Justin Cavazos

Dear Vocalise:

Thank you for a productive rehearsal last week!  Our concerts are just around the corner, so we must take the music beyond the rehearsal process and focus on performance. Each time you practice, please consider: 1) WHY you sing, 2) WHAT we’re singing about, and 3) HOW you can show the meaning of each and every phrase with your face, your physicalization, and your presence. Elena and the artist staff have worked be certain each of you is open to the emotional content of this music.  It is now your duty to take our work and your emotional dedication OUTWARD, and share it with our audiences.


Action Items/Expectations: all singers should be able to put a checkmark next to the items below.


  1. As announced at April 10th rehearsal, ALL members of Vocalise must record and send to Elena and Justin a video clip of them singing THIS WE KNOW. They were due Saturday, April 15th.
  2. Recording of River (sung to piano accompaniment provided) was due Monday, April 3rd. I am still expecting the rest. (Aria members are excused.)
  1. ALL pieces except for Bridge and Imagine (May 2nd) should have been memorized by our April 17th rehearsal – Everything must be memorized by next rehearsal.
  2. When reading the blog, enter all markings and comments into your score, per the detailed descriptions below.
  3. All solo parts are open for auditions: if you are interested, it’s best to send Elena your  recording of the solo.


Additional Announcements and Reminders:

  • If you are taking an SAT Subject Test on Saturday, May 6th (the day of our All-Choir Concert), please fill out this form ASAP. We need to know when your exams are so that we can plan accordingly. All responses must be submitted by this Friday, April 21st.
  • Tell EVERYONE about our Spring Concert! This event is twice as big as it was last year, so we want to see twice as many people! Invite friends, family, teachers, etc. Direct them to www.cantabile.org/experience-cantabile/web-of-life
  • Please mark in your calendars that our rehearsals on Monday, May 1st and Monday, May 8th at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto begin at 5 PM, 30 minutes earlier than usual. Plan to be there by 4:45 so that we may begin on time.


Repertoire Notes:

Only a portion of the pieces are covered below. All singers must practice all pieces each week.

Refer to previous blogs for details.


Turn the World Around

  • Internalize the dance of the 5/4 rhythm. Practice a few times with the stomps and claps (Stomp-clap-clap-Stomp-clap-clap-Stomp-clap-Stomp-clap) – try singing with this beat once you have it down!
  • Memorize every aspect of this piece. Repeats, entrances, dynamics, and how you interact with other parts and the instruments should be solid in your mind.
  • There are many repeats – sing it like you mean it every time!
  • Communicate an expression at all times, especially during piano interludes. Your expression should never be lackadaisical – “So is life” should have feeling, not apathy
  • For now sing mm. 57-60 only twice
  • Dance with the hand claps whenever they come! Remember that there are accents on the last two beats of each measure you clap.
  • Lower voices – even when you do not have words, continue to raise your eyebrows and sing with an expressive face.
  • Sing the last “So is life” with confidence and ON TIME.
  • Sopranos: the final “So is life” should be sung with tall, open vowels.  Think “Sah ahz lahf!”  

Famine Song

  • You know the choreography, now commit to it. Make your movement fluid and intentional. Stroke the air with the back of your open hand (no claws), with tension and intention in your fingers.
  • Prepare the first movement on the “recon-CILED,” raising your hands to heart subtly and slowly, with hands crossed over your chest by the cut-off.
  • Sing facing a mirror and pay attention to what your face is doing. Find ways to connect with this piece emotionally and see how doing so changes your expression.
  • There are many tools for expressive singing – facial expressions, tone quality, intensity of consonants. Use these tools from the very beginning regardless of whether or not you are singing words.
  • Bravi/VTG: Though it is just one note, that E you hum can be extremely expressive. Experiment with singing the words above you in your head while you hum. How does that affect your sound?
  • Longer vowels throughout!
  • Expression and breath support are your best friends in the “Rain” sections! Maximize these to keep the pitch up.
  • Use the rest at the end of m. 25 to transform your attitude from solemn to declamatory – still mournful though.
  • Tenors and Alto 2s singing with the tenors at m. 33 – make that D more heady as you transition to the section at m. 34.
  • In the solo section (mm. 34-47), watch your conductor for the beat if you get lost. As the accompanists to the soloists, you should sing just as expressively as before. This section is in a lamenting style – I like to think of it as feeling so much longing that you simply do not have any words to express it.
  • Focus on the intonation of your chords during the solo section (mm. 34-47). It is tempting to get lost in the beautiful solos you hear, but don’t go too far astray — the chords you are singing under them are just as important as the solos themselves.
  • There is still something missing in the “Out of Heat/Famine’s teeth” section… The intensity should be cranked up in your facial expression, vocal tone, and your consonants!
  • Snapping begins at m. 68, two measures before the last “Rain” section. You should enter according to the order of your birth month: Jan-Apr, May-Aug, Sept-Dec.


Past Life Melodies

  • Always singing with a smile – if you are humming, sing with a smile in your eyes!
  • At section C – watch your conductor for your note changes
  • At section D – The 4-bar repeats of the Nairs end after 6 and a half times. Mark on which repeat you change notes – You should be singing a unison “B” by the start of the 6th repeat.


Bridge over Troubled Water

  • Sing this with your entire soul! Check out this recording (featuring Luther Vandross and Jennifer Holliday) that inspired this arrangement of the song.
  • Watch your cutoffs throughout this song!
  • Upper voices at rehearsal B: Observe the markings on “Oo-oo-hoo” – The first two notes should be connected, the second note should be staccato, and the final note should have a small scoop.
  • At m. 44, “comfort you” should only have an intentional stylistic scoop on the first syllable


This We Know

  • Learn this piece. Approximation of your pitches and rhythms is not going to cut it. We have worked on this piece extensively. Make the effort to solidify the problem areas.
  • Longer vowels throughout. Your “This” of “This we know” and “nec” of “connected” can still have longer vowels. Place the last consonant of the current syllable at the beginning of the next syllable.
  • In the “All things” section starting at m. 13: you are a beautiful leaf fluttering about through the autumn wind.
  • At m. 40: “Like the blood” can still be sung more beautifully. Here the intensity should come from your consonants, not the tone.
  • Alto 1s t m. 43, do not over-do the entrance on “that” – you should come in confidently, but with your breath, not your throat.
  • In the section starting at m. 62 (“Whatever befalls”) – Mezzos need to sing with intention and accuracy , especially when you have the contrasting part at measures 69 and 70.


  • Legato singing is needed in this piece at all times. The expansive feeling of this song will only be felt if you sing vowels as long as possible, followed by quick and energized consonants.
  • This was not memorized at our last rehearsal.  It must be memorized by Monday.
  • Practice this while thinking of the night sky, blazing with stars above you. If you keep this vision in your mind at all times, your performance will be improved.
  • Please review your pitches in mm. 26-31 (“Myriads with beating hearts…”)
  • On the last page, please be aware of the soprano 2 line, which carries the text.  It’s important to line up your chord changes with their words.  Do not be ahead of them.  Your conductor can help you but you must be aware of what your fellow singers are singing, too.


Hymn to the Waters

  • Count and watch for cut-offs. Every measure has seven beats – don’t try to fill in one more beat to make it eight.
  • On page 8: “Lo, in the waters, dwelleth one” – Both vowels of “Dwelleth” should be an open E (“eh”). Make that D sharp as high as possible.
  • On page 11: “Who dug the” should come out some more with strength. The piano doubles that line an octave below you.
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