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Enjoy more episodes of Name That Choir Tune.
When did “youth” become a synonym for “incompetence?”  How can we accept - and teach! - musical pabulum just because it seems “age-appropriate?”
 
It could be argued that our younger singers need the BEST possible literature, just like their physical growth requires good nutrition.  You wouldn’t serve your kids a diet of Doritos®, would you?
 
There is a massive body of solid, meritorious, historically valuable (and yes, “age-appropriate”) choral literature available that is perfectly suited to young voices.  No, it probably won’t be handed out in a reading session with a flowery pink cover; nevertheless, the works that truly matter are well worth a little extra effort to locate them.
 
Here is a performance from a recent ACDA Divisional Conference.  This choir is performing a serious work, (the “Gloria” movement from a Mass), in a foreign language (Latin), by a composer of some historical importance (Benjamin Britten).  Don’t young singers in every community deserve the opportunity to sing such valuable music?
 
MY GO-TO WARM UP, by Amy Hall (Waukee High School)
 
Our classes always meet at 8:45 a.m. so it has been imperative that we get the voice and body moving to ensure healthy singing throughout the early rehearsal.  An exercise that works well for accomplishing this is singing an arpeggio and then coming back down with different voice parts holding the various scale degrees to fill out the vertical chord.  Using the syllables "See-ee-ee-ah-ah-ah-ah", all voices sing up the arpeggio 1-3-5-8 on the see-ee-ee-ah.  Sopranos stay on the 8 (ah), tenors descend and hold the 5th (ah), altos descend and hold the 3rd (ah), and basses round out the bottom finishing with the tonic on ah.  It then modulates up and we do it again.  Often we will hold the chord, tune various scale degrees and/or voices, utilize spin/vibrato and play with dynamic range while sustaining this chord.  It serves as a tuning tool on the way up singing the 1-3-5 accurately as well as an opportunity to tune and land a basic major chord.  It is also fun to work the same exercise in minor, or using other types of chords.  Sometimes we will also run in place on the final chord to get the heart and breath moving more naturally and efficiently!  The kids enjoy the physical aspect of "waking up" the body to prepare for a more productive rehearsal!  Happy warming up!
 
(My Go-To Warm-Up” features a favorite warm-up used by those choirs who have been selected to perform during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
Like it or not, this ridiculous theme song will probably haunt you for the rest of the day.  Sorry!
 
FIVE FROM THE FOLDER: MEN’S VOICES by Joseph Piazza
 
1.  “Jubilate Deo” from Cantiones sacrae et profanae.  Henk Badings.  TTBB. Harmonia-Uitgave, Hilversum H.U. 3419a.
Rhythmic, energetic setting of Psalm 66. Contrasting homophonic & contrapuntal sections employing stacked 4ths and 2nds.  Imitative cannons at the fifth especially playful & succinct. Contemporary & joyful. Moderate difficulty.
 
2.  “Fölszállott a Páva.” Zoltan Kodaly. Editio Music Budapest 3241.
Masterful part-writing, long elegant phrases, declamatory parallel chord structure lend to the nobility and pride of people longing for freedom and justice.  The Hungarian text calls for social change and equality.
 
3.  “Laulaja.” Einojuhani Rautavaara. Fennecs Gehrmans 9790550093119
Text taken from epilogue of the Kalevala, the epic Finnish poem. Rhythmic & declamatory opening and closing passages in b minor frame the middle section which employs octatonic scale passages & open expansive part writing.
 
4.  “Responsorium et Hymnus no.1 Adspice Domine de sede op.121” (Vespergesang).  Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Caus-Verlag Vertrieb GMBH
Much in style of Bach motet, first movement reveals beautiful independent lines for each of three voices moving through traditional harmonies & key relationships.  Themes and countermelodies weave together in elegant countrapuntal lines brought together for a homophonic texture in concluding phrases.  
 
5.  “My Souls Been Anchored in the Lord.” Moses Hogan (ed. Eklund). Hal Leonard 08753675.
Exciting traditional spiritual. Broad opening statement prepares us for the Allegro in rhythmic syncopated block chords with sustained & chromatically shifting bass lines that provide energy & excitement.  Piece relies on verse refrain from with a final section of call and response for the chorus which leads to a climactic choral shout in rhythmic counterpoint.
 
(“Five from the Folder” provides brief, text-length reviews of vocal works currently in the folders of choral directors throughout the United States.  To share five from your folder, contact Scott Dorsey at dorsey@acda.org)
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article “Jacob Avshalomov's Choral Works with Concertante Instrument” by Larry Wyatt)
 
       Jacob Avshalomov is a composer, conductor, and music educator whose life in music spans eighty years and three continents.  Avshalomov characterizes his approach to composing for chorus as follows:
 
What many composers have put into large-scale opera, I have put into large-scale choral works. In these lies the possibility to combine language and feelings in their purest forms without  distractions of scenety, lighting, and costuming for dramatic production. I am concerned that messages be projected straightforwardly from the mouths of humans ... combining literature, language, and feelings with music.
 
       He often collaborates with his wife Doris, an established poet. He classifies himself as a "conservative contemporary" composer.
       Avshalomov is a master composer who takes great care in text choice and settings. He is sensitive to the declamation and meaning of the texts. Through madrigal-style writing in the melodic and harmonic writing, along with appropriate choice of contrapuntal and harmonic textures, Avshalomov reveals himself to be a master composer, thoroughly grounded in compositional technique that serves poet and singer.
Sometimes it seems that we spend all of our time in rehearsals (particularly in the later stages of the semester) focusing upon what’s going wrong, rather than celebrating what’s going right.
 
Yes, absolutely, we are supposed to identify areas that require attention and devise methods for helping our choirs continue to improve.  When was the last time, however, that you took a moment to acknowledge singers for things they are doing well? Positive reinforcement is a powerful part of the development of any relationship.
 
That said, let’s consider just three basic items from this selection recorded during an ACDA divisional conference.  What is working well here? (Please bear in mind this is a necessarily brief commentary and the present writer’s opinion is barely worth 2¢.)
 
The first thing we notice is the repertoire. Our colleague has decided to program solid, historically valuable choral literature for these young singers.  Repertoire selection is an area of some concern among many in the profession.  We also note that they are performing the work in its original language.
 
Then there is the matter of tone.  Our colleague has cultivated vocal production that seems at once healthy and age-appropriate while still fitting for the performance of a work by Brahms.  Another positive element is the apparent upper-body freedom exhibited by the singers.
 
Finally, we note that attention has been given to the structure of the phrase.  The performance has an organic sense of “breathing” as it ebbs & flows with regard to tempo, dynamic, and text declamation.
 
Even though it is early in the season, what do you hear in your own choir’s singing that deserves a word of positive acknowledgement?
 
MY GO-TO WARM UP, by Michael Hayden (Mira Costa High School Choir)
 
My choral go to warm-up is the lip bubble or lip trill. The movement of air created by bubbling takes out all the muscle in the sound, efficiently targets pitch and keeps the phrase moving forward. It also develops great warmth, richness and a mature healthy tone that we love! To start, begin with your choir bubbling “My Country 'Tis Of Thee.” The goal?  Sing the opening phrase all in one breath on the bubble.  Some students may have difficulty at first with getting the lips to bubble. It is due to tension. Have them gently and loosely push the sides of their lips together to loosen up the tension allowing the lips to bubble.  Do this every day! Now of course I use bubbling on any of our warm-ups (scales, leaps, sighs, harmonic warm-ups, etc.) but the real key is to “bubble” your repertoire.  Every day all my choirs will use this technique in our songs to clean up pitch, make up for lack of resonance or lack of unity in the resonance, and most importantly extend breath capacity for longer phrases. So if the sound isn’t quite what you think it should be…go back and bubble it.  Often, our singers will even say, “Mr. Hayden, can we bubble that section?” My response is... “Of course!”  This self analysis comes from them knowing something doesn’t sound right and most importantly doesn’t feel right. They know the bubble will fix it! This conscious awareness makes for an exciting and productive rehearsal. So…bubble…everything!
 
(My Go-To Warm-Up” features a favorite warm-up used by those choirs who have been selected to perform during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
"When you speak, it depends upon which part of the country you're standing in as to how stupid you sound."
 
FIVE FROM THE FOLDER: MIXED VOICES by Richard Nance
 
1. “Jubilate Deo.” Fredrick Sixten. SATB divisi. Gerhmans Musikforlag.
Fun, rhythmically interesting piece. Continuous mixed meters in the joyful outer sections, lush sonority in the middle section.  Creative use of dissonance. Good for developing listening and tuning skills!
 
2. “Missa Brevis.” Ruth Watson Henderson. SATB divisi. Hinshaw Music HMB241
A sophisticated setting of the mass (minus Credo). Perfect for a nice section of program or could be done in liturgy.  Beautiful contemporary writing with some excellent rhythmic and harmonic challenges.
 
3. “Sechs Lieder in Freien Zu Singen, Opus 59.” Felix Mendelssohn. SATB. Choral Public Domain Library
Fantastic set of partsongs about spring and nature.  The most famous of the six is "Die Nachtigall," but all of them are wonderful for both choir and audience.  
 
4. “O quam gloriosum est regnum.” Tomas Luis de Victoria. SATB. Choral Public Domain Library
Lyrical motet filled with expressive polyphony.  The text is perfect for All-Saints or memorial services, about the Saints in heaven dressed in white robes.
 
5. “Nelly Bly.” Steven Foster, arr. Halloran. SATB divisi.
A sparkling arrangement, a joy for both the choir and audience. Perfect for the beginning or end of any set of American folk music.  Be aware there are two versions by Jack Halloran published by Fred Bock Music available, if you want Chanticleer version, you must order anthology.  Well worth it!
 
(“Five from the Folder” provides brief, text-length reviews of vocal works currently in the folders of choral directors throughout the United States.  To share five from your folder, contact Scott Dorsey at dorsey@acda.org)
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Early Instruments and Choral Music,” by Joan Cantoni Conlon)
 
       There is a growing awareness of the performance potential of music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Of equal importance, are the increased opportunities for acquiring early-instrument reproductions. Thorough investigation and sumptuous recordings by such groups as David Munrow's Early Music Consort of London have combined 'authentic' instruments and voices. These performances have imparted a vitality and increased dimension to music which too frequently has been treated too preciously.
       Incorporating instruments into early choral music has many advantages. First, instruments provide contrast in timbre, either (a) by changing vocal and instrumental sonorities on successive
stanzas of part songs, as in Dowland's "Come, again," or (b) by contrasting vocal timbre as an entering voice in a round, as in Ravenscroft's "He that will an ale-house keep," or (c) performing an entire motet, chanson, or madrigal with different but balanced sonorities on each part, or ( d) simply by allowing the instrumentalists to insert a purely instrumental interlude among the choral pieces, which they very likely will be' anxious to do.
       Second, instruments can enhance the spirit or prevailing character of a piece. such as the addition of bowed stringed instruments to double voice parts in ]osquin's or Gombert's Mille regretz intensifies the languishing melancholy of those pieces.
       Third, instruments may add ornamentation, as doubling or substituting instruments may (a) add melodic embellishment or cadential trills, (b) fiII in melodic skips with rapid or slow runs, depending upon the character of the piece, (c) intensify the rhythmic aspects of the music with staccato or repeated figures, or (d) play echoing or alternating patterns which enhance the concertato/ripieno aspects of the music.
 
READ the entire article.
Famed conductor and scholar Christopher Hogwood shares his thoughts on the value of performance practice in this brief excerpt from his presentation during the 2007 ACDA National Conference.