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In this brief interest session excerpt, famed conductor Christopher Hogwood (d. 2014) shares his thoughts about music as a career, versus music as an avocation.  He also hints to the incredible and pernicious narcissism of the present age.
(An excerpt from the interest session “The Evolving Voice: The Senior Years,” presented by Karen Brunssen during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
Vocal training and conditioning should always be age-appropriate, dependent on where the body is within progressive and constant changes. Singers in their “Senior Years” benefit from “mindful” concepts and strategies that efficiently coordinate support and vocal vibration.  Semi-occlusion exercises cleverly offer resistance to air flow, and are particularly helpful.  Singing VVV is an easy way to experience how semi-occlusion exercises encourage proper support muscle coordination and the positive consequences in vocal cord vibrations.  To become familiar with the action of support muscles while sitting, lean forward and say a long VVV.  Crescendo.  You feel the engagement of the muscles in the lower abdomen where the body is bent.  Repeat VVV.  Crescendo and notice that you can feel muscles engage against the seat of the chair.  Then sit up and dig your knuckles into your sides.  Say VVV.  Crescendo to feel oblique muscles engage.  Lean back firmly against your chair.  Say VVV,   Crescendo to feel your back muscles engage.  Now you are aware of muscles of support that contribute to moving air so our vocal cords vibrate.  Next stand and sing exercises or vocal phrases on VVV for 30 seconds.  Repeat it using a vowel or the text. You should notice an improvement in your singing. The body seems to remember just enough so that singing feels more resonant and vocally efficient.  Such positive self-feedback via vocal sensations and action of the support muscles is something to revisit regularly.  
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
The next time you get a little cranky with the bass section (yup, we basses can be a handful!), consider that those deep mellow tones could save the day, at least according to these engineering students.
1. “Letter from a Girl to the World.” Andrea Ramsey. SSAA. Alliance Music Publications, Inc.  AMP0768
Mild divisi. One of the most requested works performed. Opportunities for individual expression with spoken thoughts of empowerment.
2. “Boat Madrigal.” Steven Porter. SSA. Phantom Music PPI303
Fun introduction to the madrigal style. Great piece for developing treble choirs (or others just wishing to have a little fun), quoting the folk song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
3. “No Time.” arr. Susan Brumfield. SSAA. Colla Voce Music. 21-20260
Simple and beautiful setting of a traditional camp meeting song. Pleasant divisi  presents even more depth in the piece.
4. “I Thank You God.” Gwyneth Walker. SSA(A). E.C. Schirmer Music Co. 5331
Haunting opening with piano and voice that moves gracefully from c minor with lyrics and harmonic development until ending in full, open C major. Tremendous impact from text and music.
5. “Tundra.” Charles A. Silvestri & Ola Gjeilo. SSAA. Walton Music. 08501772
The descriptive text of the composer’s homeland is described beautifully with the development of vast harmonic phrasing and steady movement of the voices and accompaniment. Stunning.
(“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
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Messiah 1985: A Practical Approach to Rehearsing,” by Richard A. Smith)
       One of the greatest challenges as we study and rehearse the choruses from Messiah is to approach the work with a new diligence that will allow us to go beyond our past associations with it: we must learn to hear it and enable the singers in our choirs to sing it with first-time freshness. We must go beyond mere review to find a new plateau of performance level. Nothing less will suffice as we honor the composer whose 300th birthday we celebrate.
       The main body of this discussion will be a presentation of choral exercises based on selected musical content contained in four choruses from Handel's Messiah. These exercises should be considered representative rather than exhaustive examples of sets of musical goals and means for achieving those goals.
       By way of general description, each of the following exercises is an attempt to isolate certain difficulties and to solve inherent problems out of context. A short exercise, if properly designed, is a more accessible and efficient way of dealing with such problems than "running through" entire choruses. These exercises encapsulate the essences of each of the four choruses so as to illustrate character-oriented goals as an alternative to spending precious rehearsal time trying to explain them. There is throughout this discussion an emphasis on rhythmic precision, clarity of pitch, and nuance of phrasing which should serve to create habits that can be transferred into performance. When used for pre-rehearsal warm-up, these exercises can aid in preparing the mind and the ear, in addition to the vocal mechanism, for the rehearsal to come. They may also be helpful in structuring the· rehearsal. It is preferable to teach and rehearse these exercises by rote to prevent unnecessary addiction to the printed page. Once the exercises have been learned and the goals of each exercise clarified, singers may be encouraged to use them outside rehearsal in individual practice routines.
READ the entire article.
(An excerpt from the interest session “Psalms: Back to the Sources,” presented by Joshua Jacobson during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
What did the Psalms sound like in antiquity? We know that they were sung, not spoken. We know that 2,000 years ago they were performed in the Temple in Jerusalem by professional musicians from the tribe of Levi. Their choir comprised a minimum of twelve singers, but was usually larger. There was an orchestra with harps, flutes, trumpets, horns and percussion. The performance was responsorial or antiphonal, based on the binary structure of the Psalm texts. Performances were led by a conductor, and instructions for the conductor were embedded in the headings (“superscriptions”) of many of the Psalms. For example, Psalm 45 (King James Version) begins with these words, “For the leader; on shoshannim. Of the Korahites. A maskil. A love song.” To the best of our knowledge that could mean, “[instructions] for the conductor: [to be sung] on the shoshanim [mode], [performed] by the Korah clan, a skillful song, for wedding ceremonies.” Fifteen of the Psalms (120-134) begin with the heading, “A song of ascents (or steps)” (words which are omitted from the King James Version). According to the Mishnah, these Psalms were performed on the fifteen steps or risers in front of the Temple. “And countless Levites with harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets and other musical instruments were there …, corresponding to the fifteen Songs of Ascents in the Psalms. It was upon these steps that the Levites stood with their musical instruments and sang their songs.”
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
The worst part of being at the beach is LEAVING the beach.  For all those whose sunny spring break is about to end, here's a look back at that magical place, the tropical beach.
NO! I don't wanna get on the plane!  No . . . NO . . . NO!
FIVE FROM THE FOLDER: MIXED VOICES (Christmas) by Christopher Aspaas
1. "Carol of the Advent." Philip Dietterich. Hope Publishing Company
A lovely SATB and organ setting of the "People Look East." Buoyant and lilting with a contemplative a cappella middle verse, this is an accessible and exciting setting for almost any choir.
2. "Hodie." Robert Parker. Self Published
A colorful work based on the Sweelinck "Hodie" that is a must for Christmas if you have an orchestra! Exciting 'movie-music' moments and exciting instrumental and vocal flourishes make this SATB (some divisi) work a great surprise.
3. "African Noel" Andre Thomas. Lawson Gould
Thomas recently took over The FSU Men's Glee Club and re-arranged this holiday favorite for tenor-bass choir. Captures the same energy and colors of the original. A few measures of six-part divisi so a slightly larger tenor-bass ensemble may be needed.
4. "Alleluya Sasa!" Ben Allaway. Santa Barbara Music Press
One-of-a-kind! Written in the style of a Kenyan folksong, this is a vital and rhythmic piece for Christmas. The score looks daunting, but learns very quickly with more advanced ensembles. A great tenor soloist (or two) and good ethnic percussionists (as well as some choralography) make this a future holiday classic.
5. "Stay With Us." Egil Hovland. Augsburg Fortress.
This work by Norwegian composer Egil Hovland is a touching setting for SATB choir an keyboard. A stirring middle section for SSAA is bookended by two sections for the whole ensemble, and it is a beautiful benediction for an evening program.
(“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
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Choral and Orchestral Conducting: An Interview with Robert Shaw” by Antonio M. Molina)
Molina: Would you now care to comment, based upon your wide range of experiences, upon some ideas or concepts which I have come upon in my comparative study of choral and orchestral conducting? For instance, several conducting books make the observation that the general musicianship of most choristers is inferior when compared to that of most orchestral players. Would you agree?
Shaw:  Almost always. yes. Obviously, there are exceptions. Certainly, the singer's musicinship is often inferior in terms of the strictly musical-technical digital proficiency. But it is almost the opposite in terms of the general richness of the total aesthetic. And by this I mean knowledge of painting, poetry, literature – a wider humanistic background. For instance, in the United States, many of us have experienced a certain large coefficient between medicine and music there are doctors' orchestras in New York and Cleveland and other places. In the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, almost half of our members were associated with medicine either as doctors or nurses, interns or laboratory technicians. We were in an educational complex at Western Reserve and Case University where there were a lot of medically related studies going on. Anyway, what I wanted to say was: If you tested the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus on strictly musical proficiency, or on vocal proficiency, the results may not be very high. But if you gave everyone a general test of knowledge of the fine arts, of history, philosophy, and so on, the Chorus might outrank the Orchestra by 10 to 15 points.
READ the entire article.
Without question, sacred texts comprise the vast majority of poetry set to choral music.  We don’t know what sort of words are most frequently scored from the body of secular works, but certainly the topic of romantic love has to be near the top of the list.
Bach composed a work about coffee, for Mozart it was a magic flute, and Copland covered cats.  All of them, though, also addressed the issue of romantic love.
Most folks, at some point in their life, fall in love.  It seems a great global unifier; one might not necessarily understand a particular language, but the actions the bespeak tenderness between two people have a certain universality.  It’s a particular energy, a soft look in the eyes, a smile reserved for that special person.
Poets have been expressing their thoughts on love for as long as quill pen could be put to parchment.  Poetry that bespeaks remarkable, arching passion has flowed from such hearts and minds as those of Lord Byron ("She walks in beauty"), William Shakespeare (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) and Garcilaso de la Vega (“Amor di mi alma”) to name only a few.  Many of those profound expressions have been set for the chorus, a vehicle that seems particularly well-suited to such poetry.
One example of a choral setting of romantic prose is this excerpt from a recent ACDA conference.  The opening words of The Passionate Shepherd to his Love by the Renaissance-era poet Christopher Marlowe are well-known: “Come live with me and be my love, and we shall all the pleasures prove.”
Listen. Enjoy. Be moved. Then bring home flowers!