What a wonderful night together this week! Even though we were missing quite a few people, you cam together with such love, devotion, and expression, it was quite inspiring! Please keep up the good work at home – we only have a few weeks left until our concert!
Action Items and expectations for next rehearsal, April 12th. Remember to practice with your best vocal technique at all times:
- Continue memorizing “We Are A Circle” including harmonies
- Listen to this recording to help your memorization
- Review choreo to Kusimama
- Practice “Turn The World Around” — all notes, rhythms, words, dynamics and styles (marcato, tenuto, accents etc.)
- Memorize “There Has To Be A Song” (see notes below)
- Review the ending of “EarthSongs”.
- By now “Wind”, “EarthSongs”, and “Shine On Me” should be fully memorized. Practice them at home, focusing on the quality of your sound, and capturing the different tone colors needed for each piece.
- Make sure to bring your practice log: dates and times of your practice, and the songs you practiced.
- As a reminder, you should be at the following levels of preparedness for each song, meaning “right notes, right rhythms, and right words”:
- We Are A Circle: 100% learned
- Shine on Me: 100% and MEMORIZED
- In Safety and Bliss: 100% MEMORIZED
- We Join With the Earth: 100% MEMORIZED (including the ending!!)
- The Wind: 100% MEMORIZED
- Kusimama: 100% MEMORIZED (including choreo!!)
- Turn The World Around: 100% – working on Memorization
- The Earth is Full of Poetry: 100% and MEMORIZED
Key ideas from rehearsal:
- Connect with the text, yourself, and your audience.
After we ran “The Wind”, we stopped to discuss why it is that we must connect with the text, ourselves, and our audience. We talked about the Syrian refugee children who need to remember what it feels like to be a child, or the undocumented family who needs to feel hope again through “Shine”. This week – find someone to sing this song for, and figure out what message you have to offer them through your song. Use your face, your eyes, your body, your mouth to communicate the message of the song to them. This is one of my (Jazmine’s) favorite quotes about the importance of what we do, and why we must do it to the best of our abilities:
“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at 2:00am someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8:00pm someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft…” – Karl Paulnack, Music Division Director, and member of the Piano Faculty, Boston University.
- Diction: as you know very well, singing diction is very different from speaking. Often called “lyric diction”, the singing diction requires exaggeration of most consonants and, in many cases, modification of vowels in the text. In Cantabile, we work on diction at every single rehearsal and with a ferocious sense of focus. Since none of us have to use this exaggerated kind of speech in everyday life, it takes much practice to create a habit of using it in singing. Remember: consonants communicate information, vowels communicate emotion. Use both of them to connect with the text, yourself, and your audience (above!). (Please also see last week’s post with more information on this!)
- Start at the end (or the difficult parts) and work backwards: You know the sections that you know very well. You MUST spend time with the sections you don’t know so well this week. Start with the endings of each of the pieces. Start with the sections that you don’t feel 200% confident on. DO NOT spend time going over things that you already know. Once you have mastered the hard sections, then add in the others.
- Matching your sound to the style of music and the meaning of text: We spent a good deal of time getting a light, beautiful, gentle tone in EarthSongs. When you practice this week, pay attention to the color and tone that you are using. Alto’s especially, don’t use a heavy, forced sound when the music doesn’t call for it. Practice changing the words (“lightness”, “brightness”, etc) and using your hands and body to keep your tone light and gentle – sing through sparkly eyes and let go of those sandbags! Always practice with good singing posture, breath deeply and fully with your mouth and throat relaxed. Make vowels are tall, warm and round.
- Move beyond the notes and rhythms: Almost all of our music is learned on the “notes and rhythms layers”. We expect that you fully understand and apply musical concepts such as phrasing, word stress, articulation, dynamics, and style. In your home practice, make sure to pay attention to these important details. Memorize dynamics, tempi and articulation (legato, staccato, tenuto etc.) just as you memorize notes and words.
We Are a Circle, Joan Szymko
This will be the opener for the All Choir Concert
- Some of you knew your parts quite well on Wednesday, but not all of you. You should have your part learned 100% by next week. Use the methods we’ve taught you – deep practice and chunking – to learn (and memorize) your parts. This must be done in order for us to move forward on this piece.
- A reminder: we are singing this in two bar phrases. Please do NOT breath between “circle” and “within” or between “beginning” and “and”. You should breath between “circle” and “with”.
- Pay attention to your dynamic markings, especially between different verses, and including crescendos throughout verses.
- Annunciate your consonants on words like “hearts”, “circle”, “fire” etc. (See No. 2 above!)
- Altos, hold the last note of m.18 all the way to the downbeat of m.20
- Just like “Shine”, this song must be sung with full commitment, fervor, and passion, even (and especially!) in the soft sections. Practice this way at home!
The Wind, Rich Campbell
You will be singing this song on your own at the All Choir Concert this Spring.
- You made excellent progress on this and it’s coming together nicely. Keep up the good work!
- Most noticeably your expression and ability to connect with the text took off this week – continue practicing that way at home, and in front of a mirror. See No. 1 above!
- As we discussed, 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. Right now there are HUGE gaps between “so” and “strong”, and “of” and “field”. Sneak a breath when you need to, but not between those words!
- 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!
- 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.
Earth Songs – The World is Full of Poetry, David Brunner
You will be singing this with Vocalise at the All Choir Concert this Spring.
- Your tone was much better this week. Continue practicing lifting your soft pallets, singing with sparkly eyes, and use your hands to help you create the proper sound. (And thank you for fixing wrong notes from last week!)
- Review word stress (poetry), tone color, and tall vowels (“brightness”) as your practice this week. Continue to connect with the text and share that emotion in your face and body. (No.1 above)
- 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)”.)
Earth Songs – In Safety and Bliss, David Brunner
- We’ve mentioned this several times before, but some of you are still singing wrong notes. Check your notes in m.84 m.87:
- M.84 E-C of “May all”
- M.85 E-D of “May all”
- M.86 A-G-E of “be of a”
- M.86 E of “all”
- M.86 E-E of “May all”
- M.87 B-G-E-D of “be of a bliss”
- M.97 Atlos: hold your “heart” all the way until the downbeat of m.98
- M.88-end has gotten better with entrances and cut-offs, but we had a small wreck this week. Use your music when you practice – mark which beat you come in on, which beats your cut off on with your “blissful hearts” and make sure you hold your notes for their FULL VALUE (m.88, m.89, m.97)
- As we’ve mentioned before – focus on your diction this week:
- Fricative consonants such as “FFrail” and “FFirm”
- Ending consonants such as “heart” and “exsist”
- Tall vowels in “all”, “creatures” and “bliss”
Earth Songs – We Join With The Earth, David Brunner
- Remember the color, tone, expression, and meaning of this song is entirely different than the movement before it. Your body, face, and eyes need to communicate that from the first note of the movement.
- Please focus on the following two sections this week, using deep practice and repetition:
- m. 126-m.136 (its better, but everyone must know it!)
- 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.
- This movement requires a much more graceful, gentle, lighter tone than the movement before it – breathe deeply, but don’t force or push the tone.
- Altos; sing m.124 -m.126 (including the D pick up) down the octave.
Turn The World Around, Harry Belafonte and Robert Freedman, arr. Larry Farrow
You will be singing this with Vocalise toward the end of the All Choir Concert in May. It’s an earthy and joyful piece – it needs to overflow with life and passion!
- You are very close to having this down solid!
- This week, practice your transitions between phrases: this was where we fell apart last night. IE: practice end of m.40 and stop on the downbeat of m.41.
- Altos: You keep singing a “D” instead of an “F” at m.41. You MUST practice JUST this transition until you can’t sing it wrong!!
- Remember that “a-roun-duh” should have a shadow vowel on it’s final consonant.
- Pay attention to your dynamic markings – they will also help you memorize your road map, and make the piece much more interesting! There are also quite a few crescendos and decrescendos (m. 41-m.44, m.57-m.60 etc) that we didn’t even get to discuss in rehearsal. Please practice them!!
- Remember the contrasting section of m.45 – its marked “Suspenseful”!
- Also, the words “clearly” in m.50 should be long and legato
- At m.55 separate each note, rather than slurring through the line.
- Clean cutoffs, crisp articulation, and big spaces: in sections such as m.41-m.44, m.45-m.52 (staccato means separated, not short!) and m.53-m.54 etc.
- Watch this fantastic video!
Shine on Me, Tradition Spiritual, Arr. Rollo Dilworth
You will be singing this with everyone as the closing piece at the All Choir Concert.
- GREAT WORK on this at rehearsal! It was inspiring to watch you all sing with such openness, honesty, and passion! Keep it up!
- M.15 – “me”, m.19 – “will” and m.20 – “on”: there are three different notes for each of those words, not one dotted quarter note.
- Your ending consonants such as “t” in “light”, and your fricative consonants such as “shinning” are very important throughout the song – focus on them this week.
- Add a sforzando crescendo on the final note.
- Practice your “heel” motions this week, keeping your frame straight and aligned while you move!
- You can listen to an excellent recording here.
You are singing this with Intermediate at the All Choir Concert in the Spring
- Before you practice with the choreo this week, you must spend time with just your score in front of you, reviewing your notes and the form of the piece.
- Your movements for this pieces need to be strong, precise, on the beat, and uniform. Practice in front of a mirror at all times!!
- Please review this video of Cantabile performing it in 2013.
- Remember – you are the “big kids” on this song, as you’re singing it with Intermediate. There isn’t going to be Vocalise there to “make up for you” if you don’t know it. Intermediate is counting on YOU to lead them!
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.
- You’ve made good progress on this piece, but it’s not quite there yet.
- Pay close attention to when the notes are quarter notes, and when they are eighth notes followed by eighth note rests.
- Articulation: there are tenedos, slurs, and staccatos throughout the piece that aren’t happening. EX: m.17-m.20 etc.
- Please see No. 2 above about your diction throughout this piece: it needs to be over articulated in order to have the words sing through the melody – especially your ending consonants!!!
- 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)
Other announcements and reminders:
- Location Change: Our rehearsal (and Musicianship classes) on Wednesday, May 3rd will be held at First United Methodist Church Palo Alto (625 Hamilton Ave.)
- Dress Rehearsal: Thursday, May 4th at 5:00pm, First United Methodist Church Palo Alto (625 Hamilton Ave.) in full concert attire! Dismissal is scheduled for approximately 7:30pm.
- All Choir Concert: Saturday, May 6th at First United Methodist Church Palo Alto (625 Hamilton Ave.). Call time is 11:30am in full concert dress. Concert starts at 1pm and should complete between 3pm and 3:30pm, with a short reception to follow.
- Concert Tickets: Buy your All Choir & Spring Concert tickets now!
- End of Year Musicianship Evaluations: End of Year Musicianship Written Tests will be administered next week, April 12th. PLEASE BE ON TIME TO CLASS!! In addition, answer sheets for the ear training portion of the test will go home as well. The sight singing portion has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 19th. This is not something to stress over – simply do your best. The best thing to do to help you study is to complete your musicianship books and turn them in each week with your practice log. Please email me if you have any questions.
Remember – a professional musician is one who can get up on stage and communicate with their whole beings from before the very first note! You have so much love to share – so much joy, beauty, community, hope, and compassion. You must now commit yourself to sharing it full out, in every song, and with everything that you have – your mind, your face, your body, and your voice. We know you can do it!!
All our love,
Elena and Jazmine