Rehearsal #2/January 11, 2017

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January 14, 2017
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January 20, 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:

  1. If you want to go fast, go solo.  If you want to go far – go together.  In Ensemble, we want to far, which means we need to go together.  We spent valuable time this past week teaching sections that could have been learned at home.  It wasn’t a bad use of time, and everyone was learning while we learned the Alto’s part, but we can only go as fast as the slowest member of our team.  As such, make sure you’re taking your valuable time at home to learn your part (correctly!) so that we don’t have to spend time in rehearsal learning it.  We will get much farther, much faster this way.  Plus, then we get to spend more time doing the fun stuff – interpreting the music!
  2. Chunking: Elena spent some great time with all of you chunking out your parts for Earthsongs.  When you’re learning notes and rhythms (especially hard ones like in the third movement) break your parts into little motives (or groups) of three or four notes, and then practice repeating those groups over and over again.  Do you remember what three parts of your body are creating muscle memory when you do this?  This is an excellent (and highly productive) way to learn (and practice) your music, and a skill that every professional musician uses as well!
  3. Vowels and Tone: While we did not explicitly address this this week in rehearsal, it was evident that the vast majority of you were singing with beautiful, pure vowels, and a rich, warm tone.  While you practice this week, make sure you are using tall vowels for words such as “brightness” (with a tall “ah”), “poetry” (with a pure “oh”), “bliss” (with more of an “eh” vowel instead of a spread “ee”) etc.  It makes a huge difference in the beauty of your tone and your blend when your vowels are pure and aligned.   

Action Items and expectations for next Rehearsal, January 18th:

  • Learn your parts for all three movements of Earth Songs – see below for details
  • Review your part for Kusimama, including watching the video for the choreography
  • Review and practice Sing Legato #6 – including dancing!


Kusimama (Stand Tall), Jim Papoulis

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

  • All of your notes and rhythms should be learned by next week – this is a simple song.  
  • Altos you have the fun parts of this song (m.6, m.8 etc.)- don’t make Elena spend time with you next week working on these measures.  We want this group to go far – together – but that means that you need to be 100% solid on your own parts.  
  • Remember the keys to your syncopations: shorter sounds on every note that precedes a rest, along with plenty of space on the rests themselves.  This is what gives the piece its lively, grooving feel.   
  • Alto’s: make your notes a true tenuto in phrases such as m.6 and m.10, with a slight decrescendo after each note.  This should be in contrast with phrases such as m. 8 and m. 12 which are accented.
  • Mark or highlight which “mimi kusimama”s have different rhythms that what you expect and make sure you know right where they are in the form.  Some of them come after page turns, so mark them on the page before you turn it.  
  • If you have the notes and rhythms learned, start working on adding in the body percussion as well (only that which is written in the score – we’ll work on the full choreography later in the semester).
  • Watch this great recording of Cantabile performing this back in 2013, and start to get a feel for the additional movements.    

Earth Songs – The World is Full of Poetry, David Brunner

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 (vs. singing more or less the right notes).
    • The beginning to m.41 should be forever learned and solid, and Elena should never have to teach you those notes again! 😉
  • Pay close attention to where it splits into three (and even four!) parts, and where the two voice parts are in unison (even when they are written on two lines) and when they are in harmony: mark it in your score.
    • As a reminder the following people are singing Alto 2: Chris, Saman, Emily, Casey Chen, Sophie, and Quincy
  • The word “brightness” appears in a few different rhythmic representations.  Write in your counts above each one so you know exactly where to place the “t” and “s” of each syllable.
  • Additionally, mark in your score when the pickup in your phrase is a quarter note (m.46) or an eighth note (m.9)
  • As we discussed, the ‘alto’ part is quite high in this piece.  Make sure that you’re taking full, relaxed breaths before each phrase to help produce those notes with the most beautiful tone possible.  Don’t force them from the bottom – allow them to come up and out of the top back of your head.
  • Can you remember where the four different sections of this movement are?  Mark them in your score.  And what did we call the last statement of “The world is full of poetry…”?  The coda!
  • 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 read through this piece together last week.  Please keep learning your parts this week, and be ready to sing through this next week – use your chunking method!
  • M.84-m.88 pay close attention to this section, as there are slightly different notes each time the words “May all creatures…” come back in.  Make sure you’re singing the correct notes!  
  • Thinking ahead: What do you want your tone color for this movement to sound like?  Is it going to be the same or different than the first movement?  What do you want to communicate to your audience, given the words of this piece, and the tonality that it’s written in?  What are you going to need to do differently with your voice in order to communicate that?  Be thinking about these things as you continue learning this movement this week.

Earth Songs – We Join With the Earth, David Brunner

  • As you’re learning your parts this week, mark in your music where you have stepwise motion, and where you have leaps – especially when the leaps are to notes that aren’t common.  (A ‘common’ leap would be sol – do, or do – mi, etc.  An ‘uncommon’ leap would be in m.108, fa – ti, in “re-fresh”.)  This should help you not accidentally learn wrong notes just because it’s what your voice wants to sing (instead of what’s actually written).  
  • Be methodical and go slowly if you need to.  It’s better to learn accurate pitches the first time around, than it is to learn the incorrect pitches quickly, then have to unlearn them and try and re-learn the right ones.
  • As a reminder, at m.126 the divisi is as follows:
    • Treble Ia – Soprano 1
    • Treble Ib – Soprano 2
    • Treble IIa – Alto 1
    • Treble IIb – Alto 2
  • While you are practicing see if you can imagine where in the song we are “standing with the Earth” and when we are circling the Earth as an independent planet.  Why did you pick the places that you did?  What about them is different that other sections?  How will you communicate those distinctions in your singing?  

Review: Breathing meditation, standing position and a Yoga flow

Continue practicing breathing as follows (5 min a day.) It’s been wonderful to see how many of you list yoga on your practice logs each week! 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.

Other announcements and reminders:

  • Musicianship Homework: Make sure you are turning in your musicianship books each week!  Many of you forgot last week.  Please make up your missed work and turn it in to Hannah next 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.
  • Carpooling: Please use this spreadsheet to both request and offer carpooling to and/or from weekly rehearsals, events (eg. Potluck) and concerts. The more of our families that use this resource, the more useful it will be to our community. If you can offer a carpool – please add yourself to the list. Thank you!

Question from above: Do you remember what three parts of your body are creating muscle memory when you chunk and repeat sections)?

Answer: The three parts of your body that are creating muscle memory when you chunk and repeat sections are: your eyes – as they read the notes, your ears – as they listen to your vocal production, and your vocal chords – as they sing the music.  Many research studies suggest that part of the reasons musicians are so much “smarter” (and have better memory recall) is because they are used to learning in all three modalities – aurally (through listening), visually (through seeing), and kinesthetically (through doing with their bodies).  

Thank you for all of your wonderful concert title ideas – please keep them coming!  We have no doubt that – when we are all going as fast as we can on our own – that we will indeed get very far – together.  After all, while making music can be fun on your own, we know that it’s always so much more fun when we do it with the people we love (which is each and every one of you!)

Much love,

Elena and Jazmine

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