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FIVE FROM THE FOLDER: MIXED VOICSE (+ an SSAA) by Howard Meharg
 
1. “Tu Es Petrus.” Robert Pearsall. Oxford University Press
SSAATTBB unaccompanied Adapted from Pearsall's own eight-part madrigal 'Lay a garland' (also available from OUP), 'Tu es Petrus' is replete with fine polyphonic writing and rich, expressive sonorities
 
2. “Long Road.” Eriks Esenvalds. Musica Baltica #10318768
Wonderful lyrics on poetry by Paulina Barda. Beautiful melody. Some slightly esoteric sounds in a middle section requiring flute, bells, triangle, assorted small percussion instruments)
 
3. “Lamento dello Ninfa.” Claudio Monteverdi. CPDL
Calls for a men’s chorus or ensemble with a great soprano solo
 
4. “Si, ch’io vorrei morire.” Claudio Monteverdi. CPDL
Passionate love song, dramatic and full of the dissonances only Monteverdi (of that era) could provide. One might take care with concern about exact translation in use with younger voices.
 
5. “Sweet By and By” Arr. Daniel Hall (SSAA). Walton HL08501694 (WLG120)
The highly inspirational poem is about hope and faith. It’s based on a gospel hymn of the 19th century. The statement of the simple melody leads to a section of marvelous dissonance before resolving to simple unison…a kind of “this is life” metaphor.
 
(“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, “Francis Poulenc’s Petities Voix 1936” by Dorothy A. Lincoln)
 
       Petites Voix was written later in the same year that Poulenc wrote the music for Sept Chansons. Also that year he finished composing the Litanies lla Vierge Noir, a work for women's or children's voices and organ. These prayers were the first of Poulenc's religious works, and were written at the time of a death of a friend which made a deep impression upon him. Hell (1959) reported that he made a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Rocamadoiir to see the Virgin carved out of black wood, the work of Saint Amadour who had climbed up a tree to see the figure of Christ. On the evening of this visit, which was in 1935, he began the composition. This religious work with organ accompaniment demonstrates the beginning of Poulenc's religious style which is later found in Quatre Petites Prieres de Saint Francois d'Assise. In contrast to this religious style, he finished the Petites Voix the same year.
       While Petites Voix is basically harmonically conceived, the individual lines have melodic interest. The boy sopranos as well as the girls' chorus will sense the fluid quality of the individual lines and should sing with a sense of the ongoing motion of the music. Poulenc almost never left the basic tonality and its related keys throughout the songs in the cycle.
 
READ the entire article.
 
Let’s play “What If?
 
You’re a high school choir director in a small mid-western town, striving daily with limited resources to provide the best possible choral education for your students.  Your school performance space is - to put it mildly – an acoustical disaster.  But wait!  The church just down the block has beautiful ringing resonance, a balcony, and a pipe organ!
 
Which would YOU choose for the concert?  (That’s a “well, DUH !” moment, kids.)
 
Thus it was for a young colleague who phoned a few days ago.  The only problem is that his administration forbade him from taking the choir to perform in the church building, citing unfounded fears of philosophical influence if not actual conversion.  Apparently, the boss felt “uncomfortable” in the church and projected that personal discomfiture upon his professional decision making.  So, this new teacher is relegated to performing Renaissance literature in the “cafetorium.”
 
The American Choral Directors Association has long held that the performance of sacred music is vital to the choral art, and we have shared that statement here on numerous occasions.
 
Additionally, the very first of the 12 stated purposes of this Association is “To foster and promote choral singing which will provide artistic, cultural, and spiritual experiences for the participants.”  The Association fully supports the performance of appropriate choral literature in the very best possible concert venue available.  To offer our choirs anything less than the finest local performance spaces is irresponsible to the art and to our students.
 
Over the past half-century, ACDA has staged countless hundreds of conferences on the state, divisional and national level, with choirs competing fiercely to earn a coveted performance invitation.  Virtually every one of those events has featured choral performances in a house of worship.  So far, one has not heard of any proselytizing or coerced conversions.
 
That said, here is an excerpt from the concert by the Eastview High School Concert Choir held in St. Ambrose Cathedral (Des, Moines, Iowa) during the 2014 North Central Division Conference.  A public high school choir singing in a church, yet all seems to go well.
 
To quote Billy Sunday, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you an automobile.”
 
 
VOCAL ADVANTAGE: BODY ALIGNMENT (Part 3), by Dina Else
 
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink!  You can walk a student to the ladder but you can’t make them climb.  There are countless analogies for this age-old issue.  Pick one…they’re all true, and all lead us straight down the path of frustration.  One quick left and we’re in the looney bin!
 
Rory Vaden, in his book Take the Stairs, points out that there are three ways to get people to take action on a task; ask them, force them, or get them to recognize for themselves why it’s in their best interest.  Well, when you put it that way...Duh!  Start your year off by making body alignment the main focus.  Help your singers recognize for themselves why it’s in their best interest to follow your instruction. 
 
As your students start to wrap their brains around the fact that respiration is the motor that makes the machine run, they will have a better understanding of why correct body alignment is essential.  Why is body alignment so important?  Simply put, it’s the prerequisite to all good breath support. 
 
Assessing body alignment is fairly easy.  We can visually assess whether or not the student’s body alignment is correct.  Scientifically and anatomically speaking we can test them over the benefits of correct body alignment.  We can make it a line item on our rubric for standards and assessment.
 
There are other ways to explore healthy body alignment that are also beneficial: Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Aikido (one of the original martial arts), Yoga, and  Tai Chi to name a few.  Most of the vocal technique/pedagogy books on our shelves have a solid chapter on body alignment.  Get those books of the shelf and give yourself a quick refresher course!  One of my favorite resources for body alignment is What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body, by Barbara Conable.
 
(READ Part 1 and Part 2 of this article)
 
(original post date: August 19, 2013)
Wow, toss in texting while driving and it could be today!
 
 
FIVE FROM THE FOLDER: WOMEN’S CHOIR by Morna Edmundson
 
1. “Carol: Nowel: Owt of your slepe arise.” British, 15th century. Earthsongs.
A vigorous , rhythmic piece in three parts. Detailed pronunciation guide is a great help.  Lots of energy and tone.  We’re using it as a processional.  Loving it!
 
2. “O Magnum Mysterium.” Jakob Handl, ed. Hirsh. Treble Clef Music Press TC-220.
Our Christmas concert is with brass quintet, so I am finally programming this Renaissance double-choir work.  The brass will take Choir 1.
 
3. “Magnificat” (with piano and brass quintet). Gwyneth Walker. ECS Publishing 6832
A major solo for mezzo sop opens this 1992 work that has captivated our choir.  Typical brilliance of Walker that the magic is in simplicity and total command of her craft.
 
4. “I Just Lightning” (with percussion). Libby Larsen, OUP 019-386044-9.
Very demanding, rhythmic and energized piece. We’re doing this for the first time in March 2015.  Remembering Patty Hennings and her great enthusiasm for this piece.
 
5. “Psalm 23.” Franz Schubert. CPDL.
 Core repertoire for women’s choirs.  Sung in German.
 
(“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, “Quality in Choral Groups” by Harry Robert Wilson)
 
       Perhaps it is time that we choral conductors re-examine and re-assess our purposes and objectives.  Have our choral groups gradually become organizations devoted to entertainment of both singers and listeners? Has the emphasis unconsciously been placed upon the social values inherent in the term “glee club” to the neglect of the musical?  Have our choirs been deliberately used as media for public displays and community relations rather than the vehicle of aesthetic experience with they should be?
       Choral conductors must never cease in their study to improve themselves.  Complacent choral conductors mean complacent choirs.  We have a mission.  The cultural taste of the young people in this country is, partly at least, in our hands.
 
(NOTE: Though the sentiment of this commentary sounds quite current, it was published in the January 1962 Choral Journal)
 
READ the entire article.
 
This is a surprising commentary from famed conductor and scholar Christopher Hogwood. In this excerpt, he suggests that detailed critical performance editions are not necessarily useful to the active choral conductor.
 
VOCAL ADVANTAGE: BODY ALIGNMENT (Part 2), by Dina Else
 
Last week we broke down what constitutes a beneficial body alignment for singers.  I’m a firm believer that if you stand with confidence, the emotion/mind-set is bound to follow!  I once heard Richard Miller liken body alignment to a flagpole saying, “If the flagpole is firm, the flag is free to wave!”  I love this metaphor! 
 
As we addressed last week, there is power in habit.  Our students have inadvertently developed some very poor habits in regard to their body alignment.  It’s our responsibility as choral directors to hold them accountable to creating more beneficial, efficient habits so they can use their instruments properly.  Many of your students haven’t thought in terms of the whole body as the instrument.  They’ve thought primarily from the neck up and if you’re lucky, maybe from the waist up. 
 
I’d like to be your cheerleader for a moment and encourage you to ‘fight the good fight’ with this issue! With accountability in place you and your students will experience benefits that will be worth the temporary daily struggle! And it will be temporary!  As an educator, you know that repetition is how new habits are formed.  The human brain is very adaptive, but each student’s brain and learning styles differ.  It might take some students 7-10 days to create a more efficient, beneficial body alignment, while it will take others 14-21 days of repetition and accountability!
 
My approach to teaching students to sing is to walk them through the physical components of how sound is created. Specifically, the science and anatomy involved.  Mind you, I don’t go crazy and overload them with more information than they need, but I feel it’s important to give them the basics. I don’t shy away from the anatomy, science and physics involved in phonation, respiration and articulation.  As a matter of fact, with the continued threat of our programs being cut, this is one more ‘co-curricular avenue’ you can pursue!
 
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink!  Next week we’ll chat about the key that will have you witnessing that first, refreshing gulp!  We will also discuss ideas regarding formal assessment of body alignment in the classroom, as well as suggestions for other ways to explore this vocal concept.
 
(READ Part 1 of this article)
 
(original post date: August 12, 2013)
What little patience we choral conductors possess has surely been tested by this singer. If you have a last nerve, she will find it, and she will get on it.  Like those ubiquitous little “Santa’s Helpers” in every local mall, this singer (or her male counterpart) seems to populate every choir rehearsal in every corner of the choral universe every day.  She is proof positive that humans have been cloned.
 
You will try not to laugh, but you will fail.
 
(NOTE: The implied profanity in the video’s title is not our doing.)
 
FIVE FROM THE FOLDER: MEN’S VOICES by Reed Criddle
 
"Five from the Folder: Men's Voices"
 
1.  "Grab und Mond."  Franz Schubert. TTBB.  CPDL
Gorgeous, homophonic, Romantic partsong about the silverblue moon that sends down a ray into the grave where all is silent. a cappella
 
2.  "Schöne Nacht." Wilhelm Nagel. TTBB. CPDL
A second gorgeous, homophonic, Romantic partsong to pair with "Grab und Mond." a cappella
 
3.  "Salvation is Created." Pavel Chesnokov. TTBB Musica Russica
Communion hymn, originally SATTBB, melody passed between voices, powerful, a cappella
 
4.  "Got a Mind to Do Right." arr. David Morrow. TTBB Hal Leonard LG52502
Upbeat African-American spiritual, not difficult, playful, a cappella
 
5.  "The Last Words of David." Randall Thompson. TTBB EC2154
Text from 2nd Samuel 23:3-4, dramatic, piano accompaniment, contrasting dynamics, tune carefully!
 
(“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)