The February issue of Choral Journal features a special series of articles on the topic of multigenerational choral singing. You can read a preview of all the articles available in that issue in this post. Following is a section from the article by John C. Hughes and Jon Hurty, “A Life of Song: Considerations for the Collegiate-Based Town and Gown Choir.”
Perhaps more than any other type of choral ensemble, collegiate-based multigenerational choirs embody “a life of song.” Many colleges and universities offer a “town and gown” choir—an ensemble open to students, faculty, staff, and singers from the surrounding community. For the purposes of this article, the term town and gown choir will describe a multigenerational choir that functions primarily in a college or university setting and includes both students and community members. Undergraduate students away from home for the first time stand next to community members who have sung in the choir for decades.
There are benefits for everyone who participates in this kind of ensemble. Musically, community members’ years of experience are advantageous, and younger voices balance more mature sounds. Furthermore, students recognize that regardless of major or profession, one can and should make singing a lifetime activity, and community members are energized by their interaction with young adults. This article explores the musical, social, and vocational benefits of these choirs and discusses the opportunities and challenges that are specific to town and gown choirs. The authors (who conduct multigenerational choirs at their respective institutions) offer suggestions for leading these unique ensembles.
Every choir, whether high school, church, university or professional, comes with its own potential for success and inherent challenges. Multigenerational town and gown choirs are no exception. Two of the primary challenges are the wide range of individual skill levels of singers and limited rehearsal time—both of which can engender performances that are not of the highest quality. However, these challenges can also provide special opportunities for conductors and ensembles. Conductors have the opportunity once or twice each week to unite people of different generations and talent levels into something larger than themselves. By creating what Weston Noble refers to as “the special world,” when “everything is in line—we are momentarily whole,” conductors can guide choir members beyond social and generational divisions and toward oneness with each other. The unique setting of these choirs provides particular opportunities.
Repertoire selection and using the skills, knowledge, and talents of the surrounding academic community can help everyone be more engaged in the artistic process. Examples include asking a German major to read a German text aloud or provide a translation for the group or inviting an English professor to lead a discussion of the text. One could even develop a course that addresses the context, history, and related material of a major work that the choir is preparing. At Augustana College, we have an interdisciplinary general education requirement called “Learning Communities.”
In conjunction with a performance of Britten’s War Requiem, I (Jon Hurty) collaborated with English and Religion faculty to offer a Learning Community course exploring the musical, social, religious, textual, and historical context of the piece. In addition to the normal coursework, students did research on various aspects of the work, then shared their information with the larger ensemble through email and short presentations. Involving the singers and sparking discussion about the music and text not only bridges the generation gap but also unifies them as an ensemble. Town and gown choirs can be more than a class to students or another weekly obligation for community members. Rather, they can be an event that members look forward to in their own way—a break from exams and papers, a night out for parents of young children, or a social activity for retirees. Interesting repertoire presented in an engaging and collaborative manner is perhaps the fastest way to create a feeling of community.
ACDA members can log in with their username and password to view and download the February 2017 issue and read the rest of this article and the others in this issue. You can also read our electronic version. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today to start receiving your monthly Choral Journal! Associate members can join for only $45 a year.
The June/July issue of Choral Journal features a special article for the On the Voice series. Sharon Hansen has been a member of the Choral Journal editorial board and editor of the On the Voice article series for many years and writes about the history of On the Voice in Choral Journal, past practices, and a look toward the future.
Following is a section of the article, which you can read in full in the June/July 2017 issue, along with any citation references for her statistics and research. ACDA members can log in with their username and password to view and download the newest edition. You can also read our electronic version. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today to start receiving your monthly Choral Journal! Associate members can join for only $45 a year.
With an examination of website information from eighty-four significant undergraduate music education programs selected from among the fifty states, I searched for specific choral music education program requirements in private voice, vocal pedagogy, and diction. Of the eighty-four universities I surveyed, fourteen did not have specific information available on the web, eight did not have a music education major, and one did not have a music major. This left sixty-one universities with the music education major and course work listed on the web.
Of the sixty-one universities with web information, 96.9% of the universities surveyed required between six and eight semesters of private lessons. Teacher training programs are doing well there. But choral music education majors are being certified to teach classroom voice, meaning they need solid pedagogical and diction tools. Only 38% of the universities surveyed required even a single course in diction; shockingly, 62.3% required none. In this day and age of multicultural music, in which choral directors regularly are called upon to teach diverse choral repertoire in multiple languages, the fact that 62.3% of the universities surveyed did not equip their students with even the rudimentary tools of an introductory course in diction, where students learn the International Phoenetic Alphabet (IPA), is incomprehensible.
Likewise, only 39.5% of the universities surveyed required a single course in vocal pedagogy; another shocking 61% required none. There are so many requirements imposed by state Departments of Education that it is often quite difficult to make curricular changes. However, music education majors who are state certified to teach voice in the choral classroom and conduct choirs deserve to be given the tools they need (voice lessons, diction, and vocal pedagogy) that will equip them for a strenuous life of professional voice use themselves, as well as enable them to serve their students knowledgeably in vocal teaching and care. It is clear that there is much work to be done to bring curricular requirements in line with the skills vocal music education majors need for twenty-first-century careers. …
So what does the future hold for the choral profession? Are choral conductors ready to accept that they comprise a profession whose prime métier is work with the voice? The resources are there, and most of the time, are easily accessed on line. So as a profession, what can we do better? We can insure that ACDA places consistent levels of emphasis on voice awareness in its conventions and publications. We can work to improve the relationship that exists between voice teachers and choral directors and NATS. More choral directors need to be members of NATS and more voice teachers members of ACDA so that dialogue between the private voice teacher and the classroom voice teacher continues…
The end result will be a nation of choral singers with healthy, vibrant voices—singing beautifully their entire lives.
ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly publication for choral conductors and teachers at all levels. It is published online, and each issue contains four practical articles. If you are not already a member of ACDA, you can join as an Associate for $45 per year and receive access to ChorTeach and the Choral Journal online.
The Winter 2017 issue contains the article “Past, Present, and Future: Today’s Choral Repertoire” by Lynne Gackle. This article was originally published in Texas Choral Notes, January 2016. Following is an excerpt from the article.
I am constantly amazed (and awed) by the choral repertoire “hounds” that I observe in my choral literature classes. I laugh when they call themselves choral “nerds.” These are future choral music educators who have such a love for choral music that their libraries (both physical and audio) are filled with new, creative, and interesting choral works that are being written, published, and recorded daily.
Through the technology currently available to all of us, we have access to music (both print and recorded) from across the globe. Young composers, emerging choral groups (check out Room Full of Teeth, the Lorelei Ensemble or Tenebrae, just to name a few), and fresh, creative music is literally only a click away! As a choral editor, I admit that I love the new—the excitement of fresh concepts, the juxtaposition of different pallets, texts, and timbres. I am always excited when I see new manuscripts with poignant and intriguing texts from recognized composers and those whose names are new. Often, just their birthdates are enough to amaze me.
However, … as educators, conductors, and mentors of potential choral music educators, we must ask ourselves the following important question: With all the new music available, do we have a responsibility to include music from the past, the “tried and true” jewels from years gone by? I would argue unequivocally, yes! The great masterworks and choral jewels that have been shared with generations of listeners deserve to be brought into the lives of our singers in the twenty-first century. The music of today is influenced by the music of the past. To sing these splendid choral works connects us with our choral heritage. Most importantly, there is an artistic thread that ties the human heart of today with those from hundreds of years ago. With all of the wonderful new literature we see in reading sessions each year, let us not become so enamored of the “new” that we lose sight of the intrinsic beauty and worth of works that have stood the test of time.
Read the full article by clicking here and looking in the Winter 2017 for Lynne Gackle’s article. If you are not already an ACDA member, you can join as an Associate for only $45 per year and receive online access to all ACDA publications. Go here to learn more. You can also view the full ChorTeach index here.
The latest issue of Choral Journal is available online! ACDA members can log in with their username and password to view and download the newest edition. You can also read our electronic version. Below is a preview of the articles you will find in this issue. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today to start receiving your monthly Choral Journal! Associate members can join for only $45 a year.
Watching Bluegrass Grow: The Rise of Bluegrass Music in the Choral World by Matthew Bumbach
Matthew Bumbach’s article on the rise of bluegrass in the choral world is a unique topic for Choral Journal but will hopefully provide insight into this genre of music that many might not be familiar with.
Inclusivity in Action: Transgender Students in the Choral Classroom by Joshua Palkki
Joshua Palkki continues the discussion of transgender choral students with his article on inclusivity in the choral classroom. Many choral music educators are or will be dealing with these or similar issues and use these articles to find resources on how to best assist their students.
Singing in ACDAʻs First Fifty Years: Celebrating the “On the Voice” Chai Anniversary (1999-2017) by Sharon A. Hansen
“Luv-uh and-uh kisses-zuh, R Schwə”: Robert Shaw’s Approach to Choral Enunciation by Corey D. Wikan
ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly online magazine for choral directors and music educators. The articles in each issue are gleaned from ACDA state and division newsletters and from submissions. ChorTeach is specifically designed for those who work with amateur singers and are looking for practical material to apply to classrooms and rehearsals.
Below is a preview of the articles in the current issue, available for download here. The annotated ChorTeach index has also been updated. Click here to view. Email editor Terry Barham at for submissions or questions.
“End-of-the-Year Activities in the Music Classroom” by Andrew Bruhn
In this article the author offers ideas for keeping the end of the school year positive and successful for middle and high school students, keeping things fun while remaining musically focused.
“Singing in a Chorus—Do’s and Don’ts for Church or Community Chorus Members” by Stephanie A. Henry
This short article provides practical suggestions for singers who wish to be successful in their choirs.
“Changing the Expressionless Faces that Sing in Your Choirs” by Micah Bland
Many choirs are fulfilling to hear but uninspiring to watch. This article discusses the importance of visual expressiveness in musical performance citing recent research and offering movement exercises to incorporate into warm-ups and rehearsals.
“Moving Toward More Progressive Choral Music Teacher Education Programs” by Jeffrey A. Murdock
The author of this article provides a sample course of study for choral music educators of the twenty-first century that teaches musicianship and builds on teaching practices that will enhance future success of course graduates.
“Considering Choral Competition—Perspectives on Motivation” by David W. Langley and Shannon Jeffreys
For this article, three choral directors offer differing viewpoints on the topic of choral competition. Both benefits and negatives of attending adjudicated choral festivals and competitions are discussed in an effort to help directors refine their philosophy concerning choral competition.