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Yeah, these guys may look like they're just clowing around, but the moment they hit the skins, it's all business.  Good musicianship is good musicianship. Period.
 
 
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!
(An excerpt from the interest session “Innovative Warm-ups for the Volunteer Choir,” presented by Michael Kemp, during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
Why Bother Changing Your Routine Warm-ups?
       Ask yourself this.  Where did your current warm-ups come from?  Are you using warm-ups from your college choir days?  But if you are directing a choir with volunteer singers, their needs are far different.  Why warm-up choirs in the first place?  It is an accepted tradition, but are warm-ups supposed to accomplish something?  If chosen carefully and sung well, they could be interesting, intriguing, and useful in developing better sound and enhanced artistry.   Choose your warm-ups for your specific choir, for their specific needs, and for the specific music you are about to rehearse.  Caution…if chosen carelessly, warm-ups can even be detrimental to your rehearsals, e.g. staccato warm-ups before rehearsing a sustained anthem.
       Here is what well-chosen warm-ups could accomplish.
     <> They could “aha” experiences, stimulating enthusiasm for the entire rehearsal ahead.
     <> They could help choir members focus on attention to detail.
     <> They could teach and reinforce specific vocal, musical, and enunciation skills.
     <> They could evoke the habit of musical singing.
     <> Warm-ups also give directors the opportunity to adjust posture/facial shaping.
 
The bottom line is that warm-ups should not be casual experiences, but they should be chosen to teach specific skills and to prepare your choir for the music about to be rehearsed, e.g. tone quality, style of articulation, rhythmic clarity, proportions sensitivity, and enunciation clarity.  .
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Comparisons between the Requiems of Florian Leopold Gassmann and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” by Mark J. Suderman )
 
       Much has been written about the music Mozart mayor may not have actually written in his
Requiem. However, little has been written about the origins of Mozart's material- the music by other composers which may have influenced Mozart's writing. The knowledge of such influences is important. It contributes to a better understanding of Mozart's compositional process and the musical aesthetic of the time in which he wrote.
       Mozart studied the church music of many composers, and wrote in a fashion quite similar to theirs in designs of musical material. Direct correlations can be seen in a number of works. Particularly striking are the similarities between Mozart's Requiem and those composed by Johann Michael Haydn and Florian Leopold Gassmann.
       Florian Leopold Gassmann was born on May 3, 1729 in Briix, a Bohemian town northwest of Prague (now Most, Czechoslovakia). The boy was very likely educated at the Jesuit Gymnasium in Komotau (now Chomutov which was located 25 kilometers southwest of Briix.l (Jesuit schools were actively engaged in the performance of music and the training of musicians. Many other fine musicians were trained by Jesuits during this time, including Michael Haydn, J. G. Albrechtsberger, Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Christoph Sonnleithner, and Franz Tuma.) Little else is known about Gassmann's early years, though there is some speculation about the  possible lack of support he received from his parents regarding his pursuit of a musical career
 
READ the entire article.
 
In this brief interest session excerpt, famed conductor Christopher Hogwood (d. 2014) shares his thoughts about the value of live choral performance by amateur the choristers.
 
 
 
(An excerpt from the interest session “Problems and Possibilities in Choral Methods Courses,” presented by Patrick K. Freer during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
        One problem is our graduates’ reluctance to use research-based techniques when teaching choral music.  When I attend many sessions at state, regional and national ACDA conferences, the advice given is frequently the same anecdotal advice that might have been given in 1926, the year when high school choral music in the United States became uniquely focused on performance quality.
        An example: A focus of my research is the singing of adolescent boys and how that singing can be continued through the voice change and beyond.  Yet, we often fail to present research about the boy and his voice to our students.  It’s not a mystery or an enigma. We know exactly what happens during the boy’s voice change, and how it affects him physically, vocally, psychologically, and sociologically.  Even better, we know that almost all boys like to sing.  They just don’t often receive information about why they join chorus in the first place . . . to learn about singing and the voice in a group setting with their friends.  We need to draw on current research to provide that information.
        I see great possibilities in choral music education as a research-grounded artistic-academic endeavor. The best news is that, in the most obvious instance, choral music teachers can do this pretty much instantly, tomorrow.  An abundance of research indicates that young people (including adolescent boys) want to become better singers.  You’ve probably taken years of voice lessons. You’re already an expert in that.  So, teach the students what you know and what they want to know.  Teach vocal technique first, and use that as a bridge to teaching the fundamental skills necessary for successful choral participation.  ​
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
Here's a little taste of 1960s-era Saturday morning fare . . . with a slight up-date (if stop-motion annimation can be considered an "update").  It's surprisingly close to the original opening.
 
 
(An excerpt from the interest session “The Revival of 19th-Century A Cappella Music,” presented by James Henry [with Marty Monson, the Fairfield Four, and Crossroads], during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
       Strong evidence suggests that African Americans, particularly those in the South, were chiefly responsible for forging the early “close harmony” style that would later be called barbershop. In casual settings such as barbershops, barrooms and street corners, African Americans denied access to many other venues used singing as one of their primary forms of recreation, and the back rooms of barbershops were common meeting places. In 1925, Author, musician and early leader of the NAACP James Weldon Johnson recalled:
       In the days when such a thing as a white barber was unknown in the South, every barber shop had its quartet, and the men spent their leisure time…‘harmonizing.’  I have witnessed some of these explorations in the field of harmony and the scenes of hilarity and backslapping when a new and rich chord was discovered.  There would be demands for repetitions and cries of, “Hold it! Hold it!” until it was firmly mastered…. In this way was born the famous but much abused “barber-shop chord.”
       What many choral educators have discovered—facilitated by the Barbershop Harmony Society (barbershop.org)—is that this close-harmony style has proven hugely beneficial to their programs. The quest to “ring” chords inspires in their students an insatiable desire to learn whatever they can to be successful at it. They geek out on tuning, balancing chords, and matching vowels. 21st-century teenagers in the hallways and quads of their schools are recreating Johnson’s memory from a 19th-century southern barbershop. They start teaching tags to their friends and lure them into the choir program like sailors to sirens. Think of it: not only girls, but guys clamoring to join your choirs!
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Phonetic Fun and Frolic: Alliteration in Elizabethan Part Songs,” by Chris White.)
 
       An examination of Elizabethan part songs published in current anthologies reveals the prominent use of alliteration requiring the rapid repetition of the consonant [f].  The recurrent use of [f] alliteration may be attributed in part to the names of the principal female subjects of the English verse: Phyllis, Flora, Philomela, Phoebe, etc. However, another, more humorous hypothesis should be considered: the poets and composers could simply have been making a little mischief, teasing themselves and other singers of these part songs who could not articulate an [f] without dental difficulty.
       In sixteenth century England, the principal treatment for a patient's toothache was extraction. As Woodforde noted, “The need for extraction was undoubtedly great. The diet of the well-to-do included a preponderance of sugary cakes and marzipan sweetments; and even meatpies would be topped with a mixture that included a mass of sugar and rosewater.”
       Regardless of the remedy, the extraction of the upper front teeth would have caused speech impediments, particularly with the consonant [f]. To articulate this labiodental consonant, the lower lip must extend upward and make contact with the bottom of the upper set of teeth. Then, the exhalation of air through the mouth is stopped momentarily-causing outward pressure against the back of the upper set of teeth-and an explosion of air upon the release of the lower lip.
       Certainly, a person with missing upper teeth could not articulate an [f] distinctly. Further, since dental adhesives were not available, a person with transplanted teeth or dentures would have also risked dislodging, or expelling the teeth with this plosive sound.
 
READ the entire article.
 
(An excerpt from the interest session “Models and Mentors: Leadership Development for Choral Conductors,” presented by Hilary Apfelstadt during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
       As conductors, we fulfill multiple roles – musicians, scholars, educators, leaders, models and mentors.   All mentors are models, but all models are not mentors.  
       Historically, concepts of leadership have evolved, including trait theories, behavioral theories, situational leadership theory, transactional and transformational theories, servant leadership, and collaborative leadership.  Researchers have found situational leadership theory (SLT) especially relevant to successful conductors, who balance high task and high relationship in rehearsals.
       Everything we do in rehearsals is a model for the musicians whom we lead.   Those of us working with novice conductors can effectively share how we make decisions pertaining to repertoire selection, steps in preparation through score analysis, presentation of pedagogical principles, and the verbal and gestural language we choose.  In doing so, we are modeling effective ways for these less experienced conductors as they begin their careers. 
       Modeling and mentoring differ in that mentoring is deeper and connected to an apprentice-like relationship, such as that between a graduate advisor and student.   Bennett (2013, 96) notes several “personal attributes of artists,” which are relevant to those of us in leadership positions, whether models or mentors:
          1.  Confidence and inner strength
          2.  Openness and adaptability to change
          3.  Motivation and drive
          4.  Resilience and determination
          5.  Passion
       It is easy to see how each of these characteristics serves us well in our role as conductor-leaders.  Our responsibility is to model and nurture these characteristics in our students. 
 
(Bennett, Dawn.  Understanding the Classical Music Profession: The Past, The Present, and Strategies for the Future.  Hampshire, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013.)
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
(An excerpt from the interest session “Thirty-Something: New Choral Music from Today’s Hottest Young Composers,” presented by Dominick DiOrio during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
 
       New choral music is flowing in many directions these days, with composers borrowing influences from popular music, early music, and folk traditions. This is in no way more clear than in Caroline Shaw's Pulitzer Prize-winning score Partita for 8 voices -- a monumental work that was created over four years while Caroline was singing with the octet Roomful of Teeth and Brad Wells. The Passacaglia from Partita exemplifies all of these things: the influences of the Baroque suite (and Caroline's experience as a violinist playing in string quartets); the colors and inflections of indigenous vocal cultures; and the flexibility and unrestrained vocalism of popular music.
       These trends can be seen in the works of other young composers too. Ted Hearne's rhythmic pulsation and forward motion in his Mass for St. Mary's remind us of rock music, while Jocelyn Hagen's soft blink of amber light washes over us in waves of contemporary color. The music of Michael Gilbertson and Zachary Wadsworth borrows influence from Dowland and Byrd respectively, while my work O Virtus Sapientiae actively quotes a chant of Hildegard, set against original music of my own design.
       Vocal music is moving in many directions, and the definition of a "chorus" is no longer quite as fixed as it once was. The new repertoire by these composers--and so many others--is launching us into a new era of choral composition, where the 24-voice professional chamber chorus is the ensemble par excellence by which all others will be measured.
 
(Make plans now to attend your 2016 ACDA Divisional Conference!)
Baseball season has begun, which means summer can’t be far behind.  While you enjoy this classic cartoon, I’m heading to the ballpark!