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MY GO-TO WARM UP, by Raymond J. Roberts (Milwaukee High School of the Arts)
The first sound produced during the singing process is the most important. It has little to do with first impressions and everything to do with getting a good start to the phrase.
Coordinated Onset: The hardest to achieve and most important to develop is the coordinated onset. The vocal cords close with the initial sound producing a quiet onset as in the vowel, “ah.” This onset is somewhere between the glottal attack where the vocal cords close before starting the sound and the breathy onset where the vocal cords close after initiating sound.  The name “coordinated,” appropriately refers to the need to synchronize and prepare all aspects of initial sound in order to achieve the best tone, including breath, vocal cords, and resonant chambers.
Sing this exercise on any vowel. You may want to try the exercise first with a voiced consonant at the beginning (v,z,m,n). When the onsets are more balanced, you can sing the exercise exclusively on vowels. Where indicated, take a complete, small, silent inhalation. This helps you prepare for the next vocal onset with minimal muscular involvement.
1’, 1-2-3’, 3-4-5’, 5-6-7’, 7-8-9’, 9-8-7’, 7-6-5’, 5-4-3’, 3-2-1 Start on C4
Ascend chromatically 7 half steps shifting through all five basic vowels.
(My Go-To Warm-Up” features a favorite warm-up used by those choirs who have been selected to perform during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
(With abiding respect for St. Matthew)  One possible definition of choral music might be “wherever two or more are gathered, there is a choir.”  We are not easily impressed by techno-gadgetry, but to one who is an unapologetic choir geek this is incredibly cool . . .
1.  “Stars, Songs, Faces (No. 3 from a Sandberg Set).”  Nick Page.  Boosey & Hawkes/Hal Leonard  HL48019128
2-part equal divisi and piano.  Call and response melodies combine with lush dissonances to create a great piece for working unified tone.
2.  “Metsa Telegramm.”  Uno Naissoo.  Shawnee Press/Hal Leonard HL35014178
SSA, with piano.  Great piece for introducing Eastern European cultures; in Estonian, choir mimics the sounds of woodpeckers.
3.  “Wind of the Western Sea.”  Bradley Ellingboe.  Hal Leonard HL43509074
SSA, with piano.  Beautiful piece that girls love; ideal for introducing three part harmonies with several repetitive motives.
4.  “O Magnum Mysterium.”  Ivo Antognini.  Alliance AMP0896
2-part, with piano and cello.  Gorgeous SA arrangement of the SATB a cappella work. Lots of tension and release amongst parts.
5.  “Spring Song.”  Eugene Butler.  Hinshaw HMC1220
SSA, with piano.  Great concert opener with driving piano accompaniment and easy three part harmonies.
(“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
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Forty Percent” by Scott S. Withrow)
"In an analysis of five choral conductors' rehearsals Thurman (1978) found that an average of forty per cent of rehearsal time was used for verbal communication by the conductors." (Choral Journal, January, 1980, page 11)
       FORTY PERCENT? As an average? Some conductors talk more than forty per cent? What conceit! Do those choral directors feel that their gems of spoken wisdom are worth the same or more than the experience of singing great music? Does that mean that out of every hour of rehearsal, 24 minutes are talk and only 36 minutes singing? Do we enjoy the sounds of our own voices that much? Or are we just careless? Or do we have so many details to take care of that we just can't sing much?
       Forty percent of rehearsal time spent in verbal communication by the conductor is too much! At least TWICE too much! Something has to be done about it, ere we be conductors without choruses.
       Obvious truism: the major purpose of a choral group is to sing. Truism No.2: the verbal expressions of any conductor, living or dead, are not a satisfactory substitute for experiencing great music by singing it.
       Consider the conductors who you have worked under and admired. What you remember about them may be opinion(s), favorite phrase(s), anecdote(s). It is safe to say that you do not remember anything they said that took more than 25 seconds to say!
       FORTY PER CENT IS TOO MUCH! Sing more and talk less! And your groups will sing better for it!
READ the entire article.
Enjoy more episodes of Name That Choir Tune.
When did “youth” become a synonym for “incompetence?”  How can we accept - and teach! - musical pabulum just because it seems “age-appropriate?”
It could be argued that our younger singers need the BEST possible literature, just like their physical growth requires good nutrition.  You wouldn’t serve your kids a diet of Doritos®, would you?
There is a massive body of solid, meritorious, historically valuable (and yes, “age-appropriate”) choral literature available that is perfectly suited to young voices.  No, it probably won’t be handed out in a reading session with a flowery pink cover; nevertheless, the works that truly matter are well worth a little extra effort to locate them.
Here is a performance from a recent ACDA Divisional Conference.  This choir is performing a serious work, (the “Gloria” movement from a Mass), in a foreign language (Latin), by a composer of some historical importance (Benjamin Britten).  Don’t young singers in every community deserve the opportunity to sing such valuable music?
MY GO-TO WARM UP, by Amy Hall (Waukee High School)
Our classes always meet at 8:45 a.m. so it has been imperative that we get the voice and body moving to ensure healthy singing throughout the early rehearsal.  An exercise that works well for accomplishing this is singing an arpeggio and then coming back down with different voice parts holding the various scale degrees to fill out the vertical chord.  Using the syllables "See-ee-ee-ah-ah-ah-ah", all voices sing up the arpeggio 1-3-5-8 on the see-ee-ee-ah.  Sopranos stay on the 8 (ah), tenors descend and hold the 5th (ah), altos descend and hold the 3rd (ah), and basses round out the bottom finishing with the tonic on ah.  It then modulates up and we do it again.  Often we will hold the chord, tune various scale degrees and/or voices, utilize spin/vibrato and play with dynamic range while sustaining this chord.  It serves as a tuning tool on the way up singing the 1-3-5 accurately as well as an opportunity to tune and land a basic major chord.  It is also fun to work the same exercise in minor, or using other types of chords.  Sometimes we will also run in place on the final chord to get the heart and breath moving more naturally and efficiently!  The kids enjoy the physical aspect of "waking up" the body to prepare for a more productive rehearsal!  Happy warming up!
(My Go-To Warm-Up” features a favorite warm-up used by those choirs who have been selected to perform during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)
Like it or not, this ridiculous theme song will probably haunt you for the rest of the day.  Sorry!
1.  “Jubilate Deo” from Cantiones sacrae et profanae.  Henk Badings.  TTBB. Harmonia-Uitgave, Hilversum H.U. 3419a.
Rhythmic, energetic setting of Psalm 66. Contrasting homophonic & contrapuntal sections employing stacked 4ths and 2nds.  Imitative cannons at the fifth especially playful & succinct. Contemporary & joyful. Moderate difficulty.
2.  “Fölszállott a Páva.” Zoltan Kodaly. Editio Music Budapest 3241.
Masterful part-writing, long elegant phrases, declamatory parallel chord structure lend to the nobility and pride of people longing for freedom and justice.  The Hungarian text calls for social change and equality.
3.  “Laulaja.” Einojuhani Rautavaara. Fennecs Gehrmans 9790550093119
Text taken from epilogue of the Kalevala, the epic Finnish poem. Rhythmic & declamatory opening and closing passages in b minor frame the middle section which employs octatonic scale passages & open expansive part writing.
4.  “Responsorium et Hymnus no.1 Adspice Domine de sede op.121” (Vespergesang).  Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Caus-Verlag Vertrieb GMBH
Much in style of Bach motet, first movement reveals beautiful independent lines for each of three voices moving through traditional harmonies & key relationships.  Themes and countermelodies weave together in elegant countrapuntal lines brought together for a homophonic texture in concluding phrases.  
5.  “My Souls Been Anchored in the Lord.” Moses Hogan (ed. Eklund). Hal Leonard 08753675.
Exciting traditional spiritual. Broad opening statement prepares us for the Allegro in rhythmic syncopated block chords with sustained & chromatically shifting bass lines that provide energy & excitement.  Piece relies on verse refrain from with a final section of call and response for the chorus which leads to a climactic choral shout in rhythmic counterpoint.
(“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
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article “Jacob Avshalomov's Choral Works with Concertante Instrument” by Larry Wyatt)
       Jacob Avshalomov is a composer, conductor, and music educator whose life in music spans eighty years and three continents.  Avshalomov characterizes his approach to composing for chorus as follows:
What many composers have put into large-scale opera, I have put into large-scale choral works. In these lies the possibility to combine language and feelings in their purest forms without  distractions of scenety, lighting, and costuming for dramatic production. I am concerned that messages be projected straightforwardly from the mouths of humans ... combining literature, language, and feelings with music.
       He often collaborates with his wife Doris, an established poet. He classifies himself as a "conservative contemporary" composer.
       Avshalomov is a master composer who takes great care in text choice and settings. He is sensitive to the declamation and meaning of the texts. Through madrigal-style writing in the melodic and harmonic writing, along with appropriate choice of contrapuntal and harmonic textures, Avshalomov reveals himself to be a master composer, thoroughly grounded in compositional technique that serves poet and singer.
Sometimes it seems that we spend all of our time in rehearsals (particularly in the later stages of the semester) focusing upon what’s going wrong, rather than celebrating what’s going right.
Yes, absolutely, we are supposed to identify areas that require attention and devise methods for helping our choirs continue to improve.  When was the last time, however, that you took a moment to acknowledge singers for things they are doing well? Positive reinforcement is a powerful part of the development of any relationship.
That said, let’s consider just three basic items from this selection recorded during an ACDA divisional conference.  What is working well here? (Please bear in mind this is a necessarily brief commentary and the present writer’s opinion is barely worth 2¢.)
The first thing we notice is the repertoire. Our colleague has decided to program solid, historically valuable choral literature for these young singers.  Repertoire selection is an area of some concern among many in the profession.  We also note that they are performing the work in its original language.
Then there is the matter of tone.  Our colleague has cultivated vocal production that seems at once healthy and age-appropriate while still fitting for the performance of a work by Brahms.  Another positive element is the apparent upper-body freedom exhibited by the singers.
Finally, we note that attention has been given to the structure of the phrase.  The performance has an organic sense of “breathing” as it ebbs & flows with regard to tempo, dynamic, and text declamation.
Even though it is early in the season, what do you hear in your own choir’s singing that deserves a word of positive acknowledgement?
MY GO-TO WARM UP, by Michael Hayden (Mira Costa High School Choir)
My choral go to warm-up is the lip bubble or lip trill. The movement of air created by bubbling takes out all the muscle in the sound, efficiently targets pitch and keeps the phrase moving forward. It also develops great warmth, richness and a mature healthy tone that we love! To start, begin with your choir bubbling “My Country 'Tis Of Thee.” The goal?  Sing the opening phrase all in one breath on the bubble.  Some students may have difficulty at first with getting the lips to bubble. It is due to tension. Have them gently and loosely push the sides of their lips together to loosen up the tension allowing the lips to bubble.  Do this every day! Now of course I use bubbling on any of our warm-ups (scales, leaps, sighs, harmonic warm-ups, etc.) but the real key is to “bubble” your repertoire.  Every day all my choirs will use this technique in our songs to clean up pitch, make up for lack of resonance or lack of unity in the resonance, and most importantly extend breath capacity for longer phrases. So if the sound isn’t quite what you think it should be…go back and bubble it.  Often, our singers will even say, “Mr. Hayden, can we bubble that section?” My response is... “Of course!”  This self analysis comes from them knowing something doesn’t sound right and most importantly doesn’t feel right. They know the bubble will fix it! This conscious awareness makes for an exciting and productive rehearsal. So…bubble…everything!
(My Go-To Warm-Up” features a favorite warm-up used by those choirs who have been selected to perform during the 2015 ACDA National Conference.)