Vocalise Retreat Blog – September 15 – 17, 2017

Prep 3 Blog #2 Week of September 18, 2017
September 22, 2017
Blog # 5 Thursday September 21st
September 23, 2017

Vocalise Retreat Blog – September 15 – 17, 2017

Dear Vocalise,

What a great retreat weekend! Definitely, the most successful retreat we have ever had… Bravo to you all for your hard work and your open-hearted, welcoming spirit. It is really important to build community with our newer singers in Bravi, VTG, and Vocalise, and to welcome Ensemble singers into the performing division. Our musical work is only truly effective with mutual trust, and we built a lot of that this weekend.  

  • During your practice this week, spend some meaningful time reflecting on what you learned from the hour-long meditation and yoga session under the canopy.  Revisit the moments that helped you feel most calm, most centered, and most in-touch with your body and your breath. This awareness will make you a better singer through efficient breathing, and will make you a better practicer through a more calm and focused mind.
  • The more frequently you put these techniques to use (even in your daily life outside of Cantabile), the more natural they will feel and the more quickly you will be able to center and focus yourself.  Try it this week!

Action Items for Monday Sept. 25th.  Full instructions for each piece are further down in the blog.


  • Meditation: practice every day. Increase meditation time by 1 min. every day. See more instructions below
  • Yoga: Forward fold/swan dive flow. No less than 10 min per day. (see flow description below)
  • Angel: Learn entire piece with text. Be able to sing your part close to tempo in a duet situation. Be proficient in pronunciation (diction recording below).

  • Cantique de Jean Racine: Know your part absolutely solid. Learn the text and pronunciation (diction recording attached.)



  • Caribbean Mass: Santo and Agnus Dei Memorized; Credo and Kyrie completely learned with words, close to memorization. Work hard on the Italian.
  • Amani: Lots of work is already done. Please, review the notes and practice text pronunciation slowly but in rhythm.



Caribbean Mass (SATB), by Glenn McClure

  • Remember, it is practically impossible to disconnect movement from singing when practicing this repertoire.  Move as you practice, and practice moving.  Your hips should be loose, your knees should be slightly bent as to move easily, your legs should feel alive, and you should flow with the rhythm from your feet all the way through your body.
  • In the Agnus Dei, practice stomping on the downbeats as the meter changes (particularly downbeats with rests, such as those before “qui tollis peccata…”). This will help you internalize these meter changes easily.
  • Please revisit pitches and rhythms for the Agnus Dei as well as the Kyrie, which we have not rehearsed in a few weeks now.  Us the following listening guides to assist you:
  • Kyrie (sung by the MA All-State Honor Choir, Dr. Janet Galvan, Conductor):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4CcudfDr18
  • Here is Santo…
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYz6kvtgWbU
  • …and Credo:
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb-q_LNyHuY

Angel (SSA), by Sergei Rachmaninoff, poem by Mikhail Lermontov

  1. Learn entire piece with text. Be able to sing your part close to tempo in a duet with another part. Be proficient in pronunciation.
  2. Elena gave literal translation of the text in measures 7-16 which should be written in your score.  If you missed any of that, ask your section leader for help.
  3. In ms. 10, you should begin to feel the beat divided into 2, rather than 3, so you are ready for the meter change at ms. 11.
  4. Make sure you work on breathing: phrases are long, practice stagger breathing when you can’t get through on one long breath.   




  • In the opening section, do not be sluggish.  Sing lightly and move the tempo ahead, shaping each phrase with a lovely taper at the end.
  • Throughout the piece, notice and execute different dynamics, including dynamic shading (cresc and diminuendo, as well as effects like Sforzando or subito.)
  • Listen to this clip with the poem read by a one of Russia’s excellent actors. You will find a lot of melody in the poem, even when it’s simply spoken.



Cantique de Jean Racine:

We have worked quite a lot on the piece on Saturday and the notes were learned well. Please, review your part on “loh” making sure all notes and rhythms are corrected, phrasing is musical and dynamics are observed. Review the text, using Jace’s excellent pronunciation recording. Practice singing with the text and learn mrs. 1-47 on the words (half of the song.)

We are only 4 weeks from singing this beautiful piece in concert (Oct. 28th)

Faure Performance Video here.


Take special note of the part assignments that are hand-written into your score.

  • Altos – ms. 41-43: practice as an F major scale, beginning on sol on beat 1 of ms 41.  Take special care to raise the A-natural high enough.
  • All singers: be sure you have clearly marked whole steps and half steps as well as other intervals on page 8.


Amani: Lots of work is already done. Please, review the notes and practice text pronunciation slowly but in rhythm.


Practice text, as well.  Here is a diction guide.


Action items and reminders for this week:


  • Be seated on your mat and quiet, ready to start our breathing meditation by 5:28. I’ll begin exactly at 5:30.

This means arriving no later than 5:20.

  • Practice the standing breathing meditation (see instructions below) and the first yoga flow every day for at least 10 min. It can be done any time but best before your practice.
  • Watch and listen performance examples listed below for each composition mentioned – ones we learned on Monday and some new ones.
  • Write translations from the Italian and Latin texts (Mass) into your score.


“Stacking up” alignment and mediation

  • With feet parallel, press down with 5 points of each foot: inner/outer heels, mounds under small and big toes, and big toes
  • Arches lift, calves and thighs activate
  • Micro bend in knees
  • Setting the frame: hips – ribcage – shoulders
    • neutral position of hips and pelvis
    • abdomen relaxed, ribcage soft, sternum lifted – space between pelvis and ribcage expanded
    • shoulders back and down, arms relaxed
    • chin slightly tucked in, back of neck lifts and softens
    • lips, cheeks, eyelids, forehead soft
    • tongue relaxed and fills the mouth
  • Eyes closed or slightly opened with soft gaze into an imaginary candle flame
  • Bring your attention to the belly and observe the rise and fall of each breath
  • Imagine your entire body as one hollow luminous space. Breathe normally or with extended breath, exhaling fully and inhaling from low- to mid-, to upper lungs.

Happy Practicing!

Elena, Jace, and Lori


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