Vocalise Blog #13: 4/10/2017

Intermediate Blog # 13 Thursday April 6th
April 7, 2017
April 10 – Bravi / VTG Rehearsal #12
April 13, 2017

Vocalise Blog #13: 4/10/2017

Dear Vocalise:

The concerts are approaching — in less than three weeks, on May 2nd, we are at the concert venue, practicing for the first of the spring concerts. Our special guest, multi-instrumentalist and producer Laura Inserra, will be at the April 24th rehearsal: Our last regular rehearsal is next week.

It is now that you must make your decision: Do you intend to have ALL Repertoire memorized and internalized by April 17th and participate in the concerts, or would you rather step aside into the audience and let those who are prepared give a respectful performance that this music of importance deserves?

Make your choice, then act accordingly– get it done, or step aside and enjoy the show from an audience seat. There isn’t a third choice. Consider this: your membership in Vocalise does not put you on the stage to perform — it provides you with inspiration and direction. It is your discipline and devotion to the music, your peers, your audience and the hefty artistic goals of Cantabile that put you on stage.

Regarding missed rehearsals: Many singers are on vacation, some are sick. I wish you great holidays and/or get better. To make your “re-entry” into the rehearsal routine, you must have all details of the rehearsal you missed entered into your score, per the blog below. It will be checked.

If you are are not well enough to sing but are attending a rehearsal, sitting at the “sick table”: Not the time to do your homework but time to follow the rehearsal, mouth the words and mark your score. If you “check out” into your homework, I check you as “absent” from the rehearsal. Only fair.


Action Items/Expectations: all singers should be able to put a checkmark next to the items below.


  1. Your major vocal goal for this week is to find more length and shape in every vowel of every piece: from “this” to “Know” to “something” etc.
  2. As announced at April 10th rehearsal, ALL members of Vocalise must record and send to Elena and Justin a video clip of them singing THIS WE KNOW before Saturday, April 15th. (if you are on vacation and away, please, send a note with the date we shall expect your recording.)
  3. Recording of River (sung to piano accompaniment provided) was due last Monday.   

Thank you for 15 singers who have already sent their files. I am still expecting the rest

(Aria members are excused.)

I wish to give my deep and sincere gratitude to many singers who came to last Monday rehearsal with all music memorized ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, there are too many singers who are not even close to the schedule. You know it, I know it, everyone around you knows it. Go back and re-read the second paragraph of the blog.

  1. ALL pieces must be memorized for our April 17th rehearsal (as per schedule) Exceptions are made for Bridge and Imagine — if these are new to you, memorize them by May 2nd.
  2. All your home practicing from now on must be done IN FRONT OF A MIRROR. Make your face and body language sincerely and organically reflect YOUR feelings about the song’s message. Again, this is NOT optional — we have been working on this conceptually and physically for months. It’s time we have results. Watch these videos to see excellent examples of a natural way to be expressive and, in the second video, how to sing acknowledging singers around you when there is no conductor. Conspirare (Professional choir, Craig Hella Johnson, director) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE3nN6IvlGA Also this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8GYACG-cyg
  3. When reading the blog, enter all markings and comments into your score, per detailed descriptions below.
  4. All solo parts are open for auditions: if you are interested, it’s best to send Elena your recording of the solo.
  5. LEARN and memorize the choreography for Famine SongAnd watch the original rendition of the song by VIDA
  6. Watch these videos to practice and learn how create overtones; these are both fascinating and helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHTF1-IhuC0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w42DQoZ-z_c


Additional Announcements and Reminders:

  • If you are taking an SAT Subject Test on Saturday, May 6th (the day of our All-Choir Concert), please fill out this form ASAP. We need to know when your exams are so that we can plan accordingly. All responses must be submitted by Friday, April 21st.
  • 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 www.cantabile.org/experience-cantabile/web-of-life
  • 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.


Repertoire Notes:

Only 3 pieces are covered in the notes below. All singers must practice all pieces each week. Refer to previous blogs for details.


River – Joan Szymko

Major points:

  • Our singing is somewhat trivial at this point, resembling small talk. As per our intense work on this piece for the last three weeks and the discussion around, you need to come back next week with a performance that shows your understanding of the flow and development of this complicated composition.


  • Altos: must be vigilant about not singing with heavy tone. No blend is possible if you do.
  • Understanding the architectonics of the voicing: Again, much time was spent in class on figuring out and putting in practice the intricate and exciting way the voices take leading parts only to “delegate” them to another section of the choir in a couple of measures. It is marked in your score — now learn it and learn it solid!
  • Dynamics: singing right notes at the right time marks the the beginning of interpreting the music.


At this point in the semester, if you sing everything with the same dynamic, you don’t know your part.  

  • Sing conversationally throughout – this is a warning, not trifling small talk!
  • Every time you have the word “there,” sing the “th” at pitch and use your breath to spin the through the phrase from the start of each repeat.
  • The beginning should be a quiet, but intense piano. Use your consonants to energize the phrase, especially the voiced “th” of “there”
  • Altos – sing with a headier tone to better blend with the sopranos throughout
  • Altos – at m. 9, remember to cut off on beat 3.
  • Once all parts have entered, listen across the choir to hear and adjust – sing like the other parts exist. And send Elena a message to answer this: what is the name of the song sung by the australian choir.
  • Everyone at page 5 – there is no decrescendo written – keep singing strongly, but give yourself room to grow when you hit your fortes at the bottom of page 5 and top of page 6
  • Mm. 25-28: observe the tenuti and sing strongly in a declamatory manner
  • At rehearsal D, continue to intensify consonants without sacrificing the connected line
  • Soprano 1s: don’t forget to hold out “fast” through rehearsal E!
  • At rehearsal E: Take a look at the solo. Keep in mind that the rhythm at m. 49 and the rhythm and notes at m. 51 are different from what you sing in the repeat
  • Though the middle section at Rehearsals E and F is much more sparse, slower, and lyrical, you should still “sing with your whole self” as Joan encouraged you to. It is not just pretty, it’s impactful. “Pretty is inconsequential” – Joan
  • Do not close to the “m” too quickly on the word “something”
  • At Rehearsal G, those entrances are pianissimo!!! But keep the diction crisp and intense
  • From H to the end, sing with energy and rhythmic accuracy! Bring out that meter change confidently like you know what you’re singing.

This We Know – Joan Szymko

  • Everyone: We still need longer vowels throughout! Place the “s” of “this” on the next syllable (“Thi-swe-know”)
  • Begin each phrase with intention — use a movement to physically manifest and amplify the intentio. The integrity of this piece is depends on the integrity of your tone and phrasing.
  • Alto 1s: Sing that E flat at the beginning lightly with breath spinning through the note from the onset. Remember that the voiced “th” has pitch, and it must be the correct one.
  • Altos: Learn this part. You have recordings for this piece due this week.
  • At mm. 24-37: Mezzos and Sopranos, AVOID singing “all” with a glottal stop. Your air flow should meet your vocal cords at the exact moment of phonation, not after.
  • Make the vowel as long as possible on the middle syllable of “connected.” The word stress on “connected” is on the middle syllable, so the vowel should be sung at its full value.
  • Remember at measures 27, 33, and 34 the text should read “All things,” not “things things”
  • Altos, sing lightly as you reach lower into your range at the section starting at measure 40. Match the sopranos’ tone.
  • Alto 1s – Make sure your air flow begins on time at m. 43 – just like the beginning!
  • Altos at m. 92, do not sing the ascent to E flat with a weighty chest voice. Lighten the tone as you ascend a seventh.

Famine Song – VIDA, arr. Matthew Culloton

  • Review your choreography for the “Rain” sections – experiment with connecting your motion to what you are doing vocally. What did you discover?
  • Sing facing a mirror and pay attention to what your face is doing. Find ways to connect with this piece emotionally and see how doing so changes your expression.
  • Tenors and Basses: in the “Rain” sections keep focusing on unifying your vowels and tone.
  • At mm. 48-49 and mm. 52-53, those parts can be sung with more intensity still – make the contrast between the tenuti and legato clearer; do not breathe between measures 49 and 50 and measures 53 and 54.
  • In the same section, the word “the” is the least important – do not emphasize it.

Comments are closed.