Great SSATBB Rehearsal Today

Today’s rehearsal with the SSATBB ensemble went GREAT today.  I think one of the reason that made it great was a new practice we started a few weeks ago.  When I was in Chicago for ACDA I talked with a member of musica intima, a wonderful twelve-voice Canadian ensemble, about their practice for dividing responsibility of rehearsal and repertoire.  She talked about how each member of the ensemble basically is in charge of a piece and is responsible for rehearsing and polishing it.  I don’t remember her name, but she seemed like a really awesome person.

Anyway, We have six pieces we’re working on, so we had each person take responsibility for a piece and planned rehearsals accordingly.  It’s worked great!  It seems now that everyone is in charge and sharing responsibility.  Rehearsals are much more efficient and smooth now than ever.  It’s working great.  We’re planning on a performance in April around the second reading day with another local choir.  More info to come later.

Music and the Spoken Word (Again)

This morning, BYU Singers had the opportunity to sing on Music and the Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Besides the whole 7:30 AM call time it’s a serious blast.  This is the second time I’ve been on the broadcast, but for some reason this one felt more fun.  I don’t know why.  We were very warmly received by everyone there: audience, choir and leadership alike.

We sang “Tebe Poyem (To Thee We Sing)” by Konstantine Shvedov and “Bright Pathways” arranged by Dr. Staheli on our own and then sang “Come We That Love the Lord,” arranged by Dr. Staheli and “Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand,” arranged by Arthur Harris with the Tabernacle Choir.  We didn’t pick up some of this music until last Tuesday.

It’s always an interesting situation singing on a live broadcast.  You’ve got to make sure that you do exactly as your told, stand exactly where you’re supposed to stand, and hold your music “just so.”  TV people come up to you after the run through and brush away the tiniest piece of lint from your lapels because it’s “distracting” from your face.

It was a great time and we didn’t get dumped on with lots of snow like we did two years ago!  It’s kind of cool to understand that you’ve potentially got a larger audience during one broadcast than all combined audiences during an entire tour.  By the way, I’m really looking forward to tour through exotic Colorado and Wyoming next month!

ACDA in Chicago

I still have that lovely souvenir I got in Chicago, but I’m well enough to start writing about how ACDA went.  It was awesome!  First, Chicago is a great city, didn’t have a lot of time to explore the whole thing, but I really enjoyed the parts that I saw.  They’ve got some awesome public art.

The Bean

I got to see a concert session with Fountain Valley High School, Calvin College Alumni Choir, The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, and the CCNU TianKong Choir (A women’s chorus from a Chinese University).  All were great and had something amazing to offer.  Fountain Valley really impressed me by singing Six Chanson by Hindemith.  What a feat!  That’s no easy set of pieces, especially for a High School choir.  I’m glad that some high schools in this nation are still challenging themselves like this and not just singing any old Lauridsen/Whitacre copycat that happens to catch their eye (Please understand that I love Lauridsen and Whitacre, it’s just disappointing to see so many people try and copy them and fail because it’s profitable.  Only Lauridsen and Whitacre can write like they do).

Calvin College Alumni Choir did a great job singing “Magnificat” by Alberto Grau.  It’s quite a doozy and they really brought the house down with it.  Unfortunately they ended with a rather white-bread “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” and “Gabriel” that just seemed like a much too obvious attempt to get the audience riled up and a standing ovation.  Well, it worked, but I wasn’t played that easy.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good choir, but I can tell when I’m being played.  I felt like their goal was to impress rather than express.

Next was a truly wonderful performance by The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, directed by Matthew Culloton.  This was a fantastic performance from beginning to end.  They started with excerpts from Mid-Winter Song by Morten Lauridsen (the real deal),  a piece by Libby Larsen that ended a little confusingly, two pieces by Brahms and two original works by their composers-in-residence, Abbie Betinis and Jocelyn Hagen.  The highlight of the performance were the pieces by Brahms.  They were so beautifully sung and masterfully shaped, it was unbelievable to listen to.  It made me so excited that we were doing Brahms in BYU Singers.  Some people didn’t like The Singers because they chose the wrong music.  I disagree, I thought they made great choices and were seeking to express something rather than impress or manipulating their audience.

After the concert session I visited the exhibits downstairs at the Hilton.  I found the Walton Booth and found my piece that they published!  I was thrilled to see my piece there rubbing shoulders with some other great pieces.  I chatted a bit with some reps. from Hal Leonard who all “welcomed me into the family.”  Kind of a cool phrase, and then I remembered that this family included Samuel Barber, Dale Warland, Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo, and Frank Ferko.  That’s a pretty awesome family.

I ran around, collected some music, bought some books, met some new people, and got to chat with some members of musica intima who are all awesome (They gave me a free CD!).  I got to ask them a bunch of questions about what it’s like singing in a small ensemble with no conductor (good advice to someone in a six voice group).  They seem like a really awesome group.

BYU Singers in Auditorium Theater and Roosevelt University

BYU Singers had a great time getting ready, rehearsing, sound-checking and a lot of other great stuff.  First we sang in Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theater.  Not my favorite space.  They put up a shell to help with sound, but it still wasn’t a good acoustic to sing it.  It felt like we were singing into a vacuum (a lovely vacuum at that).

Our program was “Everyone Sang,” by Argento (one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever had to learn or sing) “I Have Had Singing” by Sametz (much harder than it looks), “Chantez à Dieu,” by Sweelinck, “Wenn wir in hösten Nöten, sein,” by Brahms (one of the greatest of his motets, absolutely rocked!) “There is Sweet Music,” by EJ White, and “Each Day” by Stephan Paulus.  The Paulus piece is not very hard to learn or even sing, but it is a beast to tune.  Singing each of these pieces is fine and dandy, but we wanted all of them dead in tune and beautifully phrased.  It was tough as nails, but we did it.

The better place to sing was Symphony Hall, here it was a much better acoustic to sing in (it only took a few minutes for us to get the hang of the space).  It was also gorgeous and a much more rewarding venue to sing in.  Our performance there was astounding to be a part of.  Sometimes you can tell when it’s going really well, and this was one of those times.  There were a few times when we started singing something different to what we had rehearsed and all of us followed without hesitation.  This was one of those moments when our minds all fused together and we made decisions without any word passed between us.  This was one of those moments we became “an eighty legged animal,” as Gabriel Crouch once put it.  It was a truly incredible experience for us.  For others it might not have been that big of a deal, but it was a triumph to us.

Anyway, it was awesome.  I explored the rest of Chicago with some friends, and then got sick and brought that stupid souvenir home.  Gross, traveling while sick is not good, and then I got the rest of BYU Singers sick.  After we got back about half of us have been sitting out of rehearsal (including yours truly).  This happens every year, but this time it was I who got everyone sick.  Whoops.

BYU Singers in Chicago Symphony Hall

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow, we’ll be leaving for ACDA in Chicago.  I cannot wait.  First, I’m in need of a four day weekend; Second, It’ll be nice to have a change in scenery; Third, going to a conference with a bunch of other choir nerds is my kind of weekend.  If you’re already in Chicago I hope to see you there!  Make sure to stop by the Hal Leonard/Walton booth and say hi to them (see if my piece is there, I have no idea if it will be).

Also, speaking of “Midnight Clear,” it is now available for sale here on JW Pepper.  I like JW Pepper because they seem like a good crew that lets you purchase single copies for your own study (as opposed to other retailers that make you buy a minimum of six copies).

Now it’s time to start packing (why do I always leave this till the last minute?).  Chicago!