Sunday, March 26, 2017

Musical Monday - Labels Can Hold You Back

Image result for clip art music teacherAs a new, idealistic music teacher, I had decided that I would never have that ROCK music in MY classroom.  Well.  That changed when I happened upon the Herbie Hancock, the History of Rock & Roll.  Of course, I had never realized just how amazing this art form really was. With all its ties to R & B, Jazz and even Folk, learning how the music came about was so much fun.  Then of course, teaching that to my students was amazing.  We went so far as to learn about the technology that grew with the music.  I think that unit that I developed was one of my favourites to teach.

You see I had resisted rock music because I just knew the label but not the actual musicality.  Are you resisting introducing some music to your singers because the label of a certain type is holding you back?  Here are some ideas for you to introduce some different forms to your repertoire.

1.  Listen to LOTS - With the advent of You Tube you can listen to all sorts of music.  I challenge you to listen to something you have never heard before.  Remember that not all music of a certain genre will suit you or your singers.  Listen to a WIDE range of styles and types.

2. Liking is forbidden - In my classes, the students & I were not allowed to say that we liked or disliked a piece of music.  We decided that you only used liking to decide on buying music but not on listening.  Some music is so outside your usual that you absolutely have to detach the LIKE mechanism to let the music speak.  Like our Friday Facebook cartoon says, you may think Mozart but Cage is what is playing.

3. Enjoy - No matter what style of music you choose, enjoy the experience.  Pieces that you choose to try may be the best thing you have ever experienced.  Other pieces may be interesting and fun but not something you will revisit.  No matter what, enjoy the ride.  Learn but do NOT put up walls between you and any single type of music.

4. Leave the labels off - I try really hard to not label a song as a hymn or country or rock or modern etc.  I just present the music and away we go.  There are pieces we enjoy doing more than others of course but we don't dismiss a piece because of its genre. Have fun exploring lots of kinds of music.  Never let a label hold you back.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Musical Monday -Enunciation and Then Some - Neil Patrick Harris 2013

We all know how much work it is to get ready for a concert.  We have venues & instruments, costumes & props, movement & placement that are all part of the equation.  

Here is an opening number to end all.  Please watch Neil Patrick Harris and how every word he sings is clear.  He dances, runs, spins & disappears and yet, we hear every word.  

All I can think about is just how much he has rehearsed and then some.  What a fun performance.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Musical Monday - Seating/Standing Arrangements for Success

If you look at these seating/standing plans you will certainly find one that you currently use.
We have been using a form of the top suggestion since we began.  We just moved our parts around.  Tenors & sopranos are in front and altos & basses in the back.  When we changed to this after having been static for some time, all of a sudden everyone could hear the other parts better.  What Kristy & I decided was that we needed to move people around more often.  After many changes and trials I think I have a good idea of what works for amateur choirs.
1. Ideal - you guessed it.  The ideal way to sing with maximum blend is with everyone standing with someone not singing their part.  Kirby Shaw liked his people to stand in quartets.  Personally, I feel people should just stand where each can hear well and blend well.

2. Beats - there are people who should not stand with other singers.  It is really important that you listen to how people blend and that you empower your singers to listen for how their voice FEELS next to another singer.  Some vibrations or beats between voices just don't jive.  There is a disconnect and jarring with those voices.  Not matter what you want for a seating/standing plan, sometimes you have to really pay more attention to the vibes!

3. Height etc. - you have to make certain people can comfortably see the conductor.  Remember that the direction is what keeps everything on track no matter where people are.  We have one singer who sometimes needs to sit on a stool.  We have another singer who has difficulty with focus unless close to the action.  Individual needs must be accommodated.

4. Distance - you need to go to the far reaches of your rehearsal space and see what the sound is like.  Then stand close by and see what you hear.  Change accordingly.

5. Input - ask the singers.  How do they feel in each position.  We have decided that we want to change our spots quite often.  Change has enhanced our ability to hear and blend.  As we change, we hear things differently and that is always good.  I can get too set in my ways and the singers are great at encouraging change for good.

6. Record - using your recording devise will give you a objective ear for the sound that results from placement among other variables.  Let the choir hear these recordings so they can adjust accordingly.  

All in all, please have fun.  Enjoy the music you are making and don't be too bossy as the leader.  If you have a huge group then you may have to keep the numbers in mind to make certain that a good blend is still happening.  Just keep trying lots of ways to make music better by giving your people the best chance to hear, blend & see well.  The finished product is the true tell of just how things are going.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Musical Monday - Victor Borge & the Aria

Now we all know that opera is an acquired taste.  How do you acquire that taste?  Well, by hearing really good operatic bits and understanding them.  Victor Borge was a great musician & had amazing comedic timing.  Had we been able to have YouTube bits like this when I was teaching music, opera would have been an easy one to teach.  
Even the songstress in this bit is having fun while singing some amazingly accurate sounds.  Using clips like these can help anyone appreciate various styles of music and have fun doing it. Try something different today!!