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There are those who despise our military, but the fact remains that the sacrifices of those who have fallen in service to our country provided the freedoms we enjoy.
 
 
Much to our delight, the Choral Music Baseball Card series has been – pun intended – a big hit!
 
As a result, we plan to spend some time during the summer developing a couple dozen more cards, and we’d like a little input from the stands.
 
If there is a significant composer that you would like to see highlighted in the Choral Music Baseball Card series, please let us know.  Contact Scott Dorsey directly at dorsey@acda.org.
 
PLAY BALL!
FIVE FROM THE FOLDER: HIGH SCHOOL WOMEN’S CHOIR by Joel Karn
 
1. “Sing Creations Music On,” Stephen Paulus, Paulus Publications SP385
Very challenging rhythmically.  Vocally demanding piece.
 
2. “Abschiedslied der Zugvogel,” Felix Mendelssohn, National/NMP288
Beautiful melodic lines that can be used for developing a desired tone throughout the women’s vocal range.
 
3. “Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre,” G.F. Handel/arr. Robert Gibb, Gentry JG-3001
Normally a solo, this SSA arrangement stays true to the style.  Great for developing skill in singing sixteenth note melismatic passages.
 
4. “Tota Pulchra Es” Maurice Durufle, Durand D&F13901
Lots of meter changes.  Beautiful setting of the text.  Challenging but accessible for advanced high school women’s choir.
 
5. “Music Down in My Soul,” Moses Hogan, Hal Leonard 08743329
Very fun spiritual, great accompaniment.
 
(“Five from the Folder” provides brief, text-length reviews of vocal works currently in the folders of choral directors throughout the United States.  To share five from your folder, contact Scott Dorsey at dorsey@acda.org)
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “The Changing Concept of Desirable Tone Quality in Samoan Choral Singing,” by Robert Engle)
 
       Prominent among Pacific Island cultural groups is the traditional Samoan choir. Singing is a universal activity in Samoa. In addition to the functions which parallel the use of music in American life, singing is utilized during sa (evening family devotions), as a source of fundraising in the villages (in a manner similar to the English and American Christmas caroling tradition), in lieu of cheerleading at cricket and rugby games, as a focus of competition in inter-village festivals, as live or taped background music on the bus, and in informal concerts at the marketplace. At home, at a party, or in the park, vocal music is often spontaneous and meant for self-enjoyment.
       Singing in Samoan culture has enjoyed far more prominence than instrumental music throughout its history. Participation is universal, regardless of ability or inherited skill. Samoans believe the musical aptitude of all children is equal at birth and that superior ability can be linked to superior intelligence. Singing satisfies an important social objective for Samoans, and the group nature of this activity contributes to that end. A social commentator at the turn of the century observed:
“Solo singing does not attract (the Pacific islander) at all;
music is above all things a social function, in his opinion,
and if he can get a few others (or better still, a few score
others) to sit down with him on the ground and begin a
chorus, he is happy for hours and so are they.”
 
READ the entire article.
(An excerpt from the interest session “Brain-Friendly Strategies for Singer-Friendly Rehearsals,” presented by Charlene Archibeque & Debbie Glaze during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
       The Brain loves and makes connections through variety and novelty.  Synapses fire and connections are made through new experiences and focused awareness.  The creative choral director must do everything in his/her power to constantly involve the singers in ever-new experiences within the choral rehearsal.  Same old—same old doesn’t cut it.  Use different warm-ups and create new physical movements to go with them.  Movement internalizes deeper learning and involves more areas of the brain. When the choir needs to change a vowel, a tone color, a dynamic, an accent, instead of telling them, use a gesture that heightens the change and will provide a cue you can use in future rehearsals and in concert as a reminder.  Clever rehearsalists know to move the singers around often during a rehearsal.  Never let a choir sit or stand for long periods of time, but constantly alternate sitting and standing.  The brain works better in standing position and the body uses the pelvic tilt when standing so reserve sitting for instructions or silent work. The brain is strengthened by any kinesthetic connection. Have sections rehearse in circles, circles within circles;  walk in rhythm and sing, bend knees on accents, step forward and back, sway in rhythm, tap on thighs;  use hands and arms to shape phrases, raise pitch, spin tone, etc.
       Work in short time intervals:  change songs every seven to 10 minutes, work on short portions of a song, then return to difficult section later in rehearsal; work in musicianship training in small segments; give silent time to process learning, memorize, correct mistakes and audiate. Emotional hooks are essential for deeper learning.  Talk about beauty, textual meanings, life experiences, personal connections to each other and to the music.  Let them know the value of what they are doing!  Musical experiences increase the workings of the brain, especially the challenging ones.
       Above all, keep conductor’s comments short, make sure everyone is totally engaged throughout the rehearsal whether singing, humming, moving, marking.  Do not let one section sit doing nothing while working with another section.  Without MEMORY, THERE IS NO LEARNING:  design rehearsals to create deep procedural and long-term memories. 
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
(An excerpt from the poster session “Stylistic Development and Hybrid Genres in Chinese Choral Music,” presented by John Winzenburg, during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
       Chinese choral music is a meeting point of regional, national, and international forms interacting over the course of the twentieth century. The choral repertoire has developed along three main styles: 1) Chinese folk tunes set to Western Classical-Romantic musical language; 2) works with heightened emphasis on Chinese folk styles and Western/Soviet Romantic influences; and 3) expanded regional, vocal and musical styles. These styles generally correspond to major points in modern Chinese history.
       Before 1949, composers typically set Chinese folk or composed tunes as accompanied works with Chinese texts to Western tonal harmony with moderate chromaticism in the manner of Classical-Romantic music.  From the late 1940s, folk materials became central: triads were built of melodic pitches from the pentatonic scale, but they did not as strictly adhere to functional patterns.  Folksongs remained a major foundation, but vocal lines were more reflective of regional traditions, and more unaccompanied works appeared. Still, many compositions tended toward later Romantic harmonies and employed texts with strengthened nationalistic elements capturing an imaginary Chinese ‘essence’ from the countryside or history. From the late 1970s, works have been more frequently performed in regional dialects or minority styles, employ greater varieties of Chinese-Western, folk-classical-popular and traditional-experimental languages.
       The recent, rapid growth of Chinese choral activity is marked by hybridized Chinese-Western vocal delivery. Many Mainland Chinese choirs perform folk arrangements with a heavily ‘nasalized’ tone or local timbre, using scores with numbered notation instead of Western staff notation. But Chinese choirs everywhere increasingly embrace the bel canto aesthetic, with only an imaginary sense of older Chinese folk or regional timbres.
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
Impersonations are just plain fun.  Kevin Specey and Jimmy Fallon are particularly adept at this form of comedy; with Mr. Spacey’s Johnny Carson being spot-on. (Given that the 2016 political season is upon us - gag! - we’ll probably be hearing a lot of impersonations of those in or seeking office.)
 
 
(An excerpt from the poster session “Musical Realization of an Ancient Poetic Prayer Form in the Penitential Psalms by Alfred Schnittke,” presented by Zhanna A. Lehmann during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
       The texts of Alfred Schnittke’s Penitential Psalms appeared in a 1986 publication of the sixteenth century’s manuscripts of the ancient Rus’.1 These eleven poems represent a genre of ancient Russian, lyrical poetry commonly referred as penitential poems that are not “Psalms” in the Biblical sense, but penitential, spiritual poems, mostly anonymous, that draw their inspiration and some of their imagery from various biblical, liturgical, and paraliturgical sources. Schnittke intuitively followed the poems’ poetic structure – prayer poetic form that is characterized by the syntactic parallelism, anaphora, vocative and imperative forms. As in works in other genres, Schnittke utilized a polystylistic method to set the texts of the Penitential Psalms’. He also persistently applied the rhetorical devices throughout all the Psalms for word painting or to underline a strong expressive accentuation of the imperative and vocative forms.
       The primary way of organizing the text within the prayer form is by means of syntactic parallelism – the same or similar ordering of parts or words of the sentence in strophes within a poem. This parallelism creates coherence and an expectation of rhythmical repetition. Along with anaphora, the presence of syntactic parallelism tends to link the prayer poems with Biblical poetic forms. Syntactic parallelism is present in all of the eleven Psalms, and one of the primary methods Schnittke used to accentuate this poetic element was to follow the textual model and repeat the musical material either without any changes or vary it melodically or rhythmically. Thus, the textual and musical intensive repetition in this unified manner stir the emotions of the poems.
 
(1 Lev Dmitriev and Dmitry Likhachev, eds. Pamyatniki Literatury Drevnei Rusi: Vtoraya Polovina XVI Veka [Monuments of Literature of Ancient Rus’: Second Half of the XVI Century], (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, 1986), 550-563.
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Creating a Safe Environment for Singing,” by Kenneth H. Phillips)
 
       For many people the act of singing can be a daunting experience. Called upon to perform before others, they feel vulnerable and intimidated by expectations that scare them. Boys, especially, seem to fear "sounding like a girl" when they sing, and participate less willingly as they grow older. Music teachers and choral directors need to recognize this phenomenon and work to provide a safe environment where students can sing spontaneously without being laughed at and judged negatively.
       Singing is a deeply personal act. When a person sings they share their inner self, which makes them vulnerable to criticism. Any type of laughter or ridicule is bound to make a person retreat from willing participation. Unfortunately, singing in American society is viewed by many as a feminine behavior. It's okay for girls to be "tomboys," but a boy who is sensitive and artistic becomes suspect. Such boys may withdraw from singing rather than be made fun of and suffer from embarrassment. This should not be permitted to occur and music teachers need a plan by which to counter such negativity.
 
READ the entire article.
 
(An excerpt from the interest session “The XX-Files: Finding Great Literature by Women Composers,” presented by Eliza Rubenstein and Magen Solomon during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
The repertoire is out there....and we'll help you find it!
 
       Women composers are still markedly under-represented in most choral programs, as we're reminded by the works performed at nearly every ACDA conference! It's true that we don't yet have a "B-minor Mass" by  a woman, but until our school, community, and church choirs sing more works by women, and until our audiences hear more works by women, future generations of talented girls won't have the models and support to develop their gifts.
Our conversations with conductors throughout the years have made it clear that most of us want to include more women composers in our repertoire, but we're often stymied by the difficulty of finding them. This session offered choral directors a wealth of resources to make the job easier, and a dose of motivation to do so! Attendees read and/or listened to a variety of historical and modern works, received a resource list to locate even more, and learned about our ongoing database of works by women, available to all at:
                                            http://womencomposers.ocwomenschorus.org.  
       Finally, please make us aware of composers you feel should be included by contacting Eliza Rubenstein (eliza@ocwomenschorus.org) and/or Magen Solomon (magen.solomon@gmail.com).
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
(An excerpt from the interest session “Building Sound and Spirit: Discovering the Voice of the Choir,” presented by Amanda Quist during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
One of the highlights from this session centers around the concept that the chiaroscuro balance and use of overtones that we train in the solo voice can be trained in the same way with the choir. Most conductors do this intuitively, but we now have information that can give us even more clarity regarding choices when faced with sound challenges in the choir.  This has a great deal to do with formant tuning, which is, in the simplest form, vowel modification.  When the pitch cannot be changed but the sound isn't working, slight alterations in the vowel can aid the singer in lining up his or her fundamental pitch or one of its overtones with a formant, creating a sound that has greater resonance, ease, and clarity. When the entire section of the choir is successfully able to tap into their formants, the result is a unification that is found not through reducing the colors of the voices, but instead increasing color and singing into a collective resonance. As it turns out, the vowels /i/ and /u/ tend to be most successful in the typical tessitura for choral singing, in the middle of the staff. This changes, of course, as the range of a piece extends above or below the staff. The visceral experience of singing into a collective sound that is balanced and vibrant can aid in building community in the ensemble, as each voice finds its place within the whole.
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)