Vocalise Rehearsal Blog

Dear Vocalise Singers,

Please be sure to read Elena’s wonderful email from Monday night — it is copied at the end of the notes. You are off to a great start this semester with many amazing things to come!



  • You have been asked to practice the alignment — breathing — meditation sequence three times per week, 15 min or more each time! It was reviewed at the beginning of rehearsal. There isn’t one “set way” of doing it but remember what you wish to achieve by the practice:


Light, energetic, flexible body

Calm and clear mind

Curious, playful, welcoming spirit


  • Please, be reminded that Only Aria, Bravi, and VTG are participating in the Gala on Jan. 30th: All other singers will not be singing that night, but all parents are invited and encouraged to attend this festive and important event!
  • We do have rehearsal this coming Monday (11/18), even though it is Martin Luther King Day. Be there!



REMINDER: Please, review the handout you got at the rehearsal: it has precise plan for each rehearsal and the list of current repertoire. There is a lot of music in your folders — notice which ones are a repeat from December (for our February concert at ACDA and recording session) and which are for the festival and the spring concerts. 1st. All music needs to stay fresh in your minds and voices.

11 January Rehearsal Review [Notes courtesy of Megan Tobias–thank you!]


  • Here is a very good recording of the piece
  • Consider the style and character of Tango: Bold, intense, serious, daring.
  • There are no words but you are telling a story, setting the stage, painting a picture. What is your story? Who are the characters in it?
  • We put a lot of work into tuning the chords in the opening section as well as identifying the triads and inversions (m. 1-16)
  • To achieve precise intonation and the instrumental articulation characteristic to this piece, use a small mouth shape, avoid dropping the jaw on any “ah” vowel (ie,  for “pa ram pam…” In short, keep the “ee” shape for all vowels (soprano high notes excluded.)
  • We worked on tuning the notes at the end of each measure by sustaining them — practice this at home please
  • S1 and S2 on the same note m. 38–be sure to get the syncopation!
  • Remember the phrasing we worked on in the middle section–particular S1s
  • S1: work on intervals in m. 57-62
  • Here is a recording to help with your practice

Ain’t No Grave

  • Here is the  recording, for your reference (track is on Spotify)
  • Thank you for your great preparation — please, continue on working on the score, get it sparkling all the way to the end for next Monday!
  • Pay attention to accents and eighth rests (¼ of a second only!)
  • Practice with the body percussion we made up: Stomp on beat 1, clap on beat 4 while singing in rhythm
  • Don’t pronounce the “t” of “ain’t” — stylistic considerations are important for authentic performance!
  • Pull back after accented notes on pp. 8 and 9
  • Altos: sing S1 line on p. 13 (down an octave) — sopranos, that a tacet for you!

Sweet Honey in the Rock

  • This piece is deceptively simple but the style, again, is really hard to catch. But it is a gem — Be sure to really learn your notes and we will jam on it to see where it can take us!
  • Feel and taste the word “sweet” each time — say it slowly and notice the way your lips and mouth moves. It’s really amazing what you can get out of it!
  • Attached is an excellent rendition of this arrangement by Amabile Youth Choir (Canada)

Elena’s Email:

Dear singers,

Tonight is yet another evening when I can’t go to sleep without thanking you for an unforgettable rehearsal.

You continue to amaze me with your spirit, artistry, and attitude.

I love your openness to things that are hard to describe, to feelings and emotions that are deep, complex and mature, and to experiences that require calm and trust in your colleagues and in yourself…


We were digging deep tonight: into the music, the text, the voice… Perhaps, into the meaning of life.

Artistis are explorers of human spirit and human condition. Sharing the truth and beauty is the strongest call of every artist. Mastering our artistry while staying honest and connected to our inner truth is the only way to reach others with the beauty we find.


So there you go: my definition of artists for you, without any help from the Webster Dictionary!


Tonight we experienced art and artistry in several very different ways; each one very meaningful and important.


Libertango (a piece 90% of us know extremely well and have performed it many times) —  we took the piece apart, like a complicated Swiss clock. We took time to admire and to clean every detail of it—

intonations, motives, phrases, rhythms, articulations, harmonies, leaps, dynamics — until it was sparkling and working with all its sophistication and intricacy. We found more in this “old” piece than we ever saw before and that is a fantastic skill

to have. I am so proud of your insight, wisdom and curiosity to dig deeper.


Aint’ No Grave — you rocked it, girls. Many thanks to Gwen for rehearsing it while I was out of the room. Tonight was only the second time we sang it through but you were phenomenal! only at the second rehearsal, we were interpreting, not merely figuring out notes and rhythms.

I am stunned but such a progress which can only come from excellent home practice —  but may be I shouldn’t be? In all honesty, I am quietly envious of myself for having such a glorious choir to work with 🙂 !


And then there was Sweet Honey in the Rock.  I had thought it would fly! I was sure it would be so easy to learn I would have to ask you to sing it backwards to make it challenging, I really was!!

But what do I know?! A score can look like a piece of cake and yet surprise you greatly. We struggled and tried a bunch of things, looking for a path to the right feel and good sound.

You were relaxed and eager to keep exploring. As a leader, I really appreciate such an attitude. I read a wise saying once: “It is by being completely lost that you find the true way.”

In many ways, it is the opposite of what I learned many years ago from my conducting teacher: “A conductor can’t be late or lost!” This, apparently, should apply to conductor’s score AND her life!


Well, both sayings have their merit. As for me, I had a great plan that fell through in Sweet Honey but I utterly enjoyed being lost and trying unplanned things  — with you!


Here is to a glorious semester of taking leaps, spreading the wings of our imagination and curiosity, and digging deep into the meaning of it all!


With all my love and thanks,



January 15, 2016

January 11, 2016/Rehearsal #2

Dear Vocalise Singers, Please be sure to read Elena’s wonderful email from Monday night — it is copied at the end of the notes. You are off to a great start this semester with many amazing things to come! Announcements:   You have been asked to practice the alignment — breathing — meditation sequence three times per week, 15 min […]
January 9, 2016

January 4, 2016/Rehearsal #1

  Dear Vocalise Singers, How exciting it is to begin a new semester. It is going to be a busy one! Please, plan well and stay healthy to enjoy all events and concerts! Here are some of the things we have to look forward to in the next several months:   January 30th: Aria and Bravi perform at Cantabile’s Gala […]
December 3, 2015

November 30, 2015/Rehearsal #13

Dear Vocalise Singers, Thank you for two nights in a row of very hard work! The concert is finally upon us. This week’s blog contains notes and reminders for Sunday, so it is in a slightly different format. Read on to prepare! News and Reminders (many this week–please read them all!!) Holiday Concert — spread the news! Invite your friends, […]
November 24, 2015

November 23rd, 2015/Rehearsal #12

Dear Vocalise Singers, It was a joy to work with you this week while sending Elena healing vibes. Thank you for your focused, dedicated work. You are sounding great. News and Reminders (many this week–please read them all!!) Holiday Concert — spread the news! Invite your friends, teachers, family! California Theatre has 1200 great seats — let’s fill them with […]
November 22, 2015

November 16, 2015/Rehearsal #11

  Dear Vocalise Singers, Elena had a wonderful note for all of you on Tuesday. Please check your email to read it. As a personal note from Laney, I was moved to have even a tiny part in the beautiful message you taped for our friends in Paris. My heart had been heavy all weekend with the events there and […]
November 14, 2015

November 9, 2015/Rehearsal #10

Dear Vocalise Singers, There are only THREE more Vocalise rehearsals left (plus a dress rehearsal) until the concert! Your continued dedication and hardwork are paramount to creating a beautiful finished product. Thank you for all you have done so far, and for all you will do in the next few weeks. News and Reminders (many this week–please read them all!!) […]
November 6, 2015

November 2, 2015/Rehearsal #9

Dear Vocalise Singers, We are inching closer and closer to the concert, and your singing continues to be inspiring, artistic, and uplifting. Thank you for all of the hard work you are putting in at home to make rehearsal such a rewarding experience. News and Reminders (many this week–please read them all!!) Workshop, Concert, and Family Potluck is on Saturday, […]
October 29, 2015

October 26, 2015/Rehearsal #8

Dear Vocalise Singers, Continued wonderful work! News and Reminders Please, bring your yoga mat to every rehearsal–no more towels!   Please continue to stay abreast of the memory schedule and work at home! Read the whole blog for notes about practice for next week.   Remember: As a member of Vocalise, you are responsible for keeping everything we have accomplished […]