Ensemble Rehearsal Blog

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 experiencing many emotions after such an event – shock, sadness, fear, anxiety.  Many of the singers shared how their teachers at school had been working with them and giving them ways to process these emotions.  At Ensemble rehearsal, we talked about what we could do, here in our own little corner of the world, about such a tragedy.  I shared a quote with the singers from Leonard Bernstein, a great American composer and conductor, who had these words to say in response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy back in 1963:

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.  And with each note we will honor his spirit, commemorate his courage and reaffirm his faith in the triumph of the mind.  

Here, Bernstein was speaking of Kennedy, but I suggested to the singers that perhaps we could dedicate our rehearsal to honor the people who lost their lives in Las Vegas.  Those folks will never know that we did this for them, but in doing so, we keep their stories alive and let them not be forgotten.

So, let us continue to make music intensely, beautifully and devotedly!



  • Add yoga positions of monkey and chair to your yoga flow each time you practice, or perhaps practice your yoga flow first thing every morning or just before bed each night.  Regular practice of yoga and meditation are important elements of your practice routine.  Descriptions of monkey and chair poses are below.
  • Peter Go Ring-A Dem Bells – ensure that your part is accurate and memorize the whole by next week, October 11
  • The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy – be ready for part testing of p. 9-end
  • Amani – be sure to add the hand claps to this song as you sing
  • Unending Flame – review your part as best you can using recording below
  • Caribbean Mass (Santo and Agnus Dei) – review and keep listening to recording below


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.



Peter, Go Ring-A Dem Bells

Here is the recording of of the full performance of this song.


  • Be sure you are accurate on your part.  Then memorize by repeating the song a section at a time.  I like to start at the end of a song (ie, ms. 114-end), repeat it several times without looking at my music, then go to the section just before that (ie, ms. 95-113) and repeat it several times.  Then join those two sections together without looking at your music.  Keep adding sections on until you reach the beginning of the piece.  Remember to memorize dynamics, too!

NOTE:  if any recording file tells you you need permission to access, go ahead and request permission.  I will open it to you as soon as possible.

Soprano 1

Soprano 2 (Soprano in 2-part sections)

Soprano 2 (Alto in 2-part sections



The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy


Concentrate on the section of this song that has 3-part division: p. 9-12.  Use these rehearsal tracks:

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


Unending Flame by Paul Carey


  • 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.
  • Do your best to start learning your part using the recording.


Caribbean Mass (Santo and Agnus Dei)

  • Listen to the two movements we will be singing with Vocalise here: Santo (remember, we will not sing the solo lines) and Agnus Dei.  Review your part and memorize.
  • Listen to these other movements of the mass: Kyrie and Credo, which both have wonderful steel drum band playing along!  Experiment with moving and dancing while you listen – remember where your hips are and move them, too!


  • Annual Cantabile Gala:  your singer should have given you a packet of information about this year’s gala and fundraising auction on Wednesday after rehearsal.  We request your help putting together a fantastic auction for this event and invite you to attend the gala in February to support the wonderful programs of Cantabile..
  • Tour to Anaheim: Registration is now open on the member portion of the website.  As a reminder, we need to register by October 15th.  Register soon – you do not want to miss this exciting Ensemble tour!
  • NOTE: your singer should have given you a paper copy of the packet of Carnegie Hall-New York City Tour information this week.  This is a fantastic opportunity to sing in one of the greatest concert halls in the world, visit areas of NYC that are rich in musical history and visit other important and awe-inspiring landmarks.  Registration is open and the deadline to register is October 31st.
  • Next Open Rehearsal will be Wednesday, October 18th.  This month, we will invite you to come earlier at 6:00 so you can observe more of our regular rehearsal.  Also this evening, we will hold a Tour Orientation from 6:45-7:00 pm.  You won’t want to miss hearing about the exciting upcoming tour(s).

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



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 […]
September 1, 2017

Week of August 30, 2017/Rehearsal #2

Dear Ensemble, Thank you for a wonderful night of music making on Wednesday!  I so appreciated your focus, hard work and beautiful sound! Parents, please be sure to read the announcements at the bottom of the blog.  There is A LOT of interesting and essential information there you will want/need to know. Singers, I would like you to begin using […]
August 26, 2017

August 23, 2017/Rehearsal #1

Dear Ensemble, Welcome to the 23rd season of Cantabile and a new season for Ensemble!  I hope you are as filled with excitement and anticipation as I am for the year ahead.  It was wonderful  to finally see your beautiful faces and hear you sing.  You all are destined for great things! I appreciated your enthusiastic participation in the Name […]
April 28, 2017

Rehearsal #16/April 26, 2017

Dear Ensemble, We are now in the home stretch!  We have one more week until the concert.  For some of you, that’s good news, and for some of you, it’s now or never to learn your music!  Please spend quality time with your scores in front of you this week, practicing everything from producing your most beautiful sound, to communicating […]