Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"We Remember" on Wednesday - The Troggs - Wild Thing

Well ladies and gents apparently this song best describes ME.  i did one of those fun surveys on Facebook and this is me.  So those who know me, and our choir members, what do you think?  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Musical Monday - Changing the Way We Practise - Sometimes

We had practice tonight and welcomed back our awesome accompanist, Kristy, after her surgery. Yippee.
We also had some of our amazingly talented singers who wanted to audition for the musical, My Fair Lady.  I knew we would have them for only half an hour or so.  So I decided we would sing the 8 songs we had lined up for our next concert during that half hour.  Well, guess what?  I learned something really important.

1. It worked - We had not sung together for a month and yet they sang even our newer pieces really well.  We were all surprised at how well each song sounded.  We knew more than we realized.

2. Surprise - The mere fact that we sang through each song and didn't stop to take it apart was a different way of practising for us.  It really made the singers sharper and more aware.  It was a surprise format and to most a surprise result.  A couple of the pieces were actually done better than ever before.  I don't know what the science behind that is, but it worked and doing that occasionally is a good idea apparently.

3.  Accomplishment - When our auditioning members left, we went back and looked at the few spots that needed repair.  There were a couple of timing areas, a few harmonic difficulties, and some entrance and cadence repairs we worked on.  We finished with a great sense of accomplishment.  There wasn't one of the songs we couldn't have presented then and there.

That sense of "well done" was pervasive.  What started as a necessary way to use the time we would  have with all singers present, ended up being a really great way to start after a long lay-off.  What a super evening!  Great singers, great effort, and the awesome Kristy.  It just doesn't get better.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fun Friday - One Voice - Only Men Aloud

We are working on this great song.  I love how this choir really builds the sound to the climax.  Don't you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Oh my how quickly we forget about those clothes.  Yikes.  I think the most off-putting thing about these older clips is the fact that the singers are lip syncing and not actually singing.  Enjoy the sounds and sights of what seems like yesterday.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Musical Monday - Why Do We Keep Singing?

Image result for choir clip artIt has been "one of those days".  You feel like a 1000 pound brick and going to choir practice is the last thing you want to do.  I am really, getting up and having to drive and then stand around with all those other people and sing? But you do.  
I know no matter how yucky I feel, I go to practice and my mood is lifted and I really enjoy myself.  
1. It feels good – When you enjoy what you do, it feels good.  Now, you may not start out feeling good about singing but sure as anything, you will singing a song that hits that pleasure button or someone says something nice about you and/or your sound and those endorphins and other good feeling chemicals go coursing through you.

2. You hang out with others – You belong.  You belong to the choir.  You belong to the section or part.  You belong to the team.  Singing in a choir is a unique activity in that you must work together to create the right sounds but your individual contribution is very important.  The choir members have a similar reason for being there and you feel good just being with them.

3. Great exercise – Singing is an aerobic activity.  The breathing works your core.  The posture needed works your muscles.  You build your endurance.  All in all, you exercise the brain as well as your body.  When you finish you feel a great sense of accomplishment and a "good" tired.

4. You learn to listen - One of your first jobs as a singer is to learn to hear the sounds you need to replicate.  Once you hear them and process them, you are actually listening.  Truly knowing how to listen is a skill that takes energy.  That brain training is free and a part of the process.

5. Let it all hang out – Being able to sing lets us have a really healthy stress release.  Sometimes, it is actually the fact that we have to think about listening, making the right sounds, reading the music and interpretting the words that makes us move away from whatever is making us feel less than great.  We get to let out our feelings through the music.
Often times, you can really let loose in your singing as you have little chance to do in other venues.

At the bottom of it all is the music we get to produce.  Without the other singers, it just wouldn't be the same.  As a part of the group, we can produce something almost magical.  In the process we feel good and have a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment that can't be matched in any other way, in my view.  But of course, you won't know that for sure unless you have sung in a choir. Come on out to your favourite choir and see for yourself. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fun Friday - Lawrence Welk: Summer - Saturday Night Live

On "We Remember" on Wednesday we heard the "lovely Lennon Sisters" on the Lawrence Welk show.  Well here is SNL's version still using music to help us to have fun.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"We Remember" on Wednesday - The Lennon Sisters - More

There is so much out there in the digital universe these days to remind us of the fabulous music of yesterday.  Whether yesterday is literally the day before this or many years back, we will be sharing music from the past because we can.  I hope many bring back fond memories or take you on a trip to find out more.  Sit back and enjoy the Lennon Sisters from the 1960's.  This is still one of my favourite songs. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Musical Monday - How Do We Help People Sing More Comfortably?

Image result for clip art children's choirOne of the things that bothers me hugely is listening to a children's "choir" shouting out a song.  Children have lovely natural voices and when encouraged to breathe and sing easily, the sound is delightful.  I don't know who thought that that shout-y sound was a good one, but they need to stop.

Adults think sometimes that in order to sing effectively they have to be loud and to be loud they have to go to that place where they too are shouting.  So how do we help people to find that safe but strong voice they need to sing successfully?  How do we get people to sing as easily as they talk?

1. So talk all ready - One of the best ways to get people to understand what kind of sound you are looking for is to get them to speak a sentence.  e.g. This is just a lovely day.  Now, get them to chant that same sentence on a single note.  Once they get past the seeming silliness of this, get them to feel the support of breath on the sound.  As they gain confidence, then start to add expression.  You may want to move onto making this exercise more like recitative singing on a few notes.  Once that feeling of ease is firmly entrenched, take the first line of a song and see if you can bring that same ease of singing to the song.
This may take a bit of time but keep it fun.  Keep the focus on the placement of the voice.

2. Breathe, just breathe - My first voice teacher asked me to sing at my first lesson and announced that I didn't know how to breathe.  My young brain thought she was losing it because there I was breathing.  What was the matter with her?
She placed tissue on the floor to protect me apparently and put an encyclopedia on my abdomen and had me breathe while pushing the book up.  That was the greatest way to understand the diaphragm.  I loved the feeling of filling the lungs from the base.
At choir practice having everyone lie on the floor with books is probably not possible.  I have them use the fingers of one hand and find the diaphragm under the ribs.  Then, breathe while pushing out the fingers and letting out the breath in a controlled manner.  My teacher suggested that I breathe at the first hydro pole and hiss it out until I reached the next.  I am sure people thought I was crazy but it worked.

3. Remind them, then remind them again and again and again and again--- Nuff said.  We must be continually reminded of correct posture, breathing and sound placement.  Go back and speak, chant and breathe to remind us of the ease of singing well.  It is simple but needs repetition and it certainly should be fun.

If you make certain to keep these simple steps in mind and go back to them often, the sounds created will not only be more enjoyable to listen to but more comfortable for the singers to produce.  Do you have other suggestions that might help?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fun Friday - Holiday Inn - Easter Parade Bing Crosby

As Easter Week comes to a close, here is one of my favourite renditions of Easter Parade.  Surprisingly, it comes from the Christmas themed movie, Holiday Inn.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday - Only Boys Aloud - They Started Somewhere and This Resulted - Don't Stop Believing

This choir didn't start out being this great.  Check back at Musical Monday and see what they have probably done to take these young men from regular to outstanding.  One way to use great talent is to give them solos.  Don't Stop Believing starts at 4:30.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Musical Monday - How Do YOU Work with Varying Levels of Vocal Ability?

Image result for choir clipartOne thing I know for sure is that we are all SO different in our approaches to learning & teaching music.  There are many "schools" of music that espouse a particular training method and for many of their students it is probably great.  I would imagine that most would accept only those whose personalities or learning styles worked with the method chosen.  However, most of us have choir members from all backgrounds and so ONE method is not usually going to work.  Whether you are an auditioned choir or a volunteer choir such as ours, you will have variations in abilities represented.  The more experience I gain (yup, short for getting older), the more I embrace differences and welcome the challenges they present.

1. Love them ALL - As a young teacher, I know I had a mind set of what was and wasn't acceptable and expected everyone to come up to MY expectations.  I got over that quite quickly, thankfully because I realized neither the singers nor I was having much fun.  I learned really fast that I needed to work with people where they were to take them where we needed to be and not to be cross because they weren't there when we started.  DO READ THAT AGAIN!!!  You have to love your singers where they are enough to want to guide them to the next level.  When they all start out at varying levels now that is the challenge.  And guess what?  They will never ALL be on the same level and ain't that grand?

2. Choose the right songs - Choose music they will enjoy singing & you have won half the battle.  If you choose music you love and they start to sing it and you find yourself slogging through, it is probably wise to put that one aside for a while.  Oh yes, I remember the Music Festival days when you had to sing "Hast Thou Seen But a Bright Lily Grow" whether you wanted to or not.  My answer to that was to get myself on the music committee and help choose the music.  Oh yeah.
When they have some say in what is chosen whether it be a committee or just being able to put forth suggestions, they will embrace the music much more willingness to work at the tough stuff. Then you can throw in a tough one and they will work hard to make it happen.
Choosing arrangements that work is important too.  Check out what I said in How Do You Choose An Arrangement that Suits Your Choir.

3. Hearing the parts - NEVER tell someone to sing softly.  If they aren't getting the right sound, they know it only too well.  Help them learn to listen and be more adept at tone matching.  Give them lots of opportunity to do so. I was talking to a lady one day and she mentioned our Embro Thistle Singers looked like fun but she couldn't sing.  I asked her if she sang to the radio or CD's.  She looked surprised.  I told her she was probably a great singer but she just hadn't learned to tone match.  I challenged her to put on a song she loved and listen to it a number of times.  Then, to sing along with the song until she was getting more than half the sound right and to keep doing that until she was actually singing along.  Once she got good at that, start out with the music on then turn down the volume and try a part of it alone - usually the chorus.  She was thrilled and said that was just what she was going to do.  Imagine, she had never been taught.  So implement, in choir and for homework, similar exercises and see what happens.  It is the confidence that is built that allows the singer to sing well.

4. Singing the right notes - Every song and/or arrangement has tricky bits for one part or another.  Again, it is really important that you choose those arrangements for success.  So how do you help the less capable singers learn a part without losing your quicker learners?

  • go over the parts separately only after a general sing through.  I have often told you that we listen to the same arrangement by various choirs to give them the gestalt or whole idea first.
  • I often ask all parts to sing the part we are working on.  Here is a fun way to teach falsetto or octave singing.  That way no one is sitting with nothing to do and it is a sneaky way to do more sight reading.
  • when parts are really tricky, we break up into ladies and men and go to separate rooms (sometimes that room is an adjacent stairway with a small keyboard).  We haven't done that for a long while as the reading skills have increased greatly.  The choir members are the ones to tell me whether they want to separate or not and I listen.
Our choir is very aware that we have different levels of ability and they honour that.  When someone gets a part they have struggled with, the other singers give them recognition.  Sometimes it is funny and sometimes it is serious depending on the personality involved etc.  We respect each other.  Heaven knows I make my quota of mistakes and I expect my choir to keep up the tradition.  If they aren't making mistakes we aren't making progress.  Period.  It is how you handle the transition from oops to WOW! that matters.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fun Friday - Sing Along with Mitch with Milton Berle

Here they are having a party based on music.  Leslie Uggams has a huge voice and my dad loved listening to her.  This is a long video but they dance and sing and do comedy.  FUN!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday - Heart of my Heart -- Mitch Miller & the Gang

Here is Mitch Miller and Sing Along Gang.  Although the bouncing ball is missing the words are there.  Notice how he mentions that they are "right on pitch".  Good sound was the name of the game.  Here is a good example of good use of recorded accompaniment.