Friday, May 30, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - 5 Easy Ways to Check Your Singing Voice

When I was 15, I took singing from the nuns at "The Pines".  These ladies were well respected for the results they achieved in musical training.  Our performance group of 8, all dressed in blue taffeta gowns were in the small room once a nun's cell now a teaching room with a piano, we 8 teenage girls and 2 nuns.  Keep that picture firmly in your mind.

Mother Gabriel was the senior person for singing and she most unfortunately had a large proboscis.  With nothing but her face showing in her habit, that generous facial feature became very prominent especially to 8 young ladies crammed into a small space.  But when Mother Gabriel told us to hold our noses and sing the sound "ow" down the scale well, we absolutely couldn't look at each other.  We sang like howling dogs down the scale with Mother Gabriel leading the way.  That picture brings a broad grin every time I remember it.  Actually, I remember it often because as it turns out, Mother Gabriel was onto something - who knew.  That is a marvellous exercise to relax the voice as well as warm up before singing.

1. Do the "Mother Gabriel" - Now you really want to sound clear and not nasal.  If you get that nasal sound, your voice placement needs work.  Not such a great sound when it comes through the nose.

2. Drop the Jaw - Open your mouth and sing "ah" or "oo".  Now, stand feet apart slightly, shoulders relaxed, drop your chin slightly and sing again.  Your sound should be much freer.  If not, place your hands on each cheek (the face ones) and pull down slightly while singing.  See, doesn't that feel better?

3.  Brrrr - Like it's cold -  Yes I know we just started getting warmer weather here so talking about the cold is not happy making.  However,  again sing "oo" or "ah".  Now, sing the same notes with the lip trill (brrr) and then sing again.  This brings your sound forward and takes it out of the back of your throat.

4. Thumb Under Chin Trick - Singing as before place your thumb on the softer, fleshy part just past the bone under the chin.  If it feels hard when you sing, you are tensing your tongue and making your voice work much harder than it should.  Keep singing dropping your chin and checking that the space under your chin remains soft and supple.  Much better.

5. Straw Singing - Get some straws next time you go to the fast food outlet.  Put a straw in your mouth and sing into it.  No air should be coming through your nose.  This helps you to focus your sound and control your breath.  Recording this would be of great help.

In 5 easy steps you can move your tone forward, keep the tongue relaxed and focus the air flow to control your sounds.  Ready, Set, SING!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fun Friday - Henri's Boogie at the Train Station

I love the pianos left in public places for people to play.  Henri is amazing.  I can hardly stay still watching this one.  Maybe we need more spots with pianos.  We could gather around and sing.  Hmm.  Yet another concert venue discovered.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - What Baggage is Your Choir Carrying?

I think sometimes we get so focused on making the music as directors and singers, we forget that the people around us have "baggage" good and bad that we need to unpack before we can be a cohesive unit.

Emoticon with globe and heartsNow, please don't get me wrong.  I don't mean that we need to have kumbaya moments and open up our innermost secrets.  What is absolutely needed is an understanding that we all have had experiences, encounters and insights even training that give us our individuality & abilities.  That is the richness we bring to any activity and very definitely to artistic expression.

The GOOD - a) great previous experiences - Those of us who had great teachers who encouraged our endevours and accepted our mistakes as part of the learning, are confident and ready to take on new challenges.

b) diverse training & background - One of our members has sung at Royal Albert Hall in London, U.K.  Now that is a marvellous background that she brings to our group.  After that experience, nothing is intimidating.  Her sense of security certainly helps those around her feel similarly.  Some members have sung in many groups, as soloists or have great training.  That gives us a huge range of musical knowledge to build on.

c) innate talent - That ability shared with others, helps everyone be their best.

The BAD -a) not so great experiences - That lack of security that is created by constant negative comments or feelings is hard to overcome.  I believe that it stops many people from even trying something new.

b) diverse training & background - As great as the diversity can be, it can cause rifts in a group.  If someone reads music well, it may cause impatience when another needs more review.  If someone has tons of training, they may think they know it all and it may be difficult to get them to follow what this choir wants.

c) innate talent - Again, very talented people can be great contributors or be very set in their ways and be very reticent to go along.

The UGLY - I believe the ugly happens when we fail to see and treat each other as individuals.  We really need to work at understanding as much as possible.   Our words and our actions have consequences.  Respect is something you must first give to get.  When we respect each other for the abilities and talents we have, the UGLY is kept at bay.
Aretha Franklin said it best.  RESPECT - Find out what it means to me!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fun Friday - Another Jimmy Fallon Master Piece - Lip Sync with Paul Rudd

As I watched this video a couple of times I thought, "Hmm.  Maybe we should lip sync the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!  I mean who would notice that our 20 voices are not hundreds? "

Not a bad idea!  Stay tuned for more great concert ideas.  Meanwhile, watch this fun lip sync "contest" and Jimmy Fallon's gracious ending.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - What We Did with a Small Turnout at Practice

Sunday was Mothers' Day in Canada.  The Embro Thistle Singers practice every other week.  In order to miss a holiday weekend, we will sometimes practice two weeks in a row and then take off the next two.  However,  We had a late Easter so trying to get around Mothers' Day was tricky so we kept to our scheduled practice.   All of our basses and 1 tenor and 1 alto came to practice.  Hmm.

Kay, our alto, volunteered to sing tenor.  Now we have 2 tenors.  Hmm.

We had started two new pieces the previous practice and a couple of newer pieces earlier.

Perfect.  We took the time to go over the men's parts exclusively.  Although we do separate parts' practices, this was a perfect opportunity to spend time really honing rhythms and notes.  One that we worked on was The Lion Sleeps Tonight and the guys were really doing a great job.  The verse in our arrangement changes from women to men so they worked hard at getting the transitions to be very smooth.

We knew that we had nailed those parts when Kristy played the accompaniment, I sang the soprano and the guys rolled on through the entire piece without a hitch.  The confirmation class had been working away quietly on finding various symbols in the church while we were singing.  When we finished the song, they were all standing at the back of the church clapping.  Now, how cool was that?

What could have been a negative, become a great positive experience.  We can hardly wait for the next practice to let the guys show off just how much they learned.

Fathers' Day is June 15th.  We don't practise that Sunday.  Oh well.  We won't be able to duplicate our experience with the ladies I guess.

Thanks to our wonderful guys and Kay.  You made it great fun and created some wonderful sounds.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fun Friday - Another Concert Venue - Flash Mob

On Tuesday we talked about having different ways to look at concert venues, times and methods.
A flash mob is another idea.  It would take a lot of planning and hard work to get this kind of harmony and co-ordination but what a great result.  Don't you agree?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - How To Schedule Your Concerts

It was a very interesting discussion on ChoralNet.  There was a choir concerned that they had a concert and only 17 people turned up.  They asked for some input on how to do things differently so that they didn't have that happen again.

There were some very great ideas and it really made me think about how and why people schedule their performance times.  See what you think.

1. Regularly Scheduled Times - There are many choirs that choose to have specific times for their concerts.  For regular attendees that is fine.  They always know that your "spring" concert is coming and you will be selling them tickets.  the drawbacks to that is that you may get complacent and expect your audience to be there.  I think you have to pay very close attention to your ticket sales (if you do that).  Your choir members are a good barometer of whether it is getting harder to sell at specific times.

2. As Needed - As our regular readers know, our Embro Thistle Singers sing by invitation.  We have sung for special church services, and for fund raisers such as the Relay for Life and the Tsunami Relief.  We have sung at seniors' residences and at the Embro Fair and Highland Games.  Some we have repeated but none is a "have to".  This really works for us.  We don't sell tickets but we get donations sometimes.  This could work for you if you are willing to borrow music to start and no one is paid.  We are able to run on little funding.

3.  Time of Day - One of the suggestions that were made to help increase audiences was not to have every concert in the evening.  Most community theatres have gone to having matinees on the weekends to accommodate those who don't want to drive in the dark or find getting out in the evenings difficult.  This should be considered when planning your choir events as well.

4.  Feed Them and They Will Come - Another great way to have a fun concert is to include food.  The church choir I belonged to had some wonderful concerts with food.  We did a spaghetti supper and sang Fiddler on the Roof songs.  We did a chili lunch and sang many songs from popular musicals.  The spouses and family of the choir all helped.  We raised lots of money for choir robes and music.  It was a lot of work but really fun.  

I truly believe that it is absolutely essential that you and your choir be in total agreement on the whole idea of concerts.  You must also remain flexible because if one way stops working you need to find another or even just change it up.  We are all about sharing our music with others.  What is the way that works best for you?