Rehearsal #3/January 20, 2017

Jan. 23 – Bravi / VTG Rehearsal #2
January 27, 2017
Jan. 30 – Bravi / VTG Rehearsal #3
February 2, 2017

Rehearsal #3/January 20, 2017

Dear Ensemble,

Thank you for the focus, attention, and care that you poured into Wednesday night’s rehearsal.  It is one of or favorite days of the week because of who each of you are – passionate, hardworking, brilliant young people who love music as much as we do.  We’re looking forward to deepening in that love of music together, but we need you to do some good work this week in order to make that a possibility.  

Action Items:

  • Practice the music in your folder no less than 3 times before the next rehearsal.
  • Record your practicing times and what you practiced in the practice log
  • Hand in your practice log at the beginning of the class
  • Practice the most recent yoga flow no less than 3 times before next rehearsal
  • Connect to your breath during breathing meditation every day for 5 min.
  • Be a supportive team player and a leader: LEARN THE MUSIC as planned (see below)

Key ideas and Concepts addressed on Jan. 25:

  1. “Argue your limitations and you get to keep them!” (anonymous)

To the simple point of our conversation at the last rehearsal:

  • Ensemble choir will only sing as many pieces at the Spring Concert as we can perform with Truth and Beauty
  • If singers of the Ensemble Choir don’t practice their music at home and come with notes, rhythms and words learned, Ensemble choir will spend most its rehearsal time learning the notes, rhythms, words, etc. No fun for anyone!
  • Your conductors are OK with singing fewer songs (like three) very well and will never be OK with singing many songs but without integrity.
  • Your move now — show us that you can practice at home using the material and skills you learn in rehearsal. Prepare the songs you have now and we’ll give you more music next Wednesday. YOUR CHOICE!

Every singer – every piece – every week.  You must spend quality time with every piece, every week.

How to Practice:

  1. Internalizing the text: Spend time just reciting the text like a poem. Follow the rhythms of the lyric, not the rhythms of the actual songs. This will help your familiarization  with the song and its meaning and will support you in singing with natural word stress and.  Challenge yourself to see how much of the text you can memorize and internalize this week.
  2. Divide and conquer: We continue learning the skill that is often called “Deep practice” but we like to call it “Divide and Conquer.  Singing pieces beginning to end rarely brings solid knowledge and instead leads to sloppiness and incorrectly learned pitches, rhythms, words and faulty intonation.  Learn your music by isolating motives and singing them slow and several times in a row, practicing just rhythm (saying the text in rhythm or clapping.)  Divide musical phrases into 2-3 short segments, make them perfect and then put them back together. Use this technique when learning when any piece, but especially those with difficult intervals.
  3. If you want to go far – go together.  This continues to tie hand-in-hand with “every singer – every piece – every week”.  We all count on each other to do the work required at home so that we can all spend our time together not just learning music, but making music.  

Action Items and expectations for next Rehearsal, February 1st:

  • Practice your part for The Wind and have the entire song learned.  This means the right notes, at the right time, on the right words.
  • Continue learning your parts for all three movements of Earth Songs:
    • The Earth is Full of Poetry: 75%
    • In Safety and Bliss: 95%
    • We Join With the Earth: 90% up to m.126
  • Review your part for Kusimama and learn the choreography.  Practice in front of a mirror!


The Wind, Rich Campbell

  • We spent most of our time together learning and reviewing parts this week.  Make sure you take care of this at home, and come to the next rehearsal with your part learned: you should be given a starting pitch and tempo and sing your part on correct pitches, rhythms, and words with good tone and technique through the whole piece.
  • When you’re practicing remember to “divide and conquer” and find those ‘anchor notes’ that repeat throughout a phrase.
  • Remember to constantly check your pitches to make sure you are singing the right ones.  The notes aren’t hard, but not all motives are predictable, so it’s important that you continually check that you’re on track.
  • There are two distinctly different sections – the verses and the chorus.  The chorus is more syncopated and slightly faster.  Make sure the differences come through in your singing, and that you use your breath/diaphragm (not your throat) to make those accents come through.
  • Altos – your part is quite low in the piece (unlike Earthsongs which is quite high).  Make sure to warm up well, including lower range extensions such as “yah” on a sol-fa-Divaime-re-do pattern, at a moderately slow pace, descending in half steps.  Don’t press in your bottom range, rather let it sit comfortably in your chest.
  • Sopranos – when practicing the third verse (m.65) make sure to warm up prior to practicing.  Those F#’s and G’s are higher than you’re used to singing.  Don’t be afraid of them – practice big full breaths and letting them come from the top and back of your head – don’t push them out from the bottom/from your throat.  Good breath support – not muscle tension – will ensure your success in those spots.
  • As we discussed, the lyrics are a poem by English author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson.  Here is this introduction to the book of poems (“A Child’s Garden of Verses”) that “The Wind” is from:

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far ways,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.


Earth Songs – The World is Full of Poetry, David Brunner

You will be singing this with Vocalise at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • Keep learning your parts for this movement, making sure that you are singing exactly the right notes in places such as m.35 and m.57 (vs. singing more or less the right notes).
    • The beginning to m.41 should be forever learned and solid, and Elena should never have to teach you those notes again! 😉
  • Pay close attention to where it splits into three (and even four!) parts, and where the two voice parts are in unison (even when they are written on two lines) and when they are in harmony: mark it in your score.
    • As a reminder the following people are singing Alto 2: Chris, Saman, Emily, Casey Chen, Sophie, and Quincy
  • You can listen to a great recording of the 1st movement (“The World is Full of Poetry”) by the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir, on their album called Homeland on Spotify.  (The track is titled “The World is Full of Poetry from Earthsongs (David L. Brunner)”.)


Earth Songs – In Safety and Bliss, David Brunner  

  • As mentioned above, start working on internalizing the text when you practice this week by reading the lyrics as poem.  See where the natural word stress falls.  Remember our rule with repeated text: every repetition has to have new musical or poetic meaning.  Start thinking about how each repetition of “blissful heart” is going to mean something different.
  • Use your chunking method to make sure the notes on page 8 are 100% solid.  In general notes that are in a series of leaps, notes in a triplet or set of 16th notes, and the E at the bottom of the staff tended to be the most out of tune or inaccurate.
  • “Blissful heart” – Elena noted that she wanted all of the “t”’s of “heart” sounding before the next entrance.  Mark those cutoffs in your scores this week.


Earth Songs – We Join With the Earth, David Brunner  (from last week)

  • By next week you should have your part 90% solid up to measure 126.
  • As you’re learning your parts this week, mark in your music where you have stepwise motion, and where you have leaps – especially when the leaps are to notes that aren’t common.  (A ‘common’ leap would be sol – do, or do – mi, etc.  An ‘uncommon’ leap would be in m.108, fa – ti, in “re-fresh”.)  This should help you not accidentally learn wrong notes just because it’s what your voice wants to sing (instead of what’s actually written).  
  • Be methodical and go slowly if you need to.  It’s better to learn accurate pitches the first time around, than it is to learn the incorrect pitches quickly, then have to unlearn them and try and re-learn the right ones.

More information on Earthsongs

Here are the program notes from the last time Cantabile sang Earthsongs:
“Conductor, clinician, and composer David Brunner brings a trio of writings together in a group of three pieces, intended to be performed without pause. Says Brunner, the texts speak of the wonders of nature and of the importance of protecting the animals, caring for the plants, and nurturing one another. The World is Full of Poetry is a text by the 19th century geologist James Gates Percival. In Safety and Bliss is a Buddhist writing from the Sutta Nipata. We join with the Earth is from the United Nations Environmental Sabbath Program. Brunner weaves together these texts in distinct melodies that not only celebrate the Earth but serve as a reminder that the environment too must be cared for.”


Kusimama (Stand Tall), Jim Papoulis (from last week)

You will be singing this with Intermediate at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • At this point your parts should be 100% learned.  As you do the choreography see if you can also start working on memorizing the music – they go together!
  • Some notes on the choreography:
    • This song is called “Standing Tall” so your movements should show that.
    • Your posture should be tall and proud at all times.
    • Connect what you’re singing (“with love”) with your motions (spreading your hands out in front of you) throughout the song.
    • Don’t look at your feet or your hands (they aren’t going anywhere!) – look out to the people you’re singing to!
    • On the side to side movements (“Watoto” etc.) your body should face the 45 degree angle between ‘front’ and ‘side’.    
  • Remember the keys to your syncopations: shorter sounds on every note that precedes a rest, along with plenty of space on the rests themselves.  This is what gives the piece its lively, grooving feel.
  • Here’s your recording from our rehearsal on Wednesday to review.  Remember – this isn’t perfect yet! It’s here so you can see where you’re at right now.    
  • Please us this great recording of Cantabile performing this back in 2013 to see what it should look like.  


Review: Breathing meditation, standing position and a Yoga flow

Continue practicing breathing as follows (5 min a day.) It’s been wonderful to see how many of you list yoga on your practice logs each week! This technique will not only relax and center you but will also greatly improve your ability to sing long sustained phrases.

Mind and body are one continuum, reconnected through breath

  1. Sitting on the floor cross legged, close your eyes and lengthen your spine: crown reaching up/tailbone reaching into the ground, sternum lifted, chest expanded.)
  2. Notice your natural breath for several rounds, while relaxing your abdomen and facial muscles. Notice gentle expansion of the ribs and belly on the inhale.
  3. Empty the lungs completely by pulling the navel close to the spine but keeping the chest up. Inhale slowly and mindfully, filling up with air from bottom to mid- to upper lungs. Exhale slowly pulling the navel in. This is the extended breath.
  4. Continue with extended breath for a few more rounds. Feel your body expanding with shimmering luminous light and contracting into the belly. Notice your body relaxing and feeling lighter.

Other announcements and reminders:

  • Musicianship Homework: Make sure you are turning in your musicianship books each week!  Many of you forgot last week (and the week before!).  Please make up your missed work and turn it in to Hannah next week!
  • Practice Log: As a reminder, please record the day you’ve opened the blog, when you’re practicing, for how long, and what you’re practicing in each session.  During practice, focus your attention on details by following blog instructions for each song.  Bring your completed practice log with you to the next rehearsal.  You can now use this Cantabile Practice Log to record your practicing each week.  

In the words of Elena, “Saving the planet is hard – learning your part is not!”  Though if you’re able to effectively perform this music and connect with the audience in an effective, vulnerable, and honest way, you will in fact being helping to save the Earth in years to come.  

All our best,

Elena and Jazmine


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