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(An excerpt from the interest session “ Teaching Your Singers to Fish: How Diction Frees Us to Sing around the World,” presented by Stephen Sieck during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
 
When we try to teach our singers how to pronounce songs in a foreign language, we often make several assumptions:
  1. We know how to pronounce the language accurately,
  2. They know how to imitate us accurately, and
  3. We know how to assess their imitation accurately
I don’t know about you, but I don’t speak as many foreign languages as I would like to my choir to sing!  And I certainly don’t know enough Mandarin or Bulgarian to have a discerning ear for whether my students are saying/singing the sounds correctly.
 
So let’s take it back to Step 1 for all singers everywhere, which is making a beautiful vowel. 
 
I recommend we teach our singers the four basics of a beautiful “ah” vowel, and then label that sound with the International Phonetic Symbol: [ɑ]
  1. Lift your soft palate
    1. You can see this when you yawn in front of a mirror; the soft palate rises in the back, and now you can see your lower molars, your tonsils, and your uvula.
  2. Relax your tongue, let the tip touch your lower teeth
    1. This will produce a relatively flat, calm tongue.  You should be able to see your teeth (all of them) this way, for reference.
  3. Relaxed, released jaw
    1. Again, like you’re yawning!  The old adage used to be “fit two fingers in your mouth”, but you can do that with tension or with relaxation.  We’re going for relaxation.  You should also feel your jaw rock and release by your ears (at the “sideburn” area).
  4. Mask placement
    1. Sing up and forward, like you’re shooting a free-throw with your voice. 
Once your singers make this open, high, resonant [ɑ] vowel, they’re ready for anything. 
 
Getting from [ɑ] to [ɔ] to [o] to [ʊ] to [u]
Simply round your lips.  Fully rounded makes [u] as in “ubi caritas”, and barely rounded makes [ɔ], as in “God”.
 
Getting from [ɑ] to [æ] to [ɛ] to [e] to [ɪ] to [i]
Simply raise the center of your tongue.  The highest position makes [i] as in “seen”, and a barely lifted tongue-center makes [æ] as in “sat.” 
 
When you approach foreign vowels, now you can simply ask yourself – which tongue position? which lip position?  So, in German, for example,
                        [y] = [i] tongue plus [u] lips, as in “über”
                        [ʏ] = [ɪ] tongue plus [ʊ] lips, as in “fünf”
(An excerpt from the interest session “From the Ground Up: Building a New Student Chapter,” presented by Andrew McNair during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
 
       One thing that anyone wanting to start or grow an ACDA chapter should consider is how you plan to publicize and spread information about your chapter.  The way that you share information is important.  Try using multiple forms of media for the same event.  For example, if you have a meeting coming up, start with a Facebook Event, and then as the meeting gets closer, put up posters, then the day of the meeting, make an announcement about it during ensemble rehearsals (but make sure you clear that last one with your director before you do that.)  This way of spreading information is good at getting people to your events because it keeps information about your organization at the forefront of other students’ minds, instead of leaving it to the students to remember an event because of one poster they saw.  Also, make your publicity purposeful.  Have important information like event titles, dates, and times readable and distinct from everything else.  That way, if someone only glances over an advertisement, at least they will get the information required to show up to the event.  And above all, never forget or underestimate the importance of word-of-mouth communication.  If you can make a connection with someone face-to-face, they are so much more likely to go to an event of yours.  They will go to the event for you, but they will stay for the content that you are giving them.  Good luck to everyone on building your chapters!
(An excerpt from the interest session “Enriching the Life of the Aging Choral Singer,” presented by Sarah Parks during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
 
       When working with aging singers, three areas of vocal production that need special attention are posture, breath and articulation.  Encouraging a buoyant, lifted posture throughout the rehearsal will set singers up for a better connection to proper breath support.  As singers age, they may still be able to take in a fair supply of breath, but it becomes more difficult to sustain the proper breath pressure needed for lengthier musical lines or a full range of dynamics.  Choir directors must remember to include exercises that encourage a longer sustained release of breath.  One exercise that can be used throughout the rehearsal is blowing into a closed hand that is pressed against the mouth. The pressure of the hand on the mouth creates resistance, causing the release of breath to be distributed more evenly.  A second exercise is to speak a resonant alphabet on one breath, repeating the exercise at an even slower tempo. Aging singers may also experience significant changes to the oral cavity, a slowing of the rate of speech, and hearing loss.  For this reason, it is important to find ways to reinforce clear, precise articulation in vocalizes and in ensemble literature.
       Frequently, older performers are interested in individual vocal development but have limited income or an insufficient level of self-esteem needed to consider private voice instruction.  Adding a group lesson element to the choral rehearsal gives ensemble members the opportunity to understand more about the singing process on an individual level. The learning experience is heightened as one listens to the vocal development of other members in the group. Group instruction is also a wonderful environment to nurture strong social bonds, a benefit that is most essential to the aging.
(An excerpt from the interest session “American Indian Choral Music: The Works of Brent Michael Davids,” presented by Robert Gehrenbeck and Brent Michael Davids, with the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater Chamber Singers during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
 
       Brent Michael Davids’ 2002 commission for Chanticleer, The Un-Covered Wagon, combines traditional western choral singing with three distinct American Indian vocal styles. Melodies composed in the style of the Great Basin Indians (e.g. Ojibwe), Plains Indians (e.g. Cherokee), and the Northeastern Indians (e.g. the Mohicans, Davids’ own tribe) are first heard separately, then they are combined at the end of the piece in a contrapuntal tour de force. The recording excerpt available on Davids’ website  presents the sweeping Plains-style melody in a spacious sounding texture, followed by the quicker Northeastern-style melody sung over a rock-inspired vamp in the low basses. The excerpt concludes with the first few measures of the passage where all three melodies unite.
       This piece begins in a much darker mood with a highly dissonant treatment of the well-known missionary hymn, Faith Of Our Fathers, presented over an eerie backdrop of fragments of the native melodies. Davids’ aim in this music was to demonstrate the jarring contrast between the myth of European “pioneers” settling an uninhabited wilderness—as depicted in the 1923 blockbuster film, The Covered Wagon — and the historical reality of the Indians who were already here, inhabiting every corner of what later became the United States. The stylistic diversity of Davids’ music reflects the rich variety of American Indian music passed down through centuries and still performed today.  Like The Uncovered Wagon, many of Davids’ other choral works also trace a progression from despair to empowerment, including She Is One of Us, performed live during this session by the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater Chamber Singers.
(An excerpt from the interest session “Not-So-'Major' Works: Alternative, International Offerings from Outside the Canon,” presented by Trey Davis during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
 
Requiem - Jean Richafort (c. 1480-c. 1550)
"Introitus" (1st Section)
- Composed in c. 1521 (the death of Josquin des Prez), 40 Minutes
- SATTBB, unaccompanied 
Das Chorwerk, Vol. 124, ed. Albert Seay; Edition by T. Davis (forthcoming)
- A canon serves as a structural unification, borrowed from Josquin
- Cantus Firmus, Paraphrase of Josquin, Paraphrase of Sarum plainchant, Cyclic - tail motives
- 3 pairs of voices, low tessitura, cross-relations
- Accessible for Advanced High School, with a predominance of low voices (excerpts) and Beyond

Misa Criolla - Ariel Ramírez (1921-2010)
"Santo"
- Composed in 1964, 20 Minutes
- Mixed Chorus (occasional divisi) and Tenor, guitar, string bass,
native percussion, and piano
- Alfred - 00-LG51362 - Parts for Rental
- Accessible for Advanced High School and Beyond
- Argentinian Folk Rhythms, Spanish Text
- "carnaval cochabambino"

the little match girl passion - David Lang (b. 1957)
#14 "In the dawn of morning"
- Composed in 2007, Pulitzer Prize in 2008, 35 Minutes
- SATB Chorus and SATB Soloists, each playing percussion
- Version for small chorus - rental from G. Schirmer
- See davidlangmusic.com for full perusal scores
- Accessible for Advanced High School (excerpts) and Beyond
- Text adapted by Lang from Hans Christian Andersen, Picander, and Saint Matthew
- Consider lecturing before the concert, presenting the Bach movements that inspired the work
- See Trey Davis (dissertation) - "No one imagined...": ennobled suffering in David Lang's the little match girl passion
(An excerpt from the interest session “What Language Shall I Borrow? Singing in Translation,” presented by Daniel A. Mahraun during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
 
       While we have all done it at one time or another, there is still drummed into many of our minds the view that the performance of vocal music in translation a form of blasphemy.  The arguments can usually be reduced to:
       1.  The text and music are too carefully wedded by the composer to consider altering either. 
       2.  Translations are provided in the printed program.
       3.  The audience can’t understand the words anyway, especially if performing with an orchestra.
       4.  Good English versions are rare if not non-existent.  They’re usually filled with archaic language, forced feminine endings, strange word order, impossible vowels to sing, lines that bear no relationship to the meaning of the original, or are just plain generic and meaningless.
 
Consider, however, the advantages:
       1.  Singing in our native language saves rehearsal time.  As base and utilitarian as this argument may sound, it is true.
       2.  As a result, the audience will be spared the distraction of reading translations, often in the dark, often without the original language printed alongside, all while trying to actually listen to the performance.
       3.  Historically speaking, the increased availability of inexpensive printed music in the 19th Century and, in England and the United States, the translation of works into English, made hundreds of works accessible to performers and listeners—works that otherwise would likely have been forgotten.
       4.  As conductor Roger Doyle wrote in his 1980 article in the Choral Journal, “We must not prove the genius of [a composer’s] art only by his [or her] skillful text underlay.”
 
(An excerpt from the interest session “Conductor “Creature” Vs. Conductor-Teacher: Empowering Singers Through Authenticity in the Choral Rehearsal,” presented by Ryan Beeken and Andrea Ramsey during the 2014 ACDA Southwest Division Conference)
 
       In his book “The Courage to Teach,” Parker Palmer says: “…teaching holds a mirror to the soul.  If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge — and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.”
       Conductor-creatures often fail to look into that mirror. They tend to create an adversarial relationship with their choristers and place blame upon the singers. The “creature’s” poor planning, insecurity, and/or an inability to trust contributes to this combative relationship. In contrast, conductor-teachers reflect upon their instruction, focus upon student needs, and foster a collaborative rehearsal environment.  They prepare multiple strategies to ensure student success, empower their singers to contribute to the rehearsal process, and cultivate an atmosphere of trust.
       In his 2005 article, “Shaping Identity Through Choral Activity: Singers’ And Conductors’ Perceptions,” published in Research Studies in Music Education, Colin Durrant presents a model of an effective choral conductor. He argues that in addition to musical skill and knowledge, today’s conductor must possess the capacity to create a positive, non-threatening environment while communicating clearly.  Today’s successful conductor, the conductor-teacher, looks into that mirror, does not run from what they see, fosters a collaborative relationship with their choristers, and achieves musical excellence along the way.
(An excerpt from the interest session “Hearing the Hidden Harmonies: Paring the Choral Art with the Visual,” presented by Susan Rice and Joy Beckman during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
 
       Before embarking on a performance project that pairs choral music with the visual arts, there are several important issues to consider. First, identify the learning or engagement goals the project prompts for your singers or audience members, which can guide you through the decisions that will follow.
       Next, consider the resources available in your community to act as Project Partners. We encourage you to think outside the traditional performance framework and consider partners such as museums, historical societies, botanical gardens, theatres (especially those that might have a collection of historic costumes), a prominent local artist, or significant architectural sites that would have staff members or volunteers that could help you learn about the architect as well as the architecture.
       Such a project requires a considerable investment of time in planning and discussion once the learning goals and Project Partner have been identified. Initial conversations between the conductor/teacher and the partnering organization should occur at least two years prior to the implementation of the project. This will allow for the project vision to be clearly articulated and agreed upon, ample time to be allocated for the selection of appropriate objects from the collection, and the performance location and presence of the objects selected to be planned.
       Such a project typically flows more organically if the music selections arise from the stimulus of the objects considered. Therefore, it is advisable for final decisions about the visual art/objects to be confirmed approximately 18 months prior to the performance, which allows adequate time for repertoire selection.
(An excerpt from the interest session “Fine Tuning Your Choir,” presented by James Franklin during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
 
If we want to have a more finely tuned choir, we need to have an understanding of how intervals might sound.  We are so entrenched in a modern system of tuning, i.e., equal temperament, that many of us are not even aware that there are other tuning possibilities. 
 
Let’s compare Equal Temperament with its forefathers of tuning, Just and Pythagorean.  (Note: In equal temperament a semitone is divided into 100 cents such that C  à  C#  =  100 cents, C#  à  D  =  100 cents, and so on.)
 
System
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
Just
0
204
386
498
702
884
1088
1200
Equal T
0
200
400
500
700
900
1100
1200
Pyth.
0
204
408
498
702
906
1110
1200
 
Since Pythagorean tuning is built on a system of perfectly tuned fifths, we should use that value (702) as our guide.  Therefore, a true P5 should ring slightly higher than a P5 played on a piano.
 
For the fourth scale degree, the subdominant or fifth below the tonic, we arrive at a cent value of 498 by subtracting a P5 (702) from an octave (1200).
 
The cent value for the second scale degree (204) comes from stacking two fifths on top of one another.
 
          C  à  G  à  D  =  1404 cents
          1404  –  1200  =  204
 
Since just intonation is built on the concept of really pure thirds, we use that system to find a truer value for intervals of a third.  In equal temperament the major third (C à E) is 400 cents, but in just intonation the same major third is only 386 cents.  A true M3, a just M3, is actually lower than we might imagine.
 
Let’s review.
 
Scale Degree
ET Cent Value
Target Cent Value
Adjustment
5
700
702
Slightly Higher
4
500
498
Slightly Lower
2
200
204
Slightly Higher
3
400
386
Fairly Lower
 
 
(An excerpt from the interest session “Re-Voicing Public Domain Choral Music for SSA, TTBB, etc.: Tips, Tricks, and Time Savers,” presented by William C. Powell during the 2014 ACDA Southern Division Conference)
 
       When re-voicing choral music, it is helpful to compare SATB scores with TTBB and/or SSAA settings of the same title by the same composer/arranger. More specifically, one can listen to recordings of the piece, play the voice parts, sing each part, and analyze the melody, harmony, rhythm, vocal ranges, etc. 
       For example, when analyzing the melody, determine if the melody is best served in a single voice part throughout the piece, or if it should shift temporarily to another voice part? To facilitate the process, one should also assess the melodic contour and determine the width of the melodic range within each phrase. 
       Another element to analyze is the harmony of the piece when preparing to re-voice a piece from SATB to SSA(A) or TTBB. It is helpful to project how the harmony will support or balance with the melody, whether you can maintain the harmonic integrity of the original setting, and how the harmonic progression and cadences are approached in the original setting. 
(An excerpt from the interest session “A Place in the Choir, a Choir in the Place,” presented by Charlotte Kroeker during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
 
       According to a Chorus America study,
  1.  More choirs are found in churches than anywhere else in the U.S., 216,000 of 270,000.  80% of all choirs in the U.S. are in church.
  2. Choir singers are better citizens than non-choir singers when measured by voluntarism, community involvement, charitable giving, empathy, and the likelihood they will vote.
       If all part-time church choir directors knew these facts, would they think about their church jobs differently?  Would churches make sure those part-time jobs turned into full-time jobs in order to get more choir singers as members?
       Church musicians have connected their vocations with service for a long time.  Consider this:
  • “To the honor of the most high God alone, to the neighbor, that he may learn from it.”  J.S. Bach, on the title page of the Orgelbüchlein.
  • “That this part (i..e., the musical part) of Divine Worship may be the more acceptable to God, as well as the more profitable to yourself and others. . .” Prefatory sentence to John Wesley’s Directions for Singing of 1761.
       Bach and Wesley understood the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor as primary to their vocations as church musicians.  They, along with many others, have carried the positive attributes of faith into a needy world. 
       The Church Music Institute’s eLibrary, with its 6,500 (and growing) octavos searchable on 24 criteria, including Scripture text, is one way to deliver time-tested truths through beautiful music via choirs to our world.  Interested?  www.churchmusicinstitute.org
(An excerpt from the interest session “Beyond Burnout Prevention: Embodied Wellness for Conductors,” presented by Amelia Nagoski during the 2014 ACDA Eastern Division Conference)
 
       Embodied is the term that psychologists are using to replace the misleading term "mind-body."  They hope to eliminate the misconception of the "mind-body connection," since to speak of the "connectedness of mind and body" implies a false relationship, suggesting that there are three things (mind, body, and connection between them) when, scientifically, none of these things exist independent of one another.  The term embodied accounts for the system of largely pre-conscious kinesthetic behavior and mental awareness. 
       Conductors are leaders and athletes and artists, with high demands on our bodies and our minds--which, of course, are the same thing.  This level of demand makes us especially susceptible stress-induced symptoms and, eventually, burnout.  The application of that science to improve our work is accessible through practical techniques from a variety of disciplines.
       Decades of research tells us that mindfulness practice reduces stress and its associated health risks, improves resonance in leadership, and even increases creativity.   Mindfulness is awareness without judgement.  While stress on muscles and on emotions activates the sympathetic nervous system (in charge of "flight, flight, or freeze"), mindfulness engages the parasympathetic nervous system (in charge of "rest and digest").  For mindfulness practice, you can stop and do a meditation like Jack Kornfield's or Dan Siegel's; and, while it's useful to practice mindfulness as a meditation by itself, mindfulness can also be practiced all day long, making the choice to be aware of feelings--that is, physical sensations and emotional ones, recognizing the unity of the two--without judgement.  
(An excerpt from the interest session “A Passion for Programming ,” presented by Philip Brunelle during the 2014 ACDA Central Division Conference)
 
       How does our concert repertoire and programming serve our chorus and our audience?  As we consider an ideal program there are many things to keep in mind:  What is the venue - its acoustics, its ambiance? What are the budget issues affecting repertoire? Is you are touring the program - does the music wear well for the singers?  Have you considered involving other ensemble in a specific number?  Are there anniversaries or special commemorative occasions to observe?
       These are some of the important issues that will be involved in making that IDEAL program.
THE LIFE AND WORK OF LEON THURMAN: ONGOING CONTRIBUTIONS by Mary Lynn Doherty
 
As you prepare for your summer, many of you are probably looking forward to a less hectic schedule and time to retool.  Many teachers and conductors take the summer months to rest the voice and/or to continue to learn about the vocal mechanism.  When I think of summer, I also get excited about all of the things I will have time to read!  Recently, I was re-reading Science-Based, Futurist Megatrends: Vocal and Choral Pedagogy in the year 2097 [1] written by Leon Thurman who is the founder of The Voice Care Network  (http://www.voicecarenetwork.org/) and Specialist Voice Educator at the Leon Thurman Voice Center (LTVC), Minneapolis, Minnesota (http://www.leonthurman.com/).  I met Leon at the Phenomenon of Singing International Symposium in Newfoundland, Canada in the late nineties and recently connected with him again through this column.  For my last Speaking of Voice blog entry, I asked him if I could feature him, his work and his hopes for future research in the fields of vocal pedagogy and voice science.
 
1) Why have you chosen to make vocal health and voice education your life's work?
 
The choice evolved from wanting to be a ‘preacher’ in high school, to being an actor, to being a choral music and speech educator. Being a voice teacher was added when I taught in a small South Dakota college. Then I thought, “What if I did voice skill teaching with the choral singers?” recognizing that voice education was almost non-existent in the choral music field. While teaching at MacPhail Center for the Arts, my personal voice education grew to include “how voices are made and how they are ‘played’ in skilled singing and speaking.” I then met and ‘apprenticed’ with very experienced voice educators, voice therapists, voice scientists, and ENT physicians. As a result, voice health was added to what I could share with choral conductors and singers, general music educators, actors, clergy, etc. Eventually, voice users who had voice disorders that were diagnosed by ENTs began to ask me to help them recover their voices (I never advertised). I started The VoiceCare Network in 1982, and with support from the National Center for Voice and Speech, I became principal author and co-editor of a 3-volume tome titled Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education. In 1989, a voice-dedicated speech pathologist and I partnered as The Voice Center, and in 1995 Fairview Health Services bought us. For twelve years we were Fairview Voice Center, part of Rehabilitation Services at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. In late 2007, during a financial crisis, I was downsized from Fairview and became sole proprietor of The Leon Thurman Voice Center.
 
2) Whose work has been most influential to you?
 
The work and wisdom of many people have influenced me and my work, but three people were seminal in pointing me in the directions that my professional life has taken: Charles Leonhard, Ed.D., a renowned music education pioneer in the United States; Oren Brown, Juilliard School, a pioneer in voice education and voice therapy; and Van Lawrence, M.D., a leader in voice health and protection for people who use their voices extensively and/or vigorously in their work or non-work lives. All three of them are deceased, now, but in my professional life, I have done my best to extend their work into a future of which they could not be a part.
 
Charles Leonhard, my major professor during my University of Illinois masters and doctoral degrees, opened my ‘eyes’ and ‘heart’ to the relationship between the structural designs of music and the ‘making’ of music so that it expresses out what is emotionally important to the human beings of this Earth. He helped open my curiosities so much that I delved into knowledge areas that were well beyond the usual provinces of academic music, e.g., prenatal and infant music education, connecting musical learning and expressiveness with the neuropsychobiological wholeness of all human beings, and “doing” music education in ways that learners want to connect with it and choose to do so over their lifetimes.
 
Oren helped me connect knowledge about vocal anatomy and function with how to help people can learn to sing and speak with optimum physical and acoustic efficiency. That efficiency waaay increases the likelihood that expressive singing and speaking can move people to express out the rich feelings that direct our lives. Our expressive voices can connect us strongly to each other, they can dance us, move us into still contemplation or to weeping, they can en-joy us with smiles and laughter, heighten our empathy for each other, and leave us in a state of neuropsychobiological homeostasis (read: balance, calm focus, and positive ‘resonance’ with the people, places, things, and events of our experienced ‘worlds’).
 
Van took me under his wing to educate me deeply about voice health. We first met at the 1979 NATS National Convention and then at various Voice Foundation Symposia. He offered the use of his laryngeal videostroboscope to videotape what voices do when they perform a variety of efficient and inefficient vocal coordinations, so I flew to Houston to do that. I stayed in his home and met his lovely wife Camilla, over a February weekend in 1983. He was such a warm and beautiful human being who patiently helped me learn how the organs and tissues of voices respond to use and to diseases, what ENT physicians do for the health of singers, and the role that voice educators could play in partnership with ENTs and speech pathologists.
 
3) What research would you like to see done in the areas of vocal pedagogy, voice conservation, or any other related topic?
 
Voice, voice medicine, and other scientists around the world are continuing the slow, methodical work of researching the details of the vocal physiology that produce singing and speaking, and the practices that optimize healthy voice use. For some time now, neuroscientists around the world have been researching the myriad effects of music experiences on brain development and function with increasing interest. A huge need, however, is the collection and evaluation of that research and ‘translations’ of the findings into language that practitioners can comfortably understand and use in the “real world.”
 
Only a very few voice-interested researchers have delved into the neuroscience, psychology, and biology of optimal learning applied to solo and choral singing, speaking, and acting. Learning and human communications happen both inside and outside conscious awareness. The internal processings that produce those phenomena happen 24/7, and they even include influences on the development of secure or insecure self-identity in human beings. The available science-based information that relates to optimal learning and human communications is dispersed in a wide array of knowledge fields and requires long effort to collect it and ‘translate’ it.
 
A first ‘go’ at doing that is in Volume 1 of Bodymind and Voice [2].
 
[1] Thurman, L. (1998). Science-based futurist megatrends: Vocal and choral pedagogy in the year 2097. In B.A. Roberts (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Symposium—Sharing the Voices: The Phenomenon of Singing. St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada: Memorial University of Newfoundland.
[2] Thurman, L. & Welch, G. (Eds.) (2000). Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education (Rev. Ed., Vols. 1-3). Collegeville, MN: The VoiceCare Network, National Center for Voice and Speech, Fairview Voice Center. 
(An excerpt from the interest session “Embodying Music: Transferring Movement from Rehearsal to Performance,” presented by Marci Major during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
 
       After attending or hearing about the session on Embodying Music at the SWACDA conference, choral directors might want some specific activities to try with their students to help them engage in a more organic approach to movement in rehearsal and performance.  Here are three easy suggestions everybody can try:
       1.     Remain perfectly still while listening to music.  Starting in a standing position with their eyes closed, ask the singers to focus on letting the music flow into their ears.  After several minutes, engage the students in a discussion about how they felt the music and the difficulty they experienced restraining movement.  You can follow this activity with repeating the music and allowing the students to explore the movements they originally repressed.
       2.     Explore beat keeping in different parts of the body.  While listening to recorded or live music, call out different focuses or ways of keeping the beat.  For example, while keeping the beat in a way of their choice, ask the singers to focus on how their lower back feels.  Or, ask students to try keeping macro and micro beats with an isolated part of the body.  Lead the students in a discussion that allows them to understand how all parts of the body connect and work together.  End this activity with the students identifying their most comfortable focus areas for movement.
       3.     Isolate movement from singing.  Before combining singing and movement together, divide the choir in half using one group to sing and the other group to respond with movement.
 
WATCH these concepts in action. 
(An excerpt from the interest session “Where 10 or 12 Are Gathered: Strategies for Smaller Church Choirs,” presented by Matt Caine during the 2014 ACDA Southern Division Conference)
 
       . . . In any of these situations you may have to help the choir develop a new vision, but in the case of the has-been church, in order to be successful, one of the primary goals will be helping the choir to create a new vision of choir. With all their being, they want to be the 40 to 80 voice choir they once were; they want to perform Brahms’ Requiem and works of that level of difficulty two or more times per year; they want to sing warhorse anthems like Parry’s I Was Glad every Sunday; and anything short of these experiences constitutes failure. Thus, they are living in a constant state of failure. One must help them create a new definition of choir and a new vision so that they can then experience the success they are capable of and actually be able to recognize and celebrate it as success.
       While creating the new vision, it is good to remind the choir and one’s own self of the church choir’s primary responsibility: to lead congregational singing, with its secondary responsibility being to sing music to help others worship through listening. Most conductors spend so much time rehearsing anthems that they fail to adequately prepare the choir for its number one responsibility: leading congregational singing. Rather than being the leftover portion of choral preparation, this should be a starting point. Since hymns are where many, if not all, of your singers have developed their vocal technique, many sing hymns poorly . . .
(An excerpt from the interest session “For Everyone Born, A Place in the Choir,” presented by Christopher Larson during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
 
       Keep an open mind.  Use inclusive language. – Even though a lot of the composers of the songs we sing are or were homosexual, that does not exclude them from doing things like writing male choruses about being in love with some girl, or vice versa.  And let’s face it, some boys in your choirs won’t ever be in love with a girl, maybe other than for her accessories….
       So, it can cause a disconnect for that gay student.  I remember having a very powerful experience at a dress rehearsal for a holiday concert at the University of South Dakota.  I was struggling with my sexuality and Dr. Harden, now at UNO, had put together all of the men from the three choirs to sing the Biebl Ave Maria.  I hadn’t come out to anyone yet.  We were up in the balcony, next to the stage, and… it just wasn’t there.  There was no emotion.  Of course Dr. Harden wouldn’t stand for such a thing to happen.  So he said, “Come on guys.  You’re better than this.  Doesn’t this mean something to you?  Close your eyes.  Now picture the person you love.  I don’t care if it’s your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your parents or grandparents.”  He said to the all-male chorus, and there was a warm flood of acceptance that rushed over and through me.  He continued, “Now imagine that you have to sing this song to save them.  It’s the only thing you have to do.  Is sing this song.”  And it was glorious, or it felt like it to me anyway.  The singing may not have gotten any better, but it didn’t matter to me.  The song had become so special and magical.  Don’t discount any little moment that you might have, any small comment, tiny gesture.  It might be the one thing that someone needs to hear.