Ensemble Rehearsal Blog

Dear Ensemble,

As we draw nearer to the Holidays With Cantabile concert on Dec. 3, I want to encourage each of you to visualize yourself on the stage of the grand California Theater, completely confident that you know your music thoroughly and are eager to share the message or story of each song with your audience.  This wonderful experience can be yours if you remain diligent in practicing during these next four weeks.

But first – the Fall Choir Workshop and Family Concert is coming up SOON!  Saturday, November 4th (see details below) is just around the corner.  This is an important day for us to rehearse the combined numbers for the holiday concert with the other groups and to benefit from the expertise of other Cantabile staff, as well as to reconnect with members of the other choirs.  We are counting on everyone to be in attendance that day.


Call Times for the Fall Choir Workshop/Rehearsal

Please note that call times for the Fall Rehearsal on Saturday, November 4th have changed and are earlier than previously scheduled.  Your call time is 9:00 am, and you must arrive in your Cantabile T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes/sneakers.  NOTE: you must have your black Cantabile t-shirt for this day as we will present a concert at the end of the day.  Please arrive in the back parking lot (off of Byron St) for check in.  A friendly reminder that the concert is scheduled for 1pm, and you will be done by 2pm.  The rehearsal and concert are held at First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto: 625 Hamilton Ave.  

Tour Registration Reminder

Members of Ensemble are strongly encouraged to go on the New York City Carnegie Hall tour this summer!  Here is what Julia Zarcone, Executive Director of Cantabile, has to say about tour (and I heartily agree!):

Touring is a powerful and important part of the Cantabile experience for all of our performing choir singers:  Ensemble, Vocalise, Bravi, Aria and VTG.  We need you to register for Carnegie by October 31, 2017.  Or at least let us know that you plan to go and if you are not planning to go we need to hear from you as well. The capacity for our organization to sing individual concerts on tour and to participate in the Festival at Carnegie depends on a critical mass of you joining the tour.  

Touring provides weeks worth of rehearsal training (Elena says an entire semester !) in one trip.  It is immensely valuable for singers as they gain confidence, self-esteem and develop relationships with their choir friends that last beyond Cantabile.  And it looks great on a college resume to have sung in Carnegie Hall.

Please visit the member-only portion of the website and sign up now.  The last day to register is October 31st!

Disney Cancellation Notice

A friendly reminder that our trip to Disneyland has been canceled due to under-enrollment.  Please see the email that was sent out earlier this week for further information.

Holidays with Cantabile Tickets Now On Sale

Please visit the Cantabile website to buy your tickets today – they are going quickly!  Additionally, please remember to pass out the three postcards that you were given this week in class: we need your help in filling the hall, so invite your extended family, friends, teachers, and neighbors today!




  • Continue to practice the yoga flow of monkey and chair.  Regular practice of yoga and meditation are important elements of your practice routine.  Descriptions of monkey and chair poses are below.
  • Kyrie Eleison – be confident that you can sing your part accurately through the entire song.
  • Peter Go Ring-A Dem Bells – practice with all of the emotion and dramatic expression we discovered the last few weeks so that it becomes as much a part of your performance as the notes, rhythms and words.
  • Caribbean Mass (Santo and Agnus Dei) – work to perfect notes and rhythms and be comfortable with all the text.
  • The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy – if you were absent several weeks ago, be ready for part testing of p. 9-end.  Review the entire song for accuracy and memorization.
  • Amani – use rehearsal tracks below to be sure you are accurate on your part.
  • Unending Flame – review your part using rehearsal tracks.
  • Most Wonderful Time of the Year – be sure you are accurate on your part and begin memorizing.




Kyrie Eleison by Ron Kean

  1. Use this recording of the song to get the entire piece in your ear and sing your part along with it to get used to hearing the accompaniment and other part playing with you.  Use the rehearsal tracks below to learn your part separately.
  2. Suggestion:  the tessitura (or the range the majority of the notes lie in) is quite high for the sopranos in the second half of this song.  If it is tiring to practice it, try singing it without words, and instead sing it on “bo” or “ta.”  We will work on ways to sing it more comfortable when we are in rehearsal together.
  3. NOTE:  because this song lies rather high and because there are long phrases requiring incredible breath control, it is imperative that you sing this song often over the next four weeks.  Think of it as strength training or conditioning and sing it at least once every day!



Unending Flame by Paul Carey

  1. In the first half of this song, phrase shaping, breath control and dynamics are going to be really important, since the tempos are slow and the accompaniment is not always full underneath you.  Study your score and mark the places you think we should not breathe, and how we should crescendo and decrescendo the phrases to shape them.  What is the most important word in each phrase?  The phrase should push ahead up to these most important words and then taper off after them.
  2. Learn your part using the rehearsal tracks below.
  3. Pay special attention to the order of the words and where we clap on pgs. 7-12.
  4. Listen to this recording of this song, performed by the children’s choir that commissioned it almost 10 years ago, the Michigan State University Children’s Choir.



The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy

  1. WATCH OUT for the first statement of “And they say that his name was Jesus” in ms. 16.  I’m not convinced this was corrected by everyone, judging by our performance in rehearsal this week!
  2. Go through your score and circle all dynamic markings and stylistic markings (for example, the accents in ms. 42-43).  Then be sure you are singing them that way.  Also – I have asked you for phrase shapings (crescendos and tenutos on the high point of each phrase).  Can you remember what they are and add them to your music?
  3. If it is not memorized already, MEMORIZE this song this week, using the rehearsal tracks below.  

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy-Soprano 1

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy-Low Sop1 Ending

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy-Soprano 2 (Sop in 2-part sections)

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy-Soprano 2 (Alto in 2-part sections)

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy-Alto

Peter, Go Ring-A Dem Bells arr. Jeffery Ames

  1. This week, I would like you to look through your score and circle all the “quiet” dynamics.  It is easy to sing loud – it is more challenging to control the dynamic in quiet moments.  However, these quiet moments can be the most exquisite moments of a song because they provide contrast to the exciting loud dynamics.  I will check next week to see if you know where the quiet places are.
  2. Here is the recording of of the full performance of this song.
  3. Your final run-through of this song was STUNNING in rehearsal last week!  Remember what that felt like and how you discovered it – think about the meaning and importance of the text.  Put yourself in the shoes of the people who would have sung this song and how you would feel singing the words from their perspective.

Soprano 1

Soprano 2 (Soprano in 2-part sections)

Soprano 2 (Alto in 2-part sections


Caribbean Mass (Santo and Agnus Dei)

  1. Use the rehearsal tracks below to ensure accuracy of your part and memorize
  2. The recordings of a performance of the pieces can still be found here: Santo (remember, we will not sing the solo lines) and Agnus Dei.
  3. Listen to these other movements of the mass: Kyrie and Credo,  NOTE:  we are not singing these on the concert.  I just want you to be familiar with them and understand the context of the two movements we are singing with Vocalise (Santo and Agnus Dei).

Santo – Soprano

Santo – Alto


  1. Review and memorize.
  2. There is still a measure or two for each voice part where pitch/rhythm mistakes are being made.  Use the rehearsal tracks below to clean those up and memorize the song.
  3. Be sure to include the hand claps in places they are indicated.

Soprano 1-High (no repeat)

Soprano 1 Low

Soprano 2


Everyone Makes Mistakes

We will sing this at the November Workshop and Family Concert.  Continue to learn this song, and invite your parents and siblings to learn it too!



Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Use these rehearsal tracks to be sure your part is accurate and continue to memorize.



Practicing for next rehearsal in detail: WHAT and HOW

Just a reminder that practice time expectation for the Ensemble choir is 90 minutes per week. Lori recommends this routine:

  • Begin spending a quiet few minutes practicing your breathing, yoga flow and rediscovering your standing alignment (see details below)
  • Whether you decide to practice sitting or standing, make sure your body is aligned for best vocal production and breathing.
  • Warm up for 5-7 min., using warm ups you have learned in choir or from your voice teacher
  • Choose one or two songs to practice and decide what you would like to achieve. I.e., learn a verse well, memorize the lyrics, improve your ability to sing a phrase on one breath or amplify your consonants, etc.
  • For inspiration and great sound reference, listen to the recordings attached to the blog
  • Go on and spend 15-20 min working on songs: phrase by phrase section by section, frequently checking pitch accuracy (on an instrument or your phone.)
  • For the next practice session, choose different pieces but make sure you will cover all of them before Wed.



Continue practicing breathing as follows (5 min a day.) This technique will not only relax and center you but will also greatly improve your ability to sing long sustained phrases.

MInd and body are one continuum, reconnected through breath

  1. Sitting on the floor cross legged, close your eyes and lengthen your spine: crown reaching up/tailbone reaching into the ground, sternum lifted, chest expanded.)
  2. Notice your natural breath for several rounds, while relaxing your abdomen and facial muscles. Notice gentle expansion of the ribs and belly on the inhale.
  3. Empty the lungs completely by pulling the navel close to the spine but keeping the chest up. Inhale slowly and mindfully, filling up with air from bottom to mid- to upper lungs. Exhale slowly pulling the navel in. This is the extended breath.
  4. Continue with extended breath for a few more rounds. Feel your body expanding with shimmering luminous light and contracting into the belly. Notice your body relaxing and feeling lighter.

Standing Pose…

Is the most important pose to learn for anyone who wants to improve his/her singing, posture, health, wellbeing and creativity!

Here is your “template” practice daily and try to keep this posture intact while walking too!

Stand with FEET parallel, feeling “rooted” through the 5 points in connection in both feet

  • Inner heels, outer heels
  • Mounds underneath big toes and little toes
  • Big toes

Activate the arches of feet, relax the KNEES with a microbend

Tap THIGHS to activate them but stay relaxed

Tuck and tip pelvis slightly to find the neutral position of the HIPS: in line with knees and heels

Lift STERNUM noticing the space between hips and RIB CAGE

Relax SHOULDERS down and back (shoulder blades tucking into imaginary pockets)

ARMS relaxed and long, by your side

Reach up through sides of the SKULL, CHIN tucked in, JAW relaxed, NECK elongated.

Gentle smile – – feeling calm, present, rooted to the groups and open to the limitless sky of possibilities.

Our first yoga flow…

Singers and musicians of any kind, athletes of all types, and creative people all over the world have long recognized the power, benefits and joy of yoga. Mindful, fluid movement through yogic poses — a flow — is one of the greatest ways to re-align your body with your mind, to feel calm, joyful and energetic. We will spend about 5 min at each rehearsal practicing different poses — monkeys, pigeons, roosters, green dragons, cats, cows, dogs and sphinxes!

Flow #1 (Forward bend/monkey/chair)

Begin in standing pose (as described above)

Hands together in front, slowly raising them to a forward salute (inhale)

Exhale — forward bend: round the back, release neck, head, arms; let gravity pull you down, stretching the hamstrings, lower back, calves.

PLace hands on lower back, bend knees, chin tucked: slowly unbend – vertebra by vertebra- to standing, neck and head come to place last — this takes INHALE and EXHALE

Slowly bring arms up as before, inhaling — forward salute and forward arch

Exhale- forward bend

INhale — monkey (legs straight but relaxed, spine straight and long,hands on knees, back and head make a “table”

Exhale — forward fold, bend knees

INhale — Chair (knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms raised above head.

Exhale — standing

Exhale into standing.


Happy practicing!  If you ever have questions or need help with an assignment, don’t hesitate to email me at lori@cantabile.org .



October 27, 2017

October 25, 2017/Rehearsal #10

Dear Ensemble, As we draw nearer to the Holidays With Cantabile concert on Dec. 3, I want to encourage each of you to visualize yourself on the stage of the grand California Theater, completely confident that you know your music thoroughly and are eager to share the message or story of each song with your audience.  This wonderful experience can […]
October 21, 2017

October 18, 2017/Rehearsal #9

Dear Ensemble, Thank you for a joyful, productive rehearsal this week.  Every rehearsal you experience some wonderful growth moment, whether it is your vocal sound or your ability to sight read a piece with no help from the piano or your beautiful dramatic expression as you sing.  We are making good progress towards being ready for the holiday concert!  However, […]
October 14, 2017

October 11, 2017/Rehearsal #8

Dear Ensemble, Great work at rehearsal this week!  I very much enjoyed listening to your part tests.  It was a wonderful opportunity to hear your voices individually and get to know the color and tone of your “instrument.”  Each one of you brings something valuable and uniquely YOU to our ensemble and we would not be the same without each […]
October 6, 2017

October 4, 2017/Rehearsal #7

Dear Ensemble, Thank you for a productive and meaningful rehearsal this week.  We did not get to the part-testing I had planned to do, but I felt it was important to take a few minutes to talk about the events in Las Vegas earlier in the week.  Parents, we talked about how it would be normal for singers to be […]
September 30, 2017

September 27, 2017/Rehearsal #6

Dear Ensemble, I can hardly believe this is the blog for WEEK 6 ALREADY!  They say time flies when you’re having fun and you make each rehearsal such fun for me.  It was wonderful to have some of your parents visit this week.  I am looking forward to sharing even more of our rehearsal process with them next month. This […]
September 22, 2017

September 20, 2017/Rehearsal #5

Dear Ensemble, What a joy it was to spend the weekend with you at Retreat!  I was so, so proud of you at the concert – the audience (including all the Cantabile staff) LOVED you and your performance.  There are so many great things in store for us this year as we continue to work and grow together. THIS WEEK…begin […]
September 15, 2017

September 13, 2017/Rehearsal#4

Dear Ensemble, We had a wonderful time meeting with all the parents at the Parent Orientation on Wednesday!  Thank you for your time, parents, and for supporting your singers in their artistic endeavors.  Since we are together at Retreat this weekend, this week’s blog is a summary of what we worked on in rehearsal Wednesday and a review of our […]
September 10, 2017

September 6, 2017/Rehearsal #3

Dear Ensemble, Since I am just now getting the blog out to you on Sunday, your homework will be short this week, but no less important!  Below, you will find rehearsal tracks for several of our songs.  Please take some time to practice with them before Wednesday’s rehearsal, even if it you only go through each song a couple of […]