Vocalise Blog #9: 3/13/2017

Rehearsal #10/March 15th, 2017
March 17, 2017
Intermediate Blog # 10 Thursday March 16th
March 18, 2017

Vocalise Blog #9: 3/13/2017

Dear singers:

Thank you for one of the most productive, focused and exciting rehearsals of the entire season. Seeing you so joyfully and  intensely engaged in crafting Szymko’s challenging pieces filled my heart with great happiness. My deep gratitude goes to Jace for introducing these compositions to you and for guiding you so brilliantly through the first experience with this music.

Action Items for next Monday:

  1. Make sure all pitches and rhythms for the three Joan Szymko pieces are secure (“We Are a Circle, River, This We Know”) – we are less than two weeks away from singing for the composer!
  2. Memorize all of Earthsongs. There is only one tough spot — mm. 126-134 — it will be checked in quartets
  3. Review divisi and your “roadmap” for “Past Life Melodies.”  It was not rehearsed on March 13th -please refresh your memories.  Revisit this blog for a reminder on parts and divisi.
  4. Revisit all repertoire for the semester so it is fresh (“Turn the World Around,” “Famine Song,” “I Dreamed of Rain,” “Stars,” etc.).
  5. Refer to the memorization guide that was handed out on Monday – everything MUST BE MEMORIZED by April 17th.  IF YOU DIDN’T GET THE HANDOUT, YOU CAN PRINT IT HERE.

Additional Announcements and Reminders:

  • Mozart’s moving and magnificent Requiem is performed March 17-19, at the California Theatre by Symphony Silicon Valley and Chorale (Elena’s chorus) under the direction of Maestro Constantine Kitsopoulos,  in San Jose, at the California Theatre! Also on the program Carnival of the Animals and Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos — a rarely performed brilliant masterpiece.  http://www.symphonysiliconvalley.org are

Come out to support your fellow Cantabile singer, Simon Patmore Zarcone, who will be singing bass with the symphony chorus.

  • If you are interested in becoming a Cantabile Summer Camp counselor, please email jazmine@cantabile.org for details! You must be 16 or older to participate.
  • If you are going on tour, PLEASE make sure your tour forms are filled out on cantabile.jumbula.com as soon as possible. You have until Wednesday, March 15th to fill these out!
  • Joan Szymko, the composer of all three selections from last week’s rehearsal, will be in Residency with Cantabile on Monday, March 27. This is a great opportunity for you all to work with a composer on her compositions!
  • 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.


There Has to Be a Song

  • This beautiful and simple piece will be a closing mass number sung by all Cantabile singers. You still need to focus on the details! Watch carefully where the notes have tenuti (ex. M. 11), staccati (ex. M. 19 for sopranos and altos), and tenuti and staccati (ex. M. 19 for lower voices)
  • Familiarize yourself with the roadmap for this song. Get comfortable flipping back and forth for the D.S. al Coda and the Coda (write in page number reminders so you don’t have to hunt within the score!).


  • Remember, you have a nice reference recording for this piece, so use it as you practice.
  • The layered rhythms are exciting for the listener but it can be easy to get lost as a singer.  Open your ears to other parts as you practice with a recording in the background and your eyes as you follow the score. It is crucial to know, understand and anticipate other parts.
  • Keep in mind the dynamic scheme as you learn your notes.  The beginning must start with urgency and excitement, but it cannot be too loud.
  • The words “fast” and “now” should have longer, taller vowels.
  • Breathe at rests, but please carry through (don’t breathe) when phrase marks and crescendi are used (ex: m. 5, m. 9 should carry through from the G to the C on “There”).
  • Similarly, sopranos (part 1) should carry across the bar from m. 13 – 14.
  • Cut-offs should always be very precise, PARTICULARLY the final “t’s” for repetitions of “torn aparT, torn aparT” in mm. 16 – 18.
  • Altos: at m. 16, don’t let the eighth notes plod. There is a big slur over those notes – Joan Szymko wants a flowing, legato line there!
  • EVERYONE: at m. 18, change the C’s on the first beat to D’s – we will ask Joan about this when she comes.
  • Please, remain strong and sing a rich forte  from mm. 25 – 27.  No decrescendo is marked… dig into the tenuti that are marked and enjoy the brief moment of homophony.
  • Remember: four-part divisi starts at rehearsal C.  Before that, it is three-part divisi.  Mark your parts so you won’t forget!
  • M. 39: listen and line up those unisons – in general look at your score and listen to recordings to find where you line up with other parts.
  • Alto 2s: The B natural at m. 41 should be brought out.
  • At section D, sopranos especially should make sure the “e” of “there” is spinning and bright.
  • m.48 – the cutoff of “fast” for sop 1s should be very soft as to not overpower the soloist.
  • mm. 76 – 77 should have urgency and precise diction.  “LeT Go” should have both a “t” and a “g”. Do not elide these consonants, please.

This We Know

  • Study the harmonic structure of the first page, please.  The alto parts are centered around A-flat major, while the soprano parts roughly revolve around C-minor (with an added 7th).  Bonus: what is the relationship between these two keys called?
  • Tutti  breath at the end of m. 7 and m. 9.
  • Soprano 1, pay attention to the B-flat at the end of m. 11 – 12.  It needs to be secure and must not drift down to the A-flat in Sop. 2.
  • Breathe in the middle of measures 15 and 17, on an eighth rest.  You can think of this as taking the dot off of the dotted quarter and breathing there instead.  This should be applied in all voice parts who sing this figure for the remainder of the song unless otherwise directed.
  • Altos: breathe at the end of m. 29 and m. 30.
  • Mezzos: breathe at the end of m. 30.
  • All: remember that measure 40 has urgency and passion, but should be sung piano.  There is a quick crescendo in mm. 43 – 45, but not before.
  • All: on pages 6 – 7, make sure not to sing a big American “r” on the repetitions of the word “Earth”… American “rrrr” is not a beautiful sound! For singing, think more toward a British pronunciation of “Earth,” or perhaps like the vowel in the French world “Deux” (Which means what?)  
  • Review rhythms on p. 8 “We.. did not weave…”  Notice that “did” comes on little beat 4, or big beat 2, which should make it feel somewhat syncopated.  We didn’t rehearse this very thoroughly last rehearsal — perhaps you can learn this short section more accurately on your own before Monday!


  • Remember your divisi! Numbers should be as follows:
    • Sop 1: 10
    • Sop 2: 10
    • Sop 3: 10
    • Alto 1: 8
    • Alto 2: 9
    • Alto 3: 10
  • Though the tempo is rather slow and there is a lot of piano singing, all of the singing in this piece should be energized with both breath and intention
  • Look through the parts and listen to recordings of the piece to understand how the melody is passed fluidly between parts. If you have moving parts, BRING THEM OUT!
  • Every time you have the words “dark hill,” enunciate the K
  • Sopranos: m. 26, Soprano 2s hold the D above the soprano 1s who sing the melody
  • Group breaths at the end of the following measures: 39, 49, 53, 57
  • Soprano 3s: you have a lot of important melodic material. Sing together and figure out how you will sing these lines expressively as a section – especially take a moment to work on this with the text on the last page: “I know I am honored…”
  • Soprano 3s: bring out the half note motion at m. 44


  • Every note, rhythm, and detail needs to be memorized by Monday.
  • I. The World is Full of Poetry
    • Every time you have the word “sparkle,” that “K” should be well-enunciated and flow with the breath
    • Pay attention to the word stress of the text and bring it out when you are singing. For example, on page 3, “The world is full of poetry.” Some words and syllables are more important than others and should be sung as such.
    • Everyone: m. 35 and 36, the vowel on “Waves” and “MEL” of “melodies” should be bright and buoyant.
    • Mm. 38-41: Altos, do not sing. Soprano 2s sing the alto part.
    • Mm. 39-41: Sopranos, when you come down to the word “brightness” sing both of those vowels brightly and with support to avoid going flat.
  • II. In Safety and Bliss
    • Think about the duality of the adjectives used in this piece. There’s a reason they’re set and ordered in the way they are.
    • This should always be solemn and legato.
    • When you sing leaps on the text “May all creatures…” connect the first two notes – you tend to separate them when you go up to the higher note. Practice it with a portamento, then gradually move back to singing to distinct, but connected notes.
    • All “t” cut-offs starting at the bottom of page 8 to the end of the piece are as written – your “t” should come at the next measure of rest.
  • III. We Join With the Earth
    • Sing “We join with…” to “…life to the land” on the first page as one connected phrase.
    • M. 112: short breath after “other”
    • Mm. 120, 121: place your “th” of “earth” on the downbeat of m. 121
    • Altos: mm. 123-126, “to celebrate…” – sing these notes down an octave



Always our best,

Elena, Jace, and Justin


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