Vocalise Blog #3: 1/23/17

Intermediate Rehearsal # 4 Thursday January 26th
January 27, 2017
Jan. 23 – Bravi / VTG Rehearsal #2
January 27, 2017

Vocalise Blog #3: 1/23/17

Dear Vocalise,

Great rehearsal! I will write to you separately to continue a very important conversation about community, vulnerability and creativity. Meanwhile, have a great weekend and enjoy your practice. Justin’s notes below are an excellent guide to deep and productive practice. Set your practice times, make a plan of what you will practice and revise it if needs to be but do your best to complete the 5 items below by the next rehearsal.

“Strength is in numbers but excellence is in personal responsibility” (anon.)

Practice every note of every piece as if it was your one and only solo” Elena 🙂


Action Items for your practice before Monday’s rehearsal:

  • Listen (several times) to performance examples (follow links below)
  • Practice your parts, learn the texts, consider message of each piece
  • Practice the latest yoga flow every day
  • Meditate at least 5-10 min every day



  • Famine Song by Vida, arranged for mixed choir by Matthew Culloton
      • There is a very important question about the difference between appreciation and appropriation when it comes to the composition and performance of this piece. As we talked about in rehearsal, this is not a folk song but a composed (written) piece inspired by the real events — pain and hope experienced by Sudanese people during drought and famine in the 1980s. It is written as if from the perspective of women basket weavers.  Be careful that this performance is not overindulgent, but rather solemn. Think about how these words and melody represent the struggles of people that live lives far different from ours. Can a quartet of American musicians living in the middle of Indiana have the perspective to give justice to these struggles? Listen to the original recording by VIDA, it’s very arresting. Do you hear empathy and compassion?
      • Alto 2s, please sing the tenor line starting at m. 20 and then again at m. 56.
      • M. 52 and onward: “Famine’s teeth,” etc. have tenuti and accents. This should be very weighty and expressive to contrast with the decrescendo in the legato line that immediately follows.



  • Turn the World Around by Harry Belafonte, arranged by Larry Farrow


      • This song is in 5/4 throughout. Stay focused and don’t slip into the familiar 4/4
      • On word “fire” sing non legato, disconnected
      • Place your final consonants with accuracy. For example, the “d” of “around” should fall directly on beat 5 of m. 8.
      • Alto 1s: mm. 13-16, sing the tenor line. Alto 2s continue singing the alto line.
      • Starting at m. 41, those “Ohs” and “ahs” should have large crescendos ending with a firm accent at the note change on beat 4 – be sure you know where that note change lands!
        • Mm. 41-44 and all other sections like it (mm. 57-60, mm. 85-88) Sopranos split the top two lines, Alto 1s take the bottom line on the top staff, and Alto 2s sing the tenor line.
      • Mm. 53-56: Sopranos take the top line (top two lines at m. 55), Alto 1s sing the bottom line on the top staff, Alto 2s sing the tenor line.
      • In the clapping/instrumental section at mm. 61-68, pay attention to the syncopation and strongly accent those claps marked on beats 4 and 5 of each clapping measure.


  • I. The World is Full of Poetry


        • You used many words to describe this piece: vulnerable, graceful, soaring, beautiful – this piece is driven mainly by text and melody. Take special care to think about the words you are singing, their contexts, and how the melodies carry and transform them.
        • Throughout the piece, watch for breath marks that follow a quarter note with no rest in between. Mark these as an eighth note and eighth rest. For example, the breath marks at measures 13, 32, 34, and 50 in the first movement.
        • Altos: The entirety of this song is an opportunity to work on flexibility and lightness of your head voice. Tone should have a buoyant and graceful soaring quality. Don’t let yourself get too heavy with these gymnastic lines!
        • Everyone: at m. 35, keep the tempo steady. The rhythm of the melody literally reflects the text as the “waves dance to the music.” Check your notes and make sure you know this part well enough to sing it correctly and expressively.
        • Altos: Pickup to m. 38 and onward, continue exploring that vulnerable heady voice.
        • Sopranos: mm. 69-73 don’t let those E’s surprise you: Breathe early, shape the inside of the mouth to accommodate this high note entrance. continue energizing the breath to keep it floating although the tone is more subdued.
  • II. In Safety and Bliss
    • Memorize the text and recite it as it as a mantra. Think carefully about the text and its origin. It pairs wonderfully with the idea of non-denominational eco-spirituality that appears in the following movement.
    • With all of the unisons in this piece, aim for a clean, simple sound to give integrity to the text. It’s harder with a larger group, but you are capable!
    • This is a very solemn movement. You don’t have to over-express the lines like you would in a different piece. Let the melody and the rhythms set so precisely to the text create the word stress.


  • III. We Join With the Earth


      • Remember, David Brunner wrote this melody with many leaps and upward motion to create a feeling of “flying into the cosmos!” It’s nice to think of the United Nations Environmental Sabbath as a program that is meant to transcend denomination.
      • Please, please work hard to secure correct pitches in this piece.
      • Though this piece has some big moments, don’t let it influence your voice to become weighty. You should still sing this with a floating head voice. Especially altos!



  • Hymn to the Waters from Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda by Gustav Holst


    • This is an excellent piece to look at on your own. When learning this song, be aware of the chromatic changes. Much of the time, this isn’t a non-diatonic alteration, but rather Do being moved all together for each section.
    • Make sure to speak through this jaunty, asymmetrical rhythm. Notice that though the subdivision of each beat changes throughout the piece, the pulse remains in units of 7 – in the 21/8 sections we have each beat divided into triplet eighth notes while in the 7/4 sections the beat is divided into duple eighth notes.
    • Remember this piece has a text with origins from south Asian culture set in a very Western way. Think about the ways these ideas clash and how they complement each other.

You Are the New Day by John David, arranged by Philip Lawson

    • Read the blog post linked in the previous blog about this song which contains an excerpt from an interview with John David where he talked about writing this song. Think about the hope you would need to have in order to overcome despair, worry, and fear.
    • There are moments where your part will pop out of the texture to present a beautiful melodic line or idea. Find these in your score and think about how they fit in with the rest of the piece when you practice.


Always our best,

Elena, Jace, and Justin

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