Vocalise Blog #2

Week of August 30, 2017/Rehearsal #2
September 1, 2017
Intermediate Chorus Blog # 2 August 31st
September 2, 2017

Vocalise Blog #2

Dear Vocalise,

Your home practice assignment will be a bit more than usual since we have two weeks in between the rehearsals. And happy Labor Day Weekend, by the way, stay cool! 🙂

For those new to Vocalise and new to Cantabile, here is how we roll in this super-advanced choir:

  • Once a piece is introduced in rehearsal, it must be practiced at home consistently.
  • Not all pieces of the repertoire are practiced at each rehearsal, it is simply impossible. You still have to review/practice/improve them on your own.
  • A schedule of learning/memorizing repertoire will be sent/handed out at the next rehearsal.
  • Singers are to make notes in scores/notebooks to reflect interpretation, history, poetry and any other aspect/concept explored in rehearsal. (Not knowing composer’s name, place of origin and whether he/she is alive or dead is not cool, end of story.)  
  • LEARN YOUR NOTES AT HOME: In rehearsal, we come together to interpret the music together, hone our vocal artistry and explore the boundless creativity of a choral ensemble.  
  • “Strength is in numbers but excellence is in personal responsibility.” Choir makes you stronger by lifting your voice high; you make the choir shine by bringing precision and brilliance into its every chord.  
  • 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.


Action Items for the next 10 days (Aug. 31-Sept. 11th) 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 Flow: Same as last week, no less than 5 min per day. (see flow description below)
  • Angel: have your part learned completely and solidly without the text. Practice text pronunciation.
  • Caribbean Mass: Santo, Credo and Kyrie completely learned with words (under tempo is OK) Remember, most of the text is in Italian not Spanish. Listen to Agnus Dei — we will work on it next time. Write translations of the Italian and Latin texts into your score.
  • Amani: watch and listen to the clip and figure out your part. Listen to pronunciation recording, get acquainted with the text. Divisi is a tre.
  • Cantique de Jean Racine and Words: listen to recordings, fall in love with the songs.


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

Your assignment for August 28th was to learn your part without words  – beginning to end.  If you have not done this yet, you need to do it now. Practice with the metronome: Beat= 66-68

Sing along with the recording below (Angel is at 11:40, but please, at some point listen to the entire chorus cycle Rachmaninoff composed.)

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.

Angel Performance example

Poem read in Russian

Pronunciation Instructions


Caribbean Mass (SATB), by Glenn McClure

  • Kyrie
    • CHANGE: only 3 Altos will sing the tenor part (and you should know who you are) rather than all Altos as reported in last week’s blog
  • Santo CORRECTION: Ms. 10 and ms. 35 should be a G-natural, as written
    • We went over the pronunciation of the Italian text and practiced rhythms, especially in the “solo” lines.  Take particular note of the rhythm in ms.11-12 and 36-37.

Listen to this rendition of the piece on by the MA All-State Honor Choir, Dr. Janet Galvan, conductor

Here are Santo  Credo and Agnus Dei

Amani: watch and listen to the clip and figure out your part. Listen to pronunciation recording

made by Jace, get acquainted with the text, be ready to speak it in rhythm.

Performance example (this is festival choir conducted by Rollo Dillworth whose wonderful arrangements you have sung many times in the past.)  

Cantique de Jean Racine and Words: listen to recordings, fall in love with the songs. The scores are coming.


The Real Group

“Stacking up” alignment and standing 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 open with soft gaze into an imaginary candle flame
  • Bring your attention to the belly and observe rise and fall of each breath and the expansion of the whole body.
  • Imagine entire body as one hollow luminous space. Feel the space inside extend. Breathe normally or with extended breath, exhaling fully and inhaling from low- to mid-, to upper lungs.

Seated Meditation: 

On some days, meditate seated or even lying down.   (5 min a day.) This technique will not only relax and center you but also greatly improve your ability to sing long sustained phrases.

“Mind, body and emotions are one continuum, connected through breath.”


  1. Sitting on the floor cross legged, close your eyes, press down through your seat and lengthen your spine: crown reaching up/tailbone reaching into the ground, sternum lifted, chest expanded.)
  2. Observe your natural breath for several rounds, while relaxing your abdomen, shoulders, neck and facial muscles. Notice gentle expansion of the ribs and belly on the inhale. Become aware of slightest sensations everywhere in the body — from toes to tips of your hair.
  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 with each inhale and contracting into a ball of light below your naval with each exhale. Notice your body relaxing and feeling lighter.




Our first yoga flow…

Singers and musicians of any kind, athletes of all types, and creative people all over the world have long recognized the power, benefits and joy of yoga. Mindful, fluid movement through yogic poses — a flow — is one of the best ways to re-align your body with your mind, to feel calm, joyful and energetic. We will spend about 5 min at each rehearsal practicing various simple flows and learning to hold poses and relax into them. The goal is not twist yourself into a tight pretzel but rather to develop an ability to find relaxation, focus and calm in any position/situation your body —  as well your mind and emotions — may find itself.  Perfection is not needed as their isn’t such a thing; what we seek is harmony of all elements of our being. 

Flow #1 (Forward arch — swan dive – forward bend/chest to thighs — slow roll up)

Begin in standing pose (as described above)

INHALE: Rotate wrists out and lift arms above the head, arching the back, lifting the chest and opening up. As the head relaxes back, gently open the jaw, neck soft.

EXHALE: Swan dive down, bring hands to the lower back. round the back, release neck, head, arms; let gravity pull you down, stretching the hamstrings, lower back, calves.Bend knees, bring chest to thighs, folding the upper body over the lower. Release the arms to hang down in front. Challenge your hamstrings by slightly unbending the knees but keeping the chest touching the thighs. 3-4 pulses like that.

INHALE/EXHALE: Bend knees, chin tucked: slowly unbend – vertebra by vertebra- to standing, neck and head come to place last — this takes INHALE and EXHALE.

Repeat from the top, 5-6 times.

Other announcements and reminders:

  • Parent orientation is Monday, September 11th at 7:15 pm.  Your parents must attend – we will cover a whole year of vital information! Vocalise is a family commitment: for you to be successful, your parents must be well informed and stay current to all our activities.
  • Retreat: all singers are required to attend the Cantabile retreat at YMCA Camp Campbell September 15th – September 17th.  Please make sure you read your handout!


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