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Filtering by Tag: voice

Warmups for Choirs

Let's make this go viral, but not Ebola viral My latest contribution to cyberspace: A video of warmups for the singers of The Chorus Of Westerly. Director Andrew Howell asked me to record some warmups that singers could do every day at home (I'm the vocal coach for the Chorus). I suggested that a picture is worth a thousand arpeggios.

We tried to include a cross-section of exercises to suit the needs of the majority of our singers, who range in age from 8 to 80. So we stretched, we yawned, we made whale sounds, we wailed sirens, and we did some breathing exercises. You can do 'em too! Go ahead! Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 11.00.07 AM

At the Chorus, I've been able to hear about 20 or 30 of the individual singers over the past couple of years. Some have come for voice lessons or for voice class, or I've just been sitting near them in rehearsal. But most of the voices are known to me only as part of a group. I still have to figure out how to help them sing better. One-on-one vocal instruction can lead to rapid results because you can zone in on individual quirks and abilities. How do you improve the vocal technique of multiple singers at the same time? A choir director can demonstrate and then ask for an "oo" vowel, but every singer will take that direction a little differently. One chorister will sing "oo" with little change in the vocal tract, while the one right next door might sing an "oo" that sounds like an "oh," with some  "uh," and "eeew" in there too. Each "oo" will be different because the person, like the voice, is unique, and the producer is too close to the sound to really hear what it sounds like. Each voice carries a lifetime of singing shoulds and shouldn'ts, unbroken bad habits, and (often) some overdone good habits. How do you get one person to brighten their "uh" to an "eeh" to wind up on "ooh" while the person right next to them needs to darken their nasal "eeew" with more "uh"? And then do that with, say, an additional 138 singers?

Yawn if you love the Chorus of Westerly

One of my solutions is asking everyone to make some extreme sounds, to increase flexibility and show a singer what's vocally possible in their own throat. Everyone, make "ee" so bright it needs sunglasses. Spread your lips, grin like a Cheshire Cat, and say "ee." Okay, that's bright! Feel the position of your tongue when you make that "ee." Now, make a dark, woofy "ugh" in the very back of the throat, like a monster on Halloween. Notice the difference. I mug, I grimace, I make very weird sounds and cheer every singer who's brave enough to do it with me. Most find it very freeing and fun. You're watching this on your computer? TRY IT! 

Every singer should safely explore the limits of their instrument, individually or in a group. We get used to singing vowels in certain ways, we get used to hearing ourselves sing the same way, and we begin to lose flexibility. Sirens and wails and extreme sounds can help any singer find new colors and new vocal possibilities. Singers might also rethink where their voice is, in relation to those extremes. And they might be a little more willing to make small changes or adjustments. 

Want me to come do whale sounds with your choir? Just ask! 

 

 

My Happy Apps

I am selective about my smartphone apps: No to Angry Birds or Tetris, yes to Couch to 5K. No to Minecraft, yes to Vine. I only keep apps that I really like and use frequently. These apps make me happy! My music apps. . . some of them

Pandora reminds me of the summer I sold actual physical CDs and cassettes at Camelot Music. We sat around the break room digging through the large cardboard box filled with free promotional cassettes and CDs (okay, only I did that). I scored Madonna's Immaculate Collection, which was a big deal at the time.

I'm always justifying looking for apps for music education. My hardworking ClearTune app helps singers (including moi) figure out how to make the small changes that lead to more accurate pitch, and it's a godsend for nervous new sight singers and pianists ("Was that an E flat? It wasn't? I could have sworn it was. Are you sure?").

Being from the Dark Ages, I learned music theory the traditional way, with workbooks and flashcards. Writing out the scales is always a good idea, but apps are great for drills on note names, intervals, and chords. I like Musicopoulos for straight theory and straightforward practice. If you don't have a smartphone, Theta Music Trainer is a good place to practice.

My perfect pitch made ear training very easy for me, but I have begun to recommend these two solid apps for musical mortals: PlayByEar asks you to sing or play back chords and melodies accurately. EarTrainer shows intervals being played on a piano keyboard.

Blob Chorus by Lumply

For sheer fun, the best ear training app is The Blob Chorus. Groups of blobs sing individual pitches, then a purple King Blob repeats one of the previous pitches. Match the blobs, and King Blob gets a crown. Get it wrong, your blob explodes! This is great for singers who are learning to hear their part inside a choir.

I have loved the public radio show Music From The Hearts Of Space since I was a teenage waitress at Elby's. The program aired on WCBE every Sunday night at 10pm as I drove home from the night shift, and I would keep listening as I changed out of my 100% polyester uniform and speed-read some Faulkner for the school week ahead. I use the show's app frequently and also listen to their online archive at www.hos.com

My senior high prom date turned me on to the SomaFM website years ago, as we exchanged one or two perfunctory emails to catch up and therefore avoid meeting up at reunions. He remembered my teenage love of Hearts of Space and recommended this. It was the last I heard of him but thanks, Dean, and I bet you have the app now too! SomaFM is a collection of 15 quirky, well-curated online stations (and that's the last time I will use "curate" in a post) ranging from NASA beeps and blips to bachelor pad jazz. I always wrap presents from Santa while listening to "Xmas in Frisko," their not-safe-for-children radio station.

I just downloaded the Inception app and . . woah. Wierd and wonderful to have music played according to your own movements! When I miss Michigan or DC, I listen to the local traffic report through my iHeart Radio app and then I'm glad I don't live there anymore. I also use a couple of lolofit apps, including the 7-minute workout and Jeff Galloway's Easy 10K. They always make me feel like an Olympian, no matter how infrequently l use them. I wish the 10K app had more variations in run-walk ratios. I don't see why I can't run for one minute and walk for ten, and still have Jeff tell me "great job!" in his Southern twang.

Running is slightly easier with this app

Even on the worst day, my Random Gratitude app asks me to think of something good and type it in. The best feature of this app is that it randomly scrolls through my previous posts, reminding me of so many wonderful little things that I might have otherwise forgotten.

So, what apps should I add to my collection?

 

Resolutions

Goals for 2013 I want to learn how to prepare a few more healthy foods. I always think it's going to take too long to make the good stuff, and I'm always surprised at how easy it is. I want to figure out how to make those Thai wrap up roll thingys with julienned carrots and peanut sauce. I always worry I'm going to rip the wrapper and wind up with salad all over the place.

I'd like to add some kind of decor to the white IKEA shelves in my office -- cheaply. I could paint the backs of the cases some hip color. What would Martha do?

Despite my continual reading of Color Me Beautiful in the 1980s, every once in a while I buy an item of clothing in brown. I tell myself that it's an alternative to ubiquitous black. I have loved ones who look great in brown, so I guess I figure that love will make me look good in brown. And so I put it on at home, and I look terrible and pale and sick in it, and I take it off and put it in the donations box. And I always recall this poem. It's time to say goodbye to brown clothing -- forever. Khaki, you're next.

Memorize as much of my Feb. 8 recital as possible. I'm working on this now and it's going pretty well. It really is harder to memorize when you're older!

I love teaching, and I love breaks from teaching just as much. Keep doing this.

Pray more and more and more . . . because prayer works.

Run a half marathon. Run a 10K. Run a 5K. Run. Or just tone up. Or just look like I've lost 10 pounds.

I'm writing a short children's musical about Saint Francis using music from his era. If I include every wonderful thing he ever did, it will be longer than The Ring Cycle. I have to turn in a draft by Ash Wednesday (Feb. 13), and a final by Easter (March 31). I have done a lot of research and collecting, but no writing.

I'm also writing "Quonnie: The Musical 3.0", but I won't even start that until June. That's an eternity away. Right? By then I'll have lost 10 pounds and run a half marathon.

I'd like to procrastinate a little less than my kids.

Restrict Facebook and other cyber time wasters. I turn to social media when I am bored or restless, when I should really be doing something else -- anything else. I use the Self-Control app to force myself to take a break. Occasionally I'll keep electronics off for a period of time. I'm always happier when I do, even if it's only half a day. It gets easier to do the more I do it. So, I'm going to do that more.

Say a long goodbye to my 20 year old cat Rebel, and have him make a peaceful trip over the Rainbow Bridge. He's holding his own now but I know it's coming. I cherish every cuddle.

Paint some landscapes. I aspire to be Winston Churchill. Paint some walls, too. And the garage doors.

Travel more. Last year I enjoyed short trips to New Orleans and Montreal. This year: Colorado? Key West? Graceland? India?

Plant ALL the flower bulbs before the frost. Even the ones you forgot in the garage.

Figure out that contact lens prescription once and for all, and write it down so I can find the right contact for the right eye. I think I keep mixing them up.

Plant a smaller vegetable garden, to make room for more flowers and trees.

Continue to celebrate the end of orthodontia payments, car payments, and house payments (ALMOST!). That process may take a year. I can live with that.

Be at peace.

Good singers act

Exhibit A: Ellen Greene performing "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors. I cringe as I listen to her, but I can't stop watching. She is heartbreaking to behold. Every note, gesture and expression delineate the character she's playing. She is Acting The Song. Exhibit B: This lovely young lady is singing "Somewhere That's Green," at her school talent show. She's blessed with a healthy voice that's pleasant to hear. She's dressed in a charming outfit just right for her age, and she's performing with poise and grace. She is singing, but she is not Acting The Song-- Thank God she's not!

Isn't singing a song more important than acting it? Good singing is the fruit of good acting. Good acting demands that a performer understand the history of a song and a show, its characters, plot, and lyrics. Good acting communicates physical and vocal cues that reveal and underline a character's thoughts and emotions - her voice. Good acting heightens high notes, deepens sighs, lengthens fermatas and expands rests. Good acting also makes vocal performances more believable, as singers discover aspects of themselves in the character. (Can a pubescent middle school Gleek successfully mine the emotional core of a downtrodden, centerfold-shaped floral shop worker who's being abused by her sadistic dentist boyfriend? Lord, I hope not.)

And yet, good acting is something that we barely have time to cover in voice lesson and rehearsal. We have to focus on good technique, learning the notes, blocking the scenes, and following the spots. So, when you have a chance to delve into Acting the Song outside of recital or callbacks, you should take it. . .

Which leads me to my shameless plug: On October 27, I'm teaching a one-day course on Acting The Song at Courthouse Center For The Arts in West Kingston!

I taught a one-week version of this course at CCA last summer, including some wonderful resources from Tracey Moore. There were exercises, improvisations, character questionnaires, research assignments, free writing and coaching. Some students learned new music, some worked on their standard repertoire. Everyone improved concentration and focus, and their understanding of character, and yes - they just sounded better. The final performances were impressive. As soon as it was over we all knew we wanted to do it again! Contact the Courthouse now to reserve your spot: 401-782-1018 or kelly@courthousearts.org

In mid November I'll be back at CCA, teaching a two-day "Broadway History For Non-Dummies" course. . . but that's another post!

 

 

Positively Perfect Pitch

It's true. I have perfect pitch. I can look at a piece of music and hear it playing in my head, in the correct key. In rehearsal you don't have to play pitches for me, because I already know where to begin. If you play a B flat on the piano, I can tell you it's B flat without peeking. If a siren is wailing I can tell you what pitch it's on.  If we're listening to music, you can ask me what key they're playing in and  I will tell you and I will be right. You can test your pitch ability, too. (I just tried it. 12/12. I've still got it.)

 

Perfect Pitch. Still a dork.

We don't know for certain what causes perfect pitch, but it may have something to do with the area of the brain that processes language -- somehow my language and my listening may have been tied very close together, so I was able to label sounds with ease. There is also probably a genetic factor -- I come from a musical family. We're not the Bachs, but we are musical. I was sitting at the piano, playing melodies by ear, at age 4. (My teenage son has always had excellent pitch accuracy. He always sings a melody in the correct key, even when he has not been given a starting pitch. But, he can't accurately name pitches out of the blue. I wonder if that skill will improve as he gets older.)

When I was little, I thought that perfect (or absolute) pitch developed from taking piano lessons, which I started at age 5. My voice teacher, Prof. Paul Hickfang, was the first to "diagnose" me, when I was 13. We met for lessons on Saturday mornings, in the choir room of his church in Linworth, Ohio. He sat at the upright piano and I stood on the opposite side. I was learning "O Mio Babbino Caro" and we had stopped to go over a phrase. He played a piano key to indicate where I should continue singing, and I asked, "You mean on the A-flat?" He stopped and looked at me. "How did you know that was an A-flat?" I said, "It just is. Doesn't everyone know that?" He smiled slowly. "No, Eden, everyone doesn't know that. But my wife does." His wife Laura Lee also has perfect pitch. He played a few random notes all over the keyboard, and I named each one instantly.

It's been very helpful in choral situations. I can provide pitches for all parts faster than you can extract your pitch pipe from your pants pocket. I can labor mightily to keep my section from going flat, by my sheer pitch-itude. I can quietly help singers find their way out of the tough spots. But sometimes they're so flat, I just have to go with 'em. (I was a pitch bitch in my earlier years, bemoaning the effort of staying in tune as the rest of the section sagged. I hope I'm nicer now.)

Absolute pitch can sometimes be a bit aggravating. Transposing on sight is difficult for me, because I "hear" the music in one key while I'm trying to sing it in another. If I have the chance, I'll write in the letter names to make sure I don't start singing the "wrong" pitches. (My freshman roomie completed music theory homework while listening to jazz on the CD player, which astonished me; I had to have silence so I could accurately "hear" the music I was reading.) Once I know a piece, it's easier to transpose.

In high school music theory class, we had a test on melodic dictation -- it's like a spelling test for musicians. We were expected to listen to a melodic line and correctly write the music on staff paper. To be helpful, Dr. Keller told us the first note was a C. He played a cassette tape with several melodic examples, that were all supposed to start on C. But . . the cassette player's batteries were almost dead, so the tape was playing slow, and the first pitch was not a C, it was a B-flat. I knew it was a B-flat. I looked up, bewildered. How was I supposed to write what I was hearing when I knew I was hearing something different than what everyone else was hearing? I looked around the room. All the heads were bowed over the papers, but John Justice was looking up, too, and shaking his head. We nodded knowingly, then just shrugged and tried to figure out how to write what was expected, instead of what we were hearing. Perfect pitch pals.

Perfect pitch affects the way I teach music theory. I understand why scales are taught as a series of half and whole steps, and I understand why Guido d'Arezzo developed solfege, but I don't need either system to secure a pitch. I know they help everyone else more than they help me, so I use them and teach them. I can quickly identify intervals. I just know when a minor 7th is a minor 7th, but I have had to search for ways to explain this to a group of kids with regular ears.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to have "absolute car repair" or "absolute ultramarathon stamina" as a God-given gift. But I have perfect pitch, as did Mozart, Hendrix, Beethoven, Nat King Cole, and Chopin. Stevie Wonder has it too -- so that's how he finds his way around the keyboard!

Apparently some "absolutists" are so perfect, they can hear pitch in cycles per second. I can't do that, and I'm glad. I think that would be torture, to hear 20 violinists at 20 slightly different pitches.

By the way, Unforgettable is in F major. Watch the first 20 seconds of the clip, and you can tell that Cole just knows it.

 

 

 

Write on

I'm back in writing/directing mode after two months of teaching the world to sing. My children's history show, Quonnie: The Musical 2012, opens in less than two weeks! Once again I've written the script and lyrics myself, borrowing melodies from many different musical eras. I like writing lyrics and sometimes I'm really pleased, which makes up for the other times. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" was written by Oscar Hammerstein II and affectionately recalled the City of Light before the Nazi occupation. I used it in Quonnie: The Musical to provide a sentimental look at life in my neck of the woods back in September 1938, when Quonochontaug, RI (and the rest of New England) was devastated by a hurricane.

This year I have a couple of sweet elementary-age girls crooning the lyrics, which describe Quonnie before and after the storm: "The last time I saw Quonnie/the berries tasted sweet/the blush was on the roses red, we complained about the heat." The line I am proudest of incorporates a well known phrase: "The houses floated out to sea, the shoreline narrowed thin/our gardens drowned in ocean salt, a world gone with the wind." I meant it to refer to the song, which came out in 1937, but it could easily bring to mind the movie, which debuted in 1939. (And really, is there any better opening title sequence than this? ;)) To me it's a perfect visual image of how the hurricane affected this area.

I'm also proud of a lyric I dreamed up on the fly, Saturday night around 6pm. I was preparing to sing  "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The original lyrics describe Annie's rivalry with Frank Butler, but my duet partner was Ben Hutto, the esteemed director of choirs at the National Cathedral School and St. Alban's School in Washington, DC. So, I started rewriting some lyrics to reflect our roles as music director and vocal coach at the Royal School of Church Music's Newport course. I scribbled out lines and showed them to Ben for approval. Some were clunkers, but some were good: "I sing music that'r make a window shatter," "I can stick my tongue out and sometimes stick my lung out." My very favorite will only be understandable to church musicians, but they'll howl: "I can Phos Hilaron with my underwear on." He delivered it perfectly and brought down the house.

Okay, then. YOU try to rhyme Phos Hilaron, wise guy.

Their works do follow them

  I'm singing Brahms Requiem for the first time, with a director who is leading it for the last time.

George Kent has been the heart and soul of The Chorus of Westerly for 53 years. It is deeply moving to watch a legend as he prepares to leave behind what he's built. Mrs. Lynn Kent is part of the soprano section and she started Camp Ogontz, the Chorus' bucolic summer home. We've hugged her and cried with her all year, because we're going to be saying goodbye to her, too. At the final rehearsal, Mr. Kent was not thinking legacy; he was focused on getting the sopranos to match pitch with the strings. "We don't come here for two hours on Thursday nights so the sopranos can sing flat!" (He said that with great exasperation on May 3; I know because I wrote it down. I often write down directors' bons mots in my scores; they're fun to recall and sometimes they make more sense to me than writing fortissimo or diminuendo.)

The Brahms is Mr. Kent's favorite work, and it's quickly becoming my favorite as well. It's such a personal, intimate choral work, yet it's unbelievably majestic and grand. It is about souls experiencing great suffering and receiving blessed consolation. "Remember, this is not really a Requiem. It's an . . . ALIVE!" he said. "Just keep on concentrating, that's really what we have to do here."

After three hours of rehearsal, the chorus was exhausted. But Mr. Kent seemed to grow stronger with each hour, becoming more and more animated in his conducting and expression. He could see we were weary, so he talked to us for a bit. "The crux of it all is right here," he said, pointing to the words of the seventh and final movement, taken from Revelation: And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

"Their works do follow them," said Mr. Kent, quietly but insistently. Suddenly understanding what was in front of us, the Chorus suddenly recharged, and then we were off, singing with expression and emotion. Mr. Kent scrunched up his bearded face in determination and delight.

Thank you, George and Lynn Kent, and Godspeed. Your works do follow you.

Bad breath(ing)

One of my students brought the Colbie Caillat song Realize to a recent lesson. She kept running out of breath before the ends of phrases, and that wasn't really like her.  

We listened to the mp3 together. Amazing! There is only ONE place to breathe in the chorus: If you just realize what I just realized/ then we'd be perfect for each other/ and will never find another/if you just realize what I just realized // (BREATHE!)// We'd never have to wonder if/we missed out on each other now

 

I wondered how Miss C would ever be able to manage this feat in live performance. So, my student and I checked out  Realize live, and we realized (ha!) that even Colbie herself couldn't sing the long phrases in one breath! One of her bandmates harmonizes the melody on the choruses and sings a little longer than she does, so Colbie can get a breath. If he didn't harmonize, there would be a little gap in the song and in the "rushed" mood.

Girlfriend wrote the song by herself, presumably for herself (along with Jason Reeves and Mikal Blue)! I think she was trying to make the chorus sound like a rush of words, the kind that come with the

realizationthatyoulovesomeoneandyouwantotellthemnow.

Okay, you're the artist, it's your call. The miracle of music track editing can cover up the fact you have no place to breathe in your own song. No one else can sing the song quite like Colbie . . .even she can't really sing it.

Taylor Swift likes to breathe in unexpected places, and seems to avoid breathing in the logical ones. (And Caillat has written songs for Swift; what a perfect pair of blue-lipped maidens!) Listen to her sing the chorus of Love Story: "You'll be the prince (BREATHE!) and (BREATHE!) I'll (BREATHE!) be the princess." She sounds like a four year old running up three flights of stairs to tell her friend how to play Make Believe Castle. But the ending will leave you . . . . . .uh . . . . . .breathless: RomeosavemeI'vebennfeelingsoaloneIkeep (BREATHE)

waitingforyoubutyounevercomeisthis (BREATHE!)

inmyheadIdon't know (BREATHE!)

whattothinkhekneelstothegroundandpullsoutaringandsaidmarrymeJulietyou'llneverhavetobealoneIloveyouandthat'sallIreallyknowItalkedto yourdadgopickoutawhitedressit'salovestorybabyjustsayyes.

The girl's in love! Oxygen! STAT!

Alanis Morrissette paved the way for the Bad Girl Breathers with lyrics that have been called "a mangled web of garbled syntax, overheated metaphors, and mystifying verbal contortions." She doesn't engage in the kind of melodic rushing that Caillat and Swift (and Sara Bareilles) do. Instead, she messes with beats and so-so rhymes and emPHASis. Like a Pied Piper of Lyrical Grammar, Alanis has led many astray; I still like her. My favorite song of hers is "Uninvited", from the City of Angels soundtrack. She knows when and how to breathe, even if she's not so careful about pronounCIation: Like anyone WOULD be/ I am flatTERED by your FAScination WITH me. . . .you're uninVIted, an unforTUNate slight."

So if you want to sing one of these one-breath-per-stanza songs, what do you do? 1. Slow it down, so the time between rhymes and words is slow enough for you to take some quick breaths. 2. Sing it with a group of singers, so you can all stagger your breaths. 3. Feign a dramatic emotional breakdown if you have to breathe and miss a few words. If all that fails . . . .  4. Sing something else.

 

 

 

Fix a flat

Many years ago I acquired an old  St. Gregory Hymnal. On the back inside cover, there's a note in a woman's handwriting. It says, "Herb, you don't open your mouth enuf! Consequently, you are flat." She wrote "flat" using the musical symbol shaped like a lower case b. I thought it was a perfect little comment. I imagined this soprano (how could she be anything else?), frustrated by his fumbling the "Gloria" again, finally snapped and fired off a note to poor Herb while Father intoned the Gospel. She couldn't take it anymore, but she was respectful of Herb's feelings. The "enuf" was her way of softening the blow.

What can you do when member of your singing group is so off key -- or sings with such tension -- that he or she destroys the blend you've worked so hard to create? I have never seen an ensemble director or group member accuse an individual singer of "sticking out," but I've heard sad stories from grown ups whose music teachers ordered them to lip sync, rather than sing. The hurt lingers. When these folks are brave enough to take voice lessons later in life, it's therapy as much as it is training.

Can anything be done to help the "stick out" singer, without hurting feelings? I've observed the following remedies and results.

1. Ignore it. It will go away. This works about once a year, and never while performing. If an obvious problem is continually ignored by a director or fellow members, listeners will question your hearing and/or your sanity. "Good grief, can't she hear how BAD that sounds?"

2. Call out the entire section. "Tenors, we are screeching on that note like cats in heat!" Sometimes the off-pitch singers get the hint and make the fix, while the rest of the section wonders what they did wrong. There are two pitfalls here: A. Well-meaning singers, singing correctly, may overcompensate and become new problems to ignore (see no. 1). B. Well-meaning singers, singing correctly, will deduce that you're not accusing them of pitch problems. They will tune out your criticism altogether, even when they really deserve it. This reduces a director to the musical equivalent of Chicken Little.

3. Change the key of the song. This can alleviate a problem in the short term, but it drives perfect-pitchers like me insane. I have been forced to transpose on sight because a couple of singers needed a lower pitch. Their problem was gone, but mine was just beginning, and I resented it.

The best way to respectfully address vocal faults is by assessing and improving vocal function. Improving the function often alleviates the problems.

Be dispassionate when someone keeps hitting a clunker. Simply note what is happening, and ask for information. "We're under the pitch at measure 17. Mackenzie and Malcolm, what do you feel happening when you sing that note? What happens in your throat before you sing that note? Singers, what can we do when our throats feel tighter on these kinds of pitches? Okay, good answers. Let's have Mackenzie and Malcolm demonstrate those last two suggestions, and then we'll all try it together."

Mackenzie was never directly accused of not hitting the note, she was simply asked to report what was happening before and during her singing. A few singers demonstrated the correct practice, and then everyone tried together. It's also fun to have everyone actually sing a melody "the wrong way" and then switch to "the right way." It's like a mini-master class, and it's quick. I know it's not always possible to do this, but when there's time and the courage to try, the results are amazing.

Yes, addressing vocal faults uses precious rehearsal time, but fixing them benefits the whole group. In the end, it saves time and results in healthier singers and better performances. Do it before you've had "enuf."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.

Somewhere out there

My son, the world's No. 1 Rush fan, recently became a blogger. Reactions to his blog were mixed. (You can do a quick search for it at the Good Man Project's Good Feed Blog.) The feedback from his peers -- whose tastes run more to hip-hop -- was mostly negative, but that was no surprise. Readers old enough to know all the lyrics to Tom Sawyer were supportive and enthusiastic. I wish he had more support from friends in his area, but I know he will find camaraderie eventually.

The apple didn't fall far from the tree. Last year I started "Chants Occurrence," a Meetup group that I hoped would help me link up with people who liked Gregorian chant and early sacred music. It was a way for me to handle the sudden musical isolation I felt after my big move to the East in 2010. I was hoping to start a mini-schola, and maybe even bring that group to a church occasionally, because I think St. Augustine was right. But, we all live too far away from each other for that to happen anytime soon. I've had the pleasure of meeting a few of the 11 members of the group at concerts, and I'll see a couple of them at a Vespers I'm singing this weekend in Connecticut. I still hope we'll get to chant together sometime, but I feel better just knowing they're out there.

Finding my tribe has not happened the way I thought it would, but isn't that God's favorite way of answering prayer? A few weeks ago, recoiling from negative news stories, I found I had an urgent desire to save a life. I prayed to save just one life. Less than 24 hours later, I had an unexpected extra hour in my teaching schedule and out the window, I saw a red-letter opportunity. I walked into a building near my teaching studio, and gave a pint of blood.

I feel better just knowing it's out there. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voice Lessons, Vocal Coaching, Piano Lessons, Performance Coaching, and Musical Production.

Eden Casteel Music Studio, 81 Post Road, Wakefield RI 02879. Phone: 401-932-5589.