Vocalise Blog #11: 3/27/2017

March 27 – Bravi / VTG Rehearsal #10
March 30, 2017
Intermediate Blog # 12 Thursday March 30th
March 31, 2017

Vocalise Blog #11: 3/27/2017

Dear singers:

What an experience to work with Joan Szymko on her music, as well as some of our other repertoire.  We’d like each of you to spend some time this week, during your practice, reflecting on our time with her.  What did you learn?  What new insights did you gain?  Did Joan make anything “click” by saying it in a different way than you might otherwise hear from your conductors?  Did she leave you with further questions about her music or the art of choral singing in general?  What inspiration did you find in her intensity and dedication to music and passion for the natural world?  Did her approach to music and poetry (and the interplay of both) lead to any discoveries about her music, or any of the other pieces on this program?

Jace and Elena

Action Items for next Monday:

  1. PICTURES and VIDEO at next rehearsal! What to wear:

Any cantabile T-shirt (tour, black Cantabile casual, Lord of the Rings…)

Bottoms: Yoga pants Ok or stretchy jeans for girls (no skirts, please), boys — shorts or pants that will allow you to sit cross-legged, and bend forward.

Bring your Cantabile mat

  1. Complete Memorization of  Famine Song, You Are the New Day, and River for next week.
  2. If you haven’t done so already, download and print the updated version of the rehearsal plan and memorization handout HERE
  3. Review divisi and your “roadmap” for “Past Life Melodies.”  Please refresh your memories.  Revisit this blog for a reminder on parts and divisi.
  4. Spend time practicing all repertoire for the semester this week. Give priority to pieces that you know least and those due to be memorized, but be sure to practice ALL.

Additional Announcements and Reminders:

  • Tell EVERYONE about our Spring Concert! This event is twice as big as it was last year, so we want to see twice as many people! Invite friends, family, teachers, etc. Direct them to cantabile.org/experience-cantabile/web-of-life
  • We are still looking for Cantabile Summer Camp counselors for July 17-21! If you are interested, please email jazmine@cantabile.org for details! You must be 16 or older to participate.
  • Please mark in your calendars that our rehearsals on Monday, May 1st and Monday, May 8th at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto begin at 5 PM, 30 minutes earlier than usual. Plan to be there by 4:45 so that we may begin on time.




We Are a Circle

  • Continue to sing this piece with intention and intensity – feel the inner drum beat even when you are not singing with percussion
  • Increase your intensity with breath and openness of your vocal tract – do not clamp down. This is especially important when you start a phrase on a vowel
  • Altos – sing brighter especially as you descend in lines like at m. 15
  • In general, try to avoid making your consonants clearer with glottal energy. Use a flow of air to bring the consonants forward instead of creating tension at the larynx.
  • Make your vowels longer and more open throughout – do not anticipate diphthongs or consonants(for example: “Cir-cuuuuhl”)
    • Remember: your mouth is a “Vowel Making Machine!” (VMM)

Famine Song

  • Overall, clearer expression will come from energizing notes and phrases with your breath. Avoid tension in the throat and mouth when singing.
  • Upper voices: when you have the melody on the first page, try to make your voice consistent in tone as possible when there are register leaps. At measures 5 and 9, you can achieve this by not weighing too heavily on the E and using your uninterrupted airflow to make that 5th leap effortless.
  • Make diphthong and consonant changes in words like “child” and “wild” more rhythmic. (VMM!!!)
  • In the “Rain” section starting at measure 20, everyone should sing with a lighter color – match the sopranos’ tone.
  • When you hold out longer notes like “Rain” at measure 20, do not anticipate the diphthong or the final consonant. Both should be sung as late as possible. (VMM!!!)
  • M. 22: Sopranos and alto 1s – enjoy that dissonance between F sharp and G flat. Sing lightly into it.
  • Bravi/VTG: listen to and watch each other. Focus on creating more unified vowels.
  • Make sure those fortes at “Weave my mother, etc.” are not angry!
  • In the section from mm. 34-48: make note changes between barlines more fluid – none of these changes should sound like a firm arrival.
    • Everyone listen to the octave relationships and motion in your parts starting at m. 38 – line them up exactly.
  • When snapping at the end of the song, try to overlap with the people around you as little as possible.





  • Sing expressively in larger arcs. Though some of the phrases may seem choppy when interrupted by rests, it is possible to connect them (ex. Mm. 3,4)
  • Sing with resonance and correct pitches on your voiced starting consonants like “th” in “there”
  • Altos, sing brighter when you descend below the staff like in your entrance at m. 6
  • Pay attention to the differences in dynamics between parts. At m. 11, mezzos have the strongest dynamic because they are the most important thematic part.
  • Energize startting vowels with air, not tension! (M. 11 “It is so great…”)
  • Altos at m. 16: sing those eighth notes in groupings of 3
  • In the section from Rehearsal E to Rehearsal G, sing with your whole self – this part is more determined than it is pretty (“Pretty is inconsequential” – Joan). When the direction says “hold back a bit,” this is a direction for the tempo, not the intent.
  • Make it a personal goal to focus on where you close your vowels too soon on certain words (especially on shorter notes) – this problem is most blatant in words like “something” (please, please do not sing “sommmmmething” (VMM!!!)
  • In Section H, Altos should sing with energetic crescendi during those sequences where you ascend.

This We Know

  • Sing longer vowels throughout! See a pattern? The “S” of “This” every time you sing “This we know” should come on the next syllable (“Thi – swe – know”)
  • Altos, bring out your part at mm. 5-9. This is the melody
  • When you sing runs like in the section starting at measure 13, land lightly on the bottom note, and then energize it.
  • At mm. 17, 28, 33, and 34, the text should be “All things,” not “things things”
  • At m.40, altos, sing bright and light as you descend to those A flats
  • In the section starting at m. 62, altos especially should crescendo as your line ascends.



Always our best,

Elena, Jace, and Justin


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