Vocalise Blog #4: 1/30/17

Jan. 30 – Bravi / VTG Rehearsal #3
February 2, 2017
Intermediate Rehearsal # 5 Thursday February 3rd
February 4, 2017

Vocalise Blog #4: 1/30/17

Dear Vocalise,

Great rehearsal — thank you all! I hope you read my email sent on Monday night. It is important that we continue our conversation about about the place of art in human history, about community, vulnerability, and creativity. Meanwhile, have a great weekend and enjoy your practice. Justin’s notes below are an excellent guide to deep and productive practice. Set your practice times, make a plan of what you will practice and revise it if needs to be but do your best to complete the 5 items below by the next rehearsal.

“Strength is in numbers but excellence is in personal responsibility” (anon.)

Practice every note of every piece as if it was your one and only solo” Elena 🙂


Action Items for your practice before Monday’s rehearsal:

  • Have musical material of the following songs learned completely (meaning “Right notes at the right time, in tempo”:


  • Turn the World Around
  • Earth Songs
  • Famine Song
  • Hymn to the Waters
  1.  Review musical material for You are the New Day. You will be expected to sing your part beginning to end with 80% accuracy, on your own.

Learn the background and story about each piece in the new program by reading the notes from this blog and the program notes in music scores (when provided)


  • Listen (several times) to performance examples (follow links below when provided)
  • Practice your parts, learn the texts, consider message of each piece
  • Practice the latest yoga flow every day
  • Meditate at least 5-10 min every day



  • Famine Song by Vida, arranged for mixed choir by Matthew Culloton
      • The solemn interpretation of this song means that we are going to have quieter moments like the hums at the beginning of the piece. Though these parts may be soft, the sound should be grounded and full.
      • At m. 20: The arranger put precise markings into the score to guide the performers: Notice the slur marks over every measure encouraging you to sing each group of 4 notes with direction – it gives this section a sense of motion even though it is slower
      • There is an accidental at measure 20 – can you identify the mode?
      • At m. 26 (and all sections like it) — NO BREATH, over barline “Weave, my mother, weave, my child.” There is a lovely crescendo there that is betrayed by a breath in between the measures.
      • M. 52 and onward: “Famine’s teeth,” etc., style changes to tenuti and accents. This should be very weighty and expressive to contrast with the decrescendo in the legato line that immediately follows.
      • Bonus Points: At M. 52: aside from the tenuti and accents, what happens harmonically that gives the phrase a harsher quality?



  • Turn the World Around by Harry Belafonte, arranged by Larry Farrow


      • The melody on “We come from the fire, etc.” — Sing with rhythmic buoyancy, like a fat staccato!. Lift between the barlines in these sections and disconnect the quarter notes a bit.
      • Remember — this is sung in dialect. For example, the word “come” should have a rounder “O” and close to the “M” sooner (“cohm”)
      • Starting at m. 41, those “Ohs” and “ahs” should have large crescendos ending with a firm accent at the note change on beat 4 – be sure you know where that note change lands!
      • Mm. 45-52: The arranger here marks this section as “Suspenseful.” Remember that nearly all of these notes are staccato (except “clearly!”) – Sing this as if in an exciting, complete darkness.
      • Those “hahs!” on measures 59 and 87 should be robust! You have to commit to this one – especially you, Sopranos…



      • II. In Safety and Bliss
        • Memorize the text and recite it as it was a mantra. Think carefully about the text and its origin. It pairs wonderfully with the idea of non-denominational eco-spirituality that appears in the following movement.
        • This isn’t operatic or schmaltzy – each note is as important as the next. Don’t over-emphasize the leaps in this piece – the lower note is just as important as the upper one
        • Remember where you cut off your T’s early by an eighth note:
          • Sopranos: measures 88, 89, 94, 95, and 96
          • Altos: measures 88 and 95. Carry through on measure 96
          • Bonus Points: What mode is this movement in?
      • III. We Join With the Earth



      • Please, please work hard to secure correct pitches in this piece. It is a beautiful piece of music, but don’t let some of its simplicity fool you into becoming complacent. This MUST be learned by next rehearsal



  • Hymn to the Waters from Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda by Gustav Holst


      • On Page 6, system 3, Carry through. Do not breathe at the dotted barline
      • On Page 7, systems 2 and 3: the second syllables of “courses” and “broken” should be 3x softer than the first.
      • On Page 9, system 2: This should be quite robust: “Whose dread command no man may shun” are words with a lot of conviction!
      • Spell out the vertical harmonies and notice how Holst mainly uses root position chords to make beautiful textures.
      • Bonus Points: Throughout most of the song when you sing in parts, Holst is very strict about having the outer voices move in opposite directions. (For example: Page 7, system 2) What is this kind of motion called? What is it called when parts move while one stays on the same note (Page 7, system 3)?
      • EXTRA Bonus Points: At the bottom of page 9, the key signature changes to A flat major – Why then have we landed on a G# major triad? What is it called when the pitches are written this way?




Always our best,

Elena, Jace, and Justin

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