Vocalise Blog #10: 3/20/2017

March 20 – Bravi / VTG Rehearsal #9
March 22, 2017
Intermediate Blog # 11 Thursday March 23rd
March 24, 2017

Vocalise Blog #10: 3/20/2017

Dear singers:

Thank you for a wonderful rehearsal last night. Your hard work and practice really showed last night – keep it up! We welcome Joan Szymko to our rehearsal this coming Monday. Please welcome her with respect, openness and sincere interest. Think of things you will ask her during the “question and answer” session. Be a warm and gracious host — show your welcome the second Joan arrives (that is my very kind way of saying don’t even think of ignoring her and continuing your conversations once she comes through the door!)


Action Items for next Monday:

  1. Learn about Joan and her work as composer, conductor, performer and humanist — You can find plenty of information on her website.
  2. Memorize We Are a Circle and Hymn to the Waters for next week.
  3. The other two Joan Szymko pieces — “River”, This We Know” — must be 100% learned and be very close to memorization. Review all new interpretive details about them in sections below
  4. Famine Song and Turn the World — fully learned. Joan will work on further interpretation next week.
  5. Download and print the updated version of rehearsal plan and memorization handout HERE
  6. 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.
  7. Revisit all repertoire for the semester so it is fresh (“I Dreamed of Rain,” “Stars,” etc.).

Additional Announcements and Reminders:

  • We are still looking for Cantabile Summer Camp counselors for July 17-21! If you are interested, please email jazmine@cantabile.org for details! You must be 16 or older to participate.
  • Joan Szymko, the composer of all three selections from last week’s rehearsal, will be in residency with Cantabile this 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.




We Are a Circle

  • Anticipate all entrances Sing and practice with intention and energy! Inject more emphasis into the rhythm than you think you need to. Enunciating clearer and sharper consonants will help – we are especially losing some of the middle consonants like “cirKKle” and “darKKness”
  • All of your starting “Ws” need to come earlier so that the vowel following it begins on time.
  • The second syllable of “Circle” should be more of an open “O” than a “uh” – this will help keep the pitch up.
  • Please bring out your parts when you are not singing the melody – this is especially important in mm. 15-22 where mezzos and Bravi have the melody
  • Tutti: at m. 25 in verse 3, begin “altar” with a glottal stroke
  • Sopranos: at m. 21, do not decrescendo while holding out the word “ending,” ESPECIALLY when you go to the coda. Remain forte through the cut-off
  • Sopranos: m. 41, be confident and secure on your entrance and the syncopation. We do not have a dynamic drop written there.

Famine Song

  • Pain, solemnity, emotion – these are your tools to take this song to another level. The intention needs to remain throughout
  • Bravi/VTG: Those hums can be full of even more sorrow – all of the pain in your hearts being played on a single cello string.
  • Tutti: sing your words with more vowels, but do still emphasize and include your consonants as part of the lengthy legato
  • Tutti: Like in m. 3, when you have the words “Ease my spirit,” place your “t” on the and of beat 4.
  • Upper voices: at m. 9, “and” should be higher and brighter
  • Tutti: mm. 32, 33 – sing with longer vowels, especially on “Baaaa-skets oooof ruuuuusheeeehhhs” (baskets of rushes)
  • Mm. 33-48, please remind yourself of what part you are singing and balance each other equally. Upper voices split into your 3-part divisi at m. 41.
  • Once again, please bring out the accents and tenuti at mm. 49-55. You haven’t given this section your all quite yet!

Turn the World Around

  • Sing with robust rhythmic vitality! Disconnect syllables to enhance the syncopation
  • Crisper consonants, longer vowels – always (We Come FFFrOOOm the FFFiiiire, etc.)
  • Basses: at  measures 31, 39, 79, and 83, be careful to sing a D natural, not a D flat. You are the colorful note of what would otherwise be a plain D flat major chord that the other parts are singing.
  • In the “Oh, so is life” sections, make that crescendo much bigger! Nothing in this song is lackadaisical – mean every word, note, and articulation!





  • Joan’s tempo marking at the beginning says “urgently, intense.” Even when you are singing at a softer dynamic, your consonants should be intense.
  • Remember the dynamic map of the first section. It is a gradual build followed by an ebb and flow of crescendi and decrescendi (kind of like a river!).
  • Sopranos: at m. 16, dig into the crescendi on “torn apart”
  • At rehearsal B, observe the accents that are added to “There” and “river”
  • Altos- at m. 25, “now” the vowel should be higher and not spread
  • Sopranos – m. 25-26, emphasize the consonants and weight of the rhythm where you have tenuti
  • Tutti: at mm. 27-28, all of those tenuti should be firm and declamatory
  • Atlos at Rehearsal C: This should be a big, contrasting forte – you unabashedly lead us into this key change!
  • Tutti: mm. 39-41, use those crescendi to build up to a strong forte through the cut-off at m. 41 – Count AND watch to place your “T” right on beat 3 of m. 41.
  • Starting at Rehearsal D, there are accents on the word “now” – sing those accents!
  • At m. 71, though your dynamic is pianissimo, your diction should be more intense than before.
  • Please review the 6/8 section starting at Rehearsal H – this should be sung solidly and confidently by next rehearsal.

This We Know

  • At m. 10, use that crescendo and the slightly slower tempo to really stretch the word “know”
  • In the section starting at m. 24, sing legato throughout, but maintain rhythmic clarity with those 8th and 16th notes
  • At m. 40, that piano could be more piano. Put greater emphasis on consonants when you sing softly
  • The second syllable of “family” should be more “muh” than “mih”
  • At m. 114 – WATCH! Your conductor will give you every single fermata.

Hymn to the Waters

  • As a reminder, this piece must be memorized by Monday’s rehearsal!
  • Each measure has 7 pulses – though the subdivision between these pulses switches between duple and triple, the tempo and number of beats per measure do not change
  • Do NOT breathe between dotted barlines – these phrases should be sung through (for example: “Flowing from the firmament forth to the ocean” should be sung without pause)
  • Cut off a bit earlier between lines to allow yourself to breathe and sing the next phrase on time.
  • Be secure on your pitch in the last measure of the third system of page 7 (“broken”) – everyone should meet nicely on that perfect 4th
  • Continue counting at the top of Page 8 to make sure you cut off on the 3rd beat of that measure – you only hold “us” for 3 beats total.
  • 3rd system of page 9: The first syllable of “VA-ru-na” gets the emphasis
  • Review and solidify all of your entrances on page 10.
  • In the second system of measure 11, make sure that “who dug the” is not a triplet. We are still singing with a duple subdivision in 7/4 there – the piano will be playing triplets against that rhythm. Bonus question: What is this called?


  • Thank you for your hard work in memorizing this piece! It is much improved and will continue to improve as we get closer to the concert.
  • I. The World is Full of Poetry
    • More consonants throughout. We still aren’t getting enough “K” in “SparKle”
  • II. In Safety and Bliss
    • Solemn and legato, always
    • Continue to make your leaps in the “may all creatures” section smoother
    • Remember your “blissful hearts” cut-offs!
  • III. We Join With the Earth
    • Altos: mm. 123-126, “to celebrate…” – sing these notes down an octave – this will allow you to be more secure on your entrance in the “rejoice in the sunlight” section on page 13.
    • You know your notes on page 13 – now sing them confidently!



Always our best,

Elena, Jace, and Justin

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