Avanti Rehearsal Blog

Rehearsal #10/March 15th, 2017


Dear Ensemble,


We had another good night of hard work, focus, and team work together on Wednesday.  I know things moved fast, and that we covered quite a bit of ground, but that’s what makes good musicians, and successful people out in the world!  This week, your practice must have two sides to it: 1) You must keeping learning everything that went over in class, and you must sinerely and effectively practice and review those pieces that were rather rough this week.  2) In addition to that, you have to keep EarthSongs, The Wind, and Shine On Me just as brillant and pollish as if we had worked on them all night in rehearsal.  And of course, the most important thing – that we addressed all night long – you must sing with a good tone above all else.  


Action Items and expectations for next Rehearsal, March 22nd.  Make sure at all times that you are singing with your best possible sound!

  1. Keep learning “We Are A Circle”.  It’s not hard, but you must spend quality time with it in order to master it.
  2. Learn the rest of “Turn The World Around”.  Again, not difficult, but if you don’t practice it, we will know!
  3. Practice Kusimama in front of a mirror with choreo!  Please see below for notes that we didn’t have time to cover in class.
  4. Practice “There Has To Be A Song”.  We didn’t get to cover it this week, so all the more reason to practice it at home!
  5. At this point “Wind”, “EarthSongs”, and “Shine On Me” should be fully memorized.  Practice them at home, focusing on the quality of your sound, and capturing the different tone colors needed for each piece.
  6. Review the videos from last week if you haven’t yet.  (You can find links to them in last week’s blog.)
  7. Make sure to bring your practice log: dates and times of your practice, and the songs you practiced.
  8. As a reminder, you should be at the following levels of preparedness for each song, meaning “right notes, right rhythms and right words”:
    1. Shine on Me: 100% and MEMORIZED
    2. In Safety and Bliss: 100%
    3. We Join With the Earth: 100% (including the ending!!)
    4. The Wind: 100% Memorized
    5. Kusimama: 100%
    6. Turn The World Around: 75% up to m. 41 and m.73-end
    7. The Earth is Full of Poetry: 100% and Memorized


Key ideas from the two weeks ago – we may not have directly covered these this past week, but they are just as true and valid now as they were when we wrote them!  Please review!

  1. We are halfway to our concert. We spent some time visualizing where we want to be when we perform these pieces in eight weeks.  Some of you are on track to get there in time, others of you, not as much.  When you practice this week, spend more time on the parts and pieces that you don’t know as well.  The only one in charge of your success is YOU!
  2. In reviewing our footage from Wednesday night, we have lost some of the beauty in our tone.  Remember – more than anything else – you’re most important job as a musician is to sing with a beautiful sound.  When you practice this week, strive for a beautiful sound above all other things.  Make sure you are breathing deeply and fully, your mouth and throat are relaxed, and your vowels are tall and pure.
  3. Once musicians learn understand the source, they must WHOLEHEARTEDLY and COURAGEOUSLY commit to practicing and performing the music with the its true spirit.
  4. Performers are explorers of the human soul: We must constantly change ourselves to stretch the boundaries of our comfort zone, and to sing with every ounce of energy and sincerity we have.  Practice “Shine On Me” with our arms (and hearts) outstretched in joy and elation,as we did in rehearsal. Practice as if you were on stage performing for the entire world every time you open your mouth.  Not every song is a happy one, not every song is as deep and moving as the spiritual that we’re singing, but every song deserves your 100% dedication and commitment to making it magical.   


Turn The World Around, Harry Belafonte and Robert Freedman, arr. Larry Farrow

You will be singing this with Vocalise toward the end of the All Choir Concert in May.  It’s a strong and lively piece – it needs to overflow with life and passion when you sing it!

  • Mark in your score when you are in unison (an octave apart) and when you are in harmony.  Include which solfege syllable your line starts on – it will help you to memorize the piece more quickly.
  • Pay attention to your dynamic markings – they will also help you memorize your road map, and make the piece much more interesting!  There are also quite a few crescendos and decrescendos (m. 41-m.44, m.57-m.60 etc) that we didn’t even get to discuss in rehearsal.  Please practice them!!
  • Clean cutoffs, crisp articulation, and big spaces: in sections such as m.41-m.44, m.45-m.52 (staccato means separated, not short!) and m.53-m.54 etc.
  • This piece does have noticeable contrasting sections: are you communicating that in your face?  Your sound?  Your articulation?
  • M.74: remember “body” has an extra syllable!
  • Watch this fantastic video!
  • As a reminder, this song is an African folk song from Guinea about the origins of mankind, and how the elements (fire, water, mountains, earth) are what we are all made of.  The composer reminds us that we are only here for a short time, and that it’s important for us to truly know and understand each other, as we are not very different from each other.  And that from that love and understanding, we can turn the world around.  


We Are a Circle, Joan Szymko

This will be the opener for the All Choir Concert

  • Have this fully learned by next week – it isn’t hard!
  • A reminder about divisi (mark it in your score!):
    • All sopranos: top line throughout, with the S1/S2 divisi at m.18/19
    • Altos – you always sing the melody: m.1-m.14: top line, m.15-m.22: middle line, m.23-1st ending: top line, 2nd ending-m.37: middle line, m.37-m.39: top line, coda: middle line.
  • There are a lot of repeats, D.S. al Coda, etc. in this piece.  Make sure you are crystal clear on the roadmap by next week!
  • Make sure you know which verses/sections are loud and soft.  What makes this piece come alive is the sudden contrasts in the midst of melodic repetition.
  • Sopranos: please work on your rhythm in the last four bars.



You are singing this with Intermediate at the All Choir Concert in the Spring

  • Before you practice with the choreo this week, you must spend time with just your score in front of you, reviewing your notes and the form of the piece.
    • Reminder – everyone sings the top the line the first time through!
    • Altos: m.8 – you hold the Bb the whole time (no sol-la-sol embellishment!) 😉
    • Altos: m.13 – you sing the Eb the entire bar (off on four) you do NOT rejoin the melody
  • Please review this video of Cantabile performing it in 2013.  During rehearsal our “standing tall” was more of a “standing around looking confused and scared”: you must KNOW the choreo in order to perform, and everyone needs to perform!
  • Remember – you are the “big kids” on this song, as you’re singing it with Intermediate.  There isn’t going to be Vocalise there to “make up for you” if you don’t know it.  Intermediate is counting on YOU to lead them!


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

  • You MUST keep working on your part from m.126 to the end.  We made good progress this week, and it was 80% there when we left Wednesday night.  But you MUST practice this section over and over again so it sticks in your muscle memory!  
  • The build up between m.126 and m.131 is the climax of this entire song.  Breathe deeply and let those lines soar (with a beautiful tone, of course!)
  • Practice transitioning between m.132 and m.136/m.137.  Its a tricky transition to change tonalities between E Dorian (in m.126-m.131) and E Major (in m.136) – especially those D#’s – so it needs extra love and care.


The Wind, Rich Campbell (from last week)

You will be singing this song on your own at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • Altos: m.46 please sure you are singing a “B” and not an “A”!!
  • There needs to be more distinction between the sections: m.36 needs to be “sassy”, the chorus needs to be accented and syncopated, m.65 needs to be lyrical and beautiful.  Right now they all sound the same!
    • Phrasing and breath support: m.66-m.84 should be sung with long sustained phrases.  Don’t breath every three or four notes.  Sneak a breath when you need to throughout the line.
    • Remember your “accents baby” every time the chorus comes around.  Use your fingers (or better yet, your whole body) to give those sections some life!
  • Vowels on the beat, consonants before the beat.  This piece is still dragging because you’re late with your vowels – don’t be!
  • Double check those notes from m.100 – end!!
  • Lyrical diction: when you practice make sure your vowels are nice and tall.  Use your vertical hand pointing up then forward to remind you on words like “a-round”.  This also applies on words such as “skirts” (“skeh” instead of “skur”), “did”, “sky” etc.
  • Practice with a metronome: the song drags quite a bit because you’re not used to the correct tempo.  Half note = 74 bpm for the versus and 84 bpm for the choruses


Shine on Me, Tradition Spiritual, Arr. Rollo Dilworth (from last week)

You will be singing this with everyone as the closing piece at the All Choir Concert.

  • THANK YOU for the honesty and courage you showed in rehearsal last week!  Keep practicing with the same intensity, vulnerability and commitment that you demonstrated to me, and your fellow singers!  
  • Continue learning and memorizing your part, constantly checking the the pitch you’re singing is the correct harmony, and not just what you think it is!
    • Check your pitches in m.39 (going into the key changes) and in the last two bars.
  • As a reminder, we will all sing the melody (top line) the first time through m.40, then we add a repeat sign back to m.6 and sing the harmonies.
  • Remember to make this a conversation between the Soprano descant and the Alto melody.
  • Word stress and repetition: whenever you have a series of 8th notes (i.e. m.27) there should be a slight and natural word stress on the strong beats: aka beats 1, 4, and 7 in 9-8, or the syllable “won” on each downbeat.  The arranger even wrote in tenuto markings throughout your score to remind you – please observe them!
  • Watch out for the “blue notes” such as the Alto C# in m.12, the Sop 2 D# in 19, and the Sop 1 C# in m.30 (etc.) and make sure they are accurate and in tune!
  • You can listen to an excellent recording here.


There Has To Be A Song, by Andrea Ramsey (from last week)

You will be singing this with everyone as the closing piece at the All Choir Concert.

  • Start learning your part – the notes and rhythms aren’t hard!
  • Pay close attention to when the notes are quarter notes, and when they are eighth notes followed by eighth note rests.  The composer made them that way for a reason!
  • Most of this song is in unison, except for m.16-m.17, m.33-m.34, m.39-m.45, m.49., m.63-m.66, and m.73-3nd  Make sure you learn the right part!
  • You can listen to an excellent recording here.  (Please listen to the audio file of the Lawrence Children’s Choir, conducted by Janeal Krehbiel.  It is the small triangle ‘play button’ listed above the You Tube video of the Santa Barbara Men’s Choir).   


Earth Songs – In Safety and Bliss, David Brunner (from last week)

  • We made some good progress on this piece this week!
  • M.88-end has gotten better with entrances and cut-offs, but too many of you are relying on the person singing next to you, or your conductor.  Please spend meaningful time with this movement this week!. Mark which beat you come in on, and which beats your cut off on with your “blissful hearts”.  
  • Isolate your leaps and practice them over and over, making them as smooth and legato as possible.  They still sound quite awkward and out of tune. (Ex: m.84 E to C#, m.85 E to D# etc.)
  • Just like with Turn the World Around, keep a steady beat (ideally with an eighth note subdivision) somewhere in your body.  This will help with keeping your place for your entrances and cut offs.


Earth Songs – The World is Full of Poetry, David Brunner (from last week)

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
  • Please review m.55 to the end for correct notes.
  • This week in your practicing start adding in word stress, tone color etc.  
  • 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)”.)


Other announcements and reminders:

  • Scoop: We will be annoucing several important things this week in the scoop, such as evaluation information, and call times for the All Choir Dress Rehearsal on Thursday, May 4th.  PLEASE READ ALL OF IT!!
  • Musicianship Homework: Make sure you are turning in your musicianship books each week!  Please make up your missed work and turn it in to Hannah every 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.  


We covered quite a bit of ground in rehearsal this past week, and I thank you to those of your who showed up in the fullness of your focus, commitment, and love.  We still have lots to do in the coming weeks, but the more that you can demonstrate your leadership, your brilliance, and your love for the music and for each other, the better shape we’ll be in when the concert is upon us.  


Have a beautiful week, and we’ll see you on Wednesday!

Elena and Jazmine


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