that is what phrasing is all about. Period. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fun Friday Queen - Elton John & Axl Rose - Bohemian Rhapsody - (Freddie Mercury Tri...

This is so much fun to listen to if you haven't done so in a while.  Some really great guitar in here.  The audience is SO into this one.  Are you?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - To Microphone or Not?

microphones,montages,sheet music,songs,leisure,artsIn this day of electronic everything, it is assumed that microphones will be used for most musical presentations.  I find that sometimes the microphones seems excessive and create a sound that is hard on the ears.  I have had to leave some venues because the music seems assaultive rather than pleasant.

So when are microphones appropriate?  Let's see.

1.  Outdoors -  When we sang at the recent Relay for Life, the sound technicians did use 3 microphones for our performance.  They used omni-directional microphones so they picked up a range of sound.  Because we were outdoors and the sound would just disappear into the air, the microphones helped a lot.  We also got to hear ourselves with the speakers they reflected the sound.  Often, when you sing outdoors, the sound disappears and it is very hard to tell whether you are in tune or not.  Blending is almost impossible.  With the help of the microphones, we made some of the best outdoor sound yet.
It does take good equipment and techs. who know their stuff.

2.  Large Venue - Sometimes, you can perform in a huge space that has wonderful acoustics.  The sound hits the walls and comes back blended and beautiful.  Other times, not so much.

There is a large hall built in London, Ontario in honour of our Canadian Centennial in 1967.  It has some of the most difficult acoustics anywhere.  They have made changes over the years but it is really not great.  Here, microphones are necessary.  Again, correct placement and VOLUME are really important.

 I once left a Sylvia Tyson concert because the sound was so loud it hurt my head.  The theatre had great acoustics and the sound became augmented by the electronics.  That loudness drowned out the music.  What a disappointment. This is not a good example of helpful technology.  Loud is not always good.

I did attend a Jon Bon Jovi concert at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and it was spectacular.  It was loud but correctly so.  You could h ear the music during the ballads and the faster music.  i enjoyed it tremendously.  Good technicians!!

3. Saving Voices - A number of years ago, I took our daughter to see Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat with Donny Osmond at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto.  This is a beautifully refurbished theatre complex with terrific seating & acoustics.  However, they had everyone miked.  I really found it hard to get my ears around.  It seemed too loud.  After the first couple of numbers, I became acclimated and the performance went on beautifully.  So why in this amazing venue would they use microphones.  It is to save the voices of the singers apparently. These professionals sing so much they need the support to keep from straining the voice.  In that case, they need to make certain the sound is more realistic, in my view.

Yes, microphones for performances can be great.  If you don't have the correct mike for the situation then it can be a negative.  There are great products out there.  Find out what is best for your group and rent it if necessary rather than buying if you feel you need it.  Maybe, like us you sing in venues where microphones are seldom needed.  Whew!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fun Friday - Jimmy Fallon & Brad Paisley - Balls in your Mouth

Talk about outside the box.  These two are fun.  The intention is serious and the laughter and interaction with the audience certainly get attention.
If you don't care about the protest part, just enjoy the FUN!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Always a Bit Outside the Box - The Piano Guys Too

Talk about Variation on a Theme.  This is an older Piano Guys video.  Can you list all the ways that they do something new or unexpected with the instruments and/or music.

Arrangements do make a huge difference to the way the music is understood.  Kudos to those of you who rearrange music to suit your groups and even more so those who write original harmonies and accompaniments for your groups (Hats off Karen!!)

Keep the juices flowing and the ideas coming.  It doesn't mean that the old formats aren't great.  It is just that new ways to interpret music makes it exciting and refreshing often.

Although this is a longer video, listen until the end to the explanation and understand how it came to be.  Keep it fresh but with meaningful purpose.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - How Music is Important

I just attended an amazing event that recognized the achievements of the sales force during the past year, shared product knowledge & presented training in all areas & levels of the business.  It was a four day event in a large convention centre.  With static displays, interactive booths, & presentations going on before and after the main presentations, it was a busy & amazingly full time.
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What was common throughout the conference was that music was ever present.  I don't mean the "elevator" type of thing but meaningful, on purpose addition of great music.  There was live music with band & singers, recorded music and a soloist who sang about 5 numbers throughout.  Oh yummy!!

So why music?  Well, here are my ideas as to just HOW music is important.  Those of us trying to justify music education to a less than enthusiastic bunch of bureaucrats, maybe you can use some of these.

1. Music stimulates - while people are gathering upbeat and often popular music is played or performed.  The people are energized and ready to sit and learn.  What better way to get students ready for learning than to energize.  There is actually current research that says just this.  

2. Celebrations enhanced by music - Nothing makes you feel more excited than a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday".  Most weddings include songs that say just what the bride and groom mean to each other.  Funerals almost always include poignant musical selections sung and/or played to help the living grieve & remember the loved one in a special way.  At a recent retirement celebration, a marvellous soloist sang "You Raise Me Up" to the retiring executive who had spent his career supporting and building people to be the best they could be.  It was so fitting and nothing else could have said it better.   We have a wonderful outlet for emotions that is healthy and helpful.  

3. Music make us feel GOOD! - Don't tell me you haven't sung at the top of your lungs in the car, the shower or some secret place.  Of course you have.  We all do.  There are times when I have a solved a particularly tough problem and swing into "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" just because.  Hearing some songs just get our "mojo" going.  I can clean and organize up a storm with upbeat music.  It seems if I sing, I don't notice the time or the work.  So I miss a few dust particles.  Mama Mia was meant to be sung flipping the duster.  Music has the power to change us in ways we don't always understand.  It just does.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fun Friday - The Swingles - Couldn't Love You More (John Martyn cover)

Amazing sounds and close harmonies.  This takes listening and a close relationship among the singers.  Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Lazy Choirs, Lazy Singers, Lazy Sound

bicycles,bikes,tandem bicycles,tandems,transportation

Have you ever ridden on a tandem bicycle before?  Have you ever peddled in a peddle boat?  Both of these have two sets of peddles but work just fine with only one set being pushed.  Both the bicycle and the boat go faster and more efficiently if both people work together more or less equally.  A choir could be seen in much the same light.  All of us are riding the same vehicle and are supposed to be helping it get to the destination.

Choir are like any team.  We have our positions to play and we let the rest of the team down when we play with less than our best effort.  Now, I know we are all aware of that theory but how does it happen that sometimes, we lose our team focus and become lazy and how does that get back on track?

1. Size - Have you ever seen a team with hundreds of players on the field at a time?  Can't say as I have either.  However, there are HUGE choirs out there.  I remember saying in a conducting class once that a huge choir would be hard to work with.  My professor said that in fact the opposite was true.  Because there are so many voices, mistakes were less noticeable.  Each person's contribution was less noticeable too.
With a smaller choir, each person's voice is more important.  If you only have a few people in each part then the presence of each is paramount.
If you have a large choir then you really have to work at making certain the members all feel that their contribution is important.

2. Music - The choice of music really makes a huge difference here.  The music needs to challenge without being so difficult that the singers are overwhelmed.  When each singers feels a sense of accomplishment from learning a part that contributes to an overall exciting sound, then they stay sharp and alert and the sound and attitude remains positive.

3.  Contributions - I thrive in a co-operative atmosphere.  Oh yes I do have to be in charge but I love that our choir members contribute ideas for music and feel they can tell me when they are not happy with the sound or need more direction.  They all know this is quite acceptable.  Each person knows that his or her opinion and talent makes a difference.

4.  Good Coaching - As directors, we have to keep our team enthusiastic and keep all players working to the best of their abilities.  It is really important that our warm ups and training keep focused on making sounds correctly and always finding new ways to teach the physicality of making great sound.

5.  Humour - You must have a sense of humour.  When you make a mistake, be honest and say so.  Instead of getting bent out of shape at a less than perfect sound, make a funny face or just stop and go back.  Humour keeps things alive.  Yes, you can be serious but enjoy the process.  Just as you can joke while peddling like crazy, you can enjoy the work of teaching and learning great music and the process of making it as a unified team.

Keep having a great time making wonderful music.  Mix it up and keep the interest high.  If you choir doesn't get lazy then your sound stays bright and well tuned.  No same old, same old for you and your singers.