Ensemble Rehearsal Blog

Dear Ensemble,

Thank you for your focus and effort in last Wednesday’s rehearsal.  I am delighted to see the honest work that you are putting in at home, and the focus and love that you are putting into our time together.  As I mentioned in rehearsal, we are now half way through our Spring semester together, so while we have made great progress, we still have more work to do!
Action Items and expectations for next Rehearsal, March 15th:

  1. Below are the videos from rehearsal last week.  Watch each of them and listen to what you hear.  Come to class ready to discuss what went well, and what didn’t.  (I apologize that they are cut so oddly – the camcorder started and stopped in odd places!) 🙁
    1. The Wind
    2. Shine On Me
    3. There Has To Be A Song
    4. Earth Songs (minus the ending, sorry folks – it got clipped!) 🙁
  2. Finish memorizing Wind, beginning to end (see notes below on a few things that came up in rehearsal this week)
  3. Memorize Shine on Me, beginning to end
  4. Memorize The earth is full of poetry from Earth Songs including ms. 126 to the end that we worked on together!
  5. Finish learning There Has To Be A Song: practice it with the accompaniment and have it 100% solid for next week.
  6. Make sure to bring your practice log: dates and times of your practice, and the songs you practiced.
  7. Practice choreo for Kusimama if you mean to perform it at the concert, you have to learn the dance. No exceptions.
  8. Review Turn the World Around (see notes on the piece below)
  9. As a reminder, you should be at the following levels of preparedness for each song, meaning “right notes, right rhythms and right words”:
    1. Shine on Me: 100% and MEMORIZED
    2. In Safety and Bliss: 100%
    3. We Join With the Earth: 100% (including the ending!!)
    4. The Wind: 100% Memorized
    5. Kusimama: 100%
    6. Turn The World Around: 75% up to m. 41 and m.73-end
    7. The Earth is Full of Poetry: 100% and Memorized

Key ideas from the last rehearsal:

  1. We are halfway to our concert. We spent some time visualizing where we want to be when we perform these pieces in eight weeks.  Some of you are on track to get there in time, others of you, not as much.  When you practice this week, spend more time on the parts and pieces that you don’t know as well.  The only one in charge of your success is YOU!
  2. In reviewing our footage from Wednesday night, we have lost some of the beauty in our tone.  Remember – more than anything else – you’re most important job as a musician is to sing with a beautiful sound.  When you practice this week, strive for a beautiful sound above all other things.  Make sure you are breathing deeply and fully, your mouth and throat are relaxed, and your vowels are tall and pure.  Also – you can not be afraid when you sing this music.  When you second guess yourself, your breath support (and therefore tone quality) is the first thing to suffer.  The best remedy is to really know your stuff!
  3. Once musicians learn and understand the source, they must WHOLEHEARTEDLY and COURAGEOUSLY commit to practicing and performing the music with the its true spirit.
  4. Performers are explorers of the human soul: We must constantly change ourselves to stretch the boundaries of our comfort zone, and to sing with every ounce of energy and sincerity we have.  Practice “Shine On Me” with our arms (and hearts) outstretched in joy and elation, as we did in rehearsal. Practice as if you were on stage performing for the entire world every time you open your mouth.  Not every song is a happy one, not every song is as deep and moving as the spiritual that we’re singing, but every song deserves your 100% dedication and commitment to making it magical.   


Earth Songs – We Join With The Earth, David Brunner  

  • You MUST keep working on your part from m.126 to the end.  We made good progress this week, and it was 80% there when we left Wednesday night.  But you MUST practice this section over and over again so it sticks in your muscle memory!  
  • The build up between m.126 and m.131 is the climax of this entire song.  Breathe deeply and let those lines soar (with a beautiful tone, of course!)
  • Practice transitioning between m.132 and m.136/m.137.  Its a tricky transition to change tonalities between E Dorian (in m.126-m.131) and E Major (in m.136) – especially those D#’s – so it needs extra love and care.


The Wind, Rich Campbell

You will be singing this song on your own at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • Altos: m.46 please sure you are singing a “B” and not an “A”!!
  • There needs to be more distinction between the sections: m.36 needs to be “sassy”, the chorus needs to be accented and syncopated, m.65 needs to be lyrical and beautiful.  Right now they all sound the same!
    • Phrasing and breath support: m.66-m.84 should be sung with long sustained phrases.  Don’t breath every three or four notes.  Sneak a breath when you need to throughout the line.
    • Remember your “accents baby” every time the chorus comes around.  Use your fingers (or better yet, your whole body) to give those sections some life!
  • Vowels on the beat, consonants before the beat.  This piece is still dragging because you’re late with your vowels – don’t be!
  • Double check those notes from m.100 – end!!
  • Lyrical diction: when you practice make sure your vowels are nice and tall.  Use your vertical hand pointing up then forward to remind you on words like “a-round”.  This also applies on words such as “skirts” (“skeh” instead of “skur”), “did”, “sky” etc.
  • Practice with a metronome: the song drags quite a bit because you’re not used to the correct tempo.  Half note = 74 bpm for the versus and 84 bpm for the choruses


Shine on Me, Tradition Spiritual, Arr. Rollo Dilworth

You will be singing this with everyone as the closing piece at the All Choir Concert.

  • THANK YOU for the honesty and courage you showed in rehearsal last week!  Keep practicing with the same intensity, vulnerability and commitment that you demonstrated to me, and your fellow singers!  
  • Continue learning and memorizing your part, constantly checking the the pitch you’re singing is the correct harmony, and not just what you think it is!
    • Check your pitches in m.39 (going into the key changes) and in the last two bars.
  • As a reminder, we will all sing the melody (top line) the first time through m.40, then we add a repeat sign back to m.6 and sing the harmonies.
  • Remember to make this a conversation between the Soprano descant and the Alto melody.
  • Word stress and repetition: whenever you have a series of 8th notes (i.e. m.27) there should be a slight and natural word stress on the strong beats: aka beats 1, 4, and 7 in 9-8, or the syllable “won” on each downbeat.  The arranger even wrote in tenuto markings throughout your score to remind you – please observe them!
  • Watch out for the “blue notes” such as the Alto C# in m.12, the Sop 2 D# in 19, and the Sop 1 C# in m.30 (etc.) and make sure they are accurate and in tune!
  • You can listen to an excellent recording here.


There Has To Be A Song, by Andrea Ramsey (from last week)

You will be singing this with everyone as the closing piece at the All Choir Concert.

  • Start learning your part – the notes and rhythms aren’t hard!
  • Pay close attention to when the notes are quarter notes, and when they are eighth notes followed by eighth note rests.  The composer made them that way for a reason!
  • Most of this song is in unison, except for m.16-m.17, m.33-m.34, m.39-m.45, m.49., m.63-m.66, and m.73-3nd  Make sure you learn the right part!
  • You can listen to an excellent recording here.  (Please listen to the audio file of the Lawrence Children’s Choir, conducted by Janeal Krehbiel.  It is the small triangle ‘play button’ listed above the You Tube video of the Santa Barbara Men’s Choir).   

Earth Songs – In Safety and Bliss, David Brunner  

  • We made some good progress on this piece this week!
  • M.88-end has gotten better with entrances and cut-offs, but too many of you are relying on the person singing next to you, or your conductor.  Please spend meaningful time with this movement this week!. Mark which beat you come in on, and which beats your cut off on with your “blissful hearts”.  
  • Isolate your leaps and practice them over and over, making them as smooth and legato as possible.  They still sound quite awkward and out of tune. (Ex: m.84 E to C#, m.85 E to D# etc.)
  • Just like with Turn the World Around, keep a steady beat (ideally with an eighth note subdivision) somewhere in your body.  This will help with keeping your place for your entrances and cut offs.


Turn the World Around, Harry Belafonte and Robert Freedman, Arr. Larry Farrow (from last week)

You will be singing this with Vocalise at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • Continue learning your part from the beginning to m.41.  In addition, start learning your part from m.73 to m.85
    • Sopranos: don’t worry about the high Bb at the end – we will address that next week.
  • Keep a steady beat somewhere on your body (feet, leg, chest etc.) to help with your syncopated rhythms.  
  • Also!  There is an important divisi to note.  M.13-16 Alto 1s sing the tenor line. (Alto 2s continue singing the alto line.)
  • Please do not work on any other sections of this piece as there are important divisi to be assigned which we do in class.  
  • Watch this fantastic video!
  • As a reminder, this song is an African folk song from Guinea about the origins of mankind, and how the elements (fire, water, mountains, earth) are what we are all made of.  The composer reminds us that we are only here for a short time, and that it’s important for us to truly know and understand each other, as we are not very different from each other.  And that from that love and understanding, we can turn the world around.  


Earth Songs – The World is Full of Poetry, David Brunner (from last week)

You will be singing this with Vocalise at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • Keep learning your parts for this movement, making sure that you are singing exactly the right notes in places such as m.35 and m.57
  • Please review m.55 to the end for correct notes.
  • This week in your practicing start adding in word stress, tone color etc.  
  • You can listen to a great recording of the 1st movement (“The World is Full of Poetry”) by the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir, on their album called Homeland on Spotify.  (The track is titled “The World is Full of Poetry from Earthsongs (David L. Brunner)”.)

Other announcements and reminders:

  • Wind Recordings: We are almost finished reviewing and making comments on your Wind Recordings.  Watch out for emails next week about them, and thank you for your hard work!
  • Musicianship Homework: Make sure you are turning in your musicianship books each week!  Please make up your missed work and turn it in to Hannah every week!
  • Practice Log: As a reminder, please record the day you’ve opened the blog, when you’re practicing, for how long, and what you’re practicing in each session.  During practice, focus your attention on details by following blog instructions for each song.  Bring your completed practice log with you to the next rehearsal.  You can now use this Cantabile Practice Log to record your practicing each week.  

Remember – we are halfway there.  We have 8 more rehearsals in which to polish and perfect every note, rhythm, word, shape, phrase, dynamic, articulation, chord, color, and emotion in these pieces.  You know what you need to do to get yourselves there – now go do it! 🙂

You have our love and support!

Elena and Jazmine

March 10, 2017

Rehearsal #9/March 8th, 2017

Dear Ensemble, Thank you for your focus and effort in last Wednesday’s rehearsal.  I am delighted to see the honest work that you are putting in at home, and the focus and love that you are putting into our time together.  As I mentioned in rehearsal, we are now half way through our Spring semester together, so while we have […]
March 4, 2017

Rehearsal #8/March 1st, 2017

Dear Ensemble, Great to see that most  of you made good progress toward solid preparation of the concert music. Having to record The Wind made it absolutely necessary for you to give attention to detail and to reflect on your work.   We still have lots of work to do on all of our songs, KEEP UP THE PRACTICE!   […]
February 18, 2017

Rehearsal #7/February 15th, 2017

Dear Ensemble, We had another good week, but unfortunately, we are still spending too much time teaching notes and rhythms that can be learned at home.  We trust that you have the skills needed to have successful practice sessions at home, and we are holding you to the expectation that you are going to be able to take over that […]
February 9, 2017

Rehearsal #6/February 7, 2017

Dear Ensemble singers, Happy sunny Sunday! Hope you are having a a day of “safety and bliss” 🙂 First of all, thank you for the great leap forward in your musical preparation and singing engagement! I missed the Feb. 1st rehearsal and was thrilled to see and hear the progress you made. Well done! As Jazmine was very busy last […]
February 4, 2017

Rehearsal #4/February 1st, 2017

Dear Ensemble, Thank you for your presence, your courage, and your cooperation on Wednesday night.  You are making progress both individually, and as a group, and it was wonderful to see the work that so many of you have put into your music.  Our hope moving forward is that we can continue to build upon the work that you do […]
January 28, 2017

Rehearsal #3/January 20, 2017

Dear Ensemble, Thank you for the focus, attention, and care that you poured into Wednesday night’s rehearsal.  It is one of or favorite days of the week because of who each of you are – passionate, hardworking, brilliant young people who love music as much as we do.  We’re looking forward to deepening in that love of music together, but […]
January 21, 2017

Rehearsal #3/January 20, 2017

Dear Ensemble, We had a another wonderful night together learning new music and new choreography.  I truly want you to know how much it means to us that you’re willing to give 100% of your focus and energy to your rehearsal.  Those are the trademarks of professional musicians (and wonderful human beings!) 🙂  Please see below for your action items […]
January 14, 2017

Rehearsal #2/January 11, 2017

Dear Ensemble, Thank you for a great night of focused, meaningful rehearsal.  It was great to see the work that so many of you have already invested in your music, and we’re both excited to see just how far you can take yourselves – and your team – this semester! Key ideas and Concepts addressed this week: If you want […]