Author: David Fryling

We Stand on the Shoulders

Trish Joyce, Director – Coriste, New Jersey Youth Chorus
I’m sure that all of us have heard this phrase, or variation on this phrase, many times — We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We’ve all had those awe-inspiring moments, at ACDA Conventions, which we will never forget. As I think back over these, two of my strongest memories are from earlier Conventions that I attended.

The first was hearing the Tapiola Children’s Choir and the Toronto Children’s Choir in 1991 (1 ½ years before I began my own community children’s/youth chorus). Wow. I clearly remember leaping to my feet, along with the rest of the audience, after their performances. Each had its own distinct sound, but both demonstrated beauty, richness, warmth and expressiveness. Each stayed true to their traditions, but also ‘pushed the boundaries,’ to quote our Eastern Division theme, with folk music from other countries (Aizu-Bandai-San, arr. Ishimaru, Tutira Mai Nga Iwi, tradition Maori) or music by contemporary composers (Aglepta, Mellnäs, and Miniwanka, Schafer). This was such an eye-opener for me, as to what the possibilities could be for young voices.

The second memory was the 1992 Eastern Division Convention in Boston; that convention was dedicated to the memory of Frauke Haasemann. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study under her as a student at Westminster Choir College. During the dedicatory ceremony, all the attendees sang “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen” from Brahms’ Requiem, conducted by Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt, and accompanied by Glenn Parker. Wow. Not only did this have special significance in itself, but brought back the incredible memories of preparing the entire Requiem, and performing it under Robert Shaw as a WCC student.

Just as Tapiola and the Toronto Children’s Choir did, we hope to present a program that speaks to who we are through a range of different styles of music. Harmonic Whirlies will set the opening of the program in “Shall We Dream?” by Australian composer Michael Atherton, and will segue into the slightly jazzy “I Am the Rose of Sharon” by Danish composer Soren Moller. Several of the girls in Coriste will join Ethan Sperry’s “Wedding Qawwali” in Indian dance. This will be followed by the gorgeous Finnish folk song “Kaipaava” and Z. Randall Stroope’s “Psalm 23,” which holds a very special place in the hearts of the Coriste girls. The jubilant Alleluia by Paul Basler finishes the program. The emotional connection to each other, and the emotional connection to our listeners is a very important part of what we do. I hope there will be music that speaks to you.

I think we can all call to mind those teachers and directors whose shoulders we stand on — those teachers and directors who have had such a profound affect on our lives and careers through their passion, dedication, work ethic and love of the choral art. I know that I, and countless numbers of choral directors, still continue to be influenced today by the incredible work of Frauke Haasemann and Dr. Flummerfelt. I know that I, and my fellow Children’s and Youth Chorus directors, continue to be influenced by those who set the gold standard in working with the young voice, from Tapiola and TCC to so many fabulous choirs across the globe. We all know, and are grateful to those in the choral world, who opened our eyes to the possibilities and potential that we could develop in our own choirs.

I look forward to the Convention, and to all that we will continue to learn from our fellow educators, conductors, and colleagues. See you in Boston!

Q&A with Jameson Marvin

Jameson Marvin, Music Director of the Jameson Singers

Why are you passionate about being a part of ACDA?

I have belonged to ACDA since the fall of 1965, when I entered the DMA program at the University of Illinois, under Harold Decker. Harold was one of the founding members and I so remember his enthusiasm for the organization and how important he felt ACDA was, from the very beginning.

The first time I attended as a student was the National Convention in 1965, and there I heard the USC Chamber Singers under Charles Hurt – a very moving experience. Then, in the mid-70s, I heard Howard Swan speak to us all about the importance of performing Good Choral Literature – I felt such affinity with that “call!”

I have attended all but one national conference since 1969 (my first year as director of choral ensembles at Vassar College) and all Eastern Division conferences since 1975 when Vassar’s mixed choir performed in Boston.

The experience of attending ACDA conferences energizes me – by hearing many choirs, I can put my work in perspective – and when comparing my work to the best of them I realize where my attention should go. And that is VERY important.

What is a particularly memorable performance or interest session from past conferences?

This occurred probably in the mid 80s – Eric Ericson’s Swedish Chamber Choir performing Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir…. It riveted my attention. My last year at Harvard I performed it with my HR Collegium Musicum. For me it is the finest a cappella masterwork of the 20th century. Ericson’s performance and recordings confirmed my own musical directions and stylistic sensitivities.

Two ACDA experiences standout for me personally: Harvard’s Collegium Musicum performing the concerted works of Monteverdi and Schütz at the 1995 ACDA National Convention at the Kennedy Center, and performing Dominick Argento’s The Revelations of St. John the Divine with the Harvard Glee Club at the National Convention in San Antonio.

What’s going to be great/new/interesting about your performance?

Wow – I just hope that we sing a concert that connects with conductors, teachers and students, that it brings all listeners in! And I hope that it might pass on musical ideas, that we might offer a few transcendent moments here and there, and ultimately sometimes be inspiring!

I retired from Harvard in 2010, and shortly there after I formed the Jameson Singers – currently about 40 out of 60 singers sang with me at Harvard in the Glee Club, or Radcliffe Choral Society, or HR Collegium Musicum. We have a wonderful time working together – they remember many things I taught them – and that is incredibly gratifying. We were thrilled to be accepted to sing at the ACDA Eastern Conference.

Why can’t our members afford to miss your performance at the Boston Conference?

At Harvard I performed a cappella repertoire of equal amounts of Renaissance, Romantic, and Contemporary choral literature, and choral-orchestral works every year ranging from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 through Paul Moravec’s Songs of Love and War.

The Jameson Singers a cappella program is similar: Ockeghem’s “Alma redemptoris Mater” followed by the “Gloria” from Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli; then three pieces: “Prayer” I from Britten’s Ad majorem Dei gloriam, Vaughan Williams’s “Kyrie” from his Mass in G Minor, and we conclude with Bruckner’s “Os justi meditatbitur sapientiam.” I hope we sing these five beautiful, poignant, contrasting, complementary pieces well!

Leonardo Dreams of His Singing Machine

Paul Head
President Elect, Eastern Division

I attended my first ACDA regional convention in 1984, albeit in the Western Division. At the time, I was a junior in college, persevering through music history and advanced theory toward a career teaching high school. I still remember the sense of awe as so many wonderful choirs assembled in one place, reiterating again and again – the sky’s the limit kid! Learn your Roman numeral analysis and get out there. Fly, Leonardo. Fly!

Particularly heartfelt was a performance by the Brigham Young University Choir – the last under the direction of Ralph Woodward who would retire just a few months later. To say that concert was emotionally charged would be an understatement, as there was scarcely a dry eye in the house by the time they were finished. The singing was intelligent – a Heinz Werner Zimmerman piece comes to mind – but fully evocative of the human spirit. These were people who loved making music together, and for those few minutes, we got to make music with them.

I remember talking about the concert the next morning with my peers and my mentor, Charlene Archibeque, as we bantered about the performances of the previous day. I also recall daydreaming over my omelet about what it might be like to be invited to perform at such an event – an honor to be sure, but also a bit stressful perhaps? Most of us come to these things looking for a few new ideas, a shot in the arm to update our vaccinations against complacency, and if we’re lucky, we take home a few moments of pure inspiration, moments as likely to be found in the unison singing of children’s voices as in the more esoteric artistry of music from eastern Europe. If you’re like me, you spend most of the conference trying to decide if having lunch with a long lost friend is worth the risk of missing the “musical highlight of the conference!” But alas, is there anything more personal or subjective than that?

Dave Fryling had asked that I might say a few words about preparing my choir to sing for this auspicious occasion, a task I find a bit more frightening that actually preparing the choir. The genesis of our program comes from the title of a Craig Hella Johnson arrangement of a song by Annie Lennox called “1000 Beautiful Things.” As it happens, this was the over-arching theme for a program we did last year of the same title. In this rendering, we will feature two recent works inspired by Hildegard von Bingen, a Brahms part-song paired with the eerie compositional meanderings of Latvian composer Peteris Vasks, and conclude with a new David Childs setting of the e.e. cummings poem, “i thank You God for most this amazing day.” The underlying thread that binds these pieces together is the realization that little has changed in the human experience since the beginning of recorded history. Joy, grief, melancholy, euphoria, and hundreds of their close cousins repeatedly assume the leading roles in the stories of each of our lives.

I think back on that BYU performance in 1984 and can only hope that we might touch a few souls in the way that choir touched so many, but what I can tell you is this: Such an opportunity to sing great repertoire for an audience that truly understands the art causes us to pause, time and again, to ponder the wonder and magnificence of 1000 beautiful things.

We look forward to sharing those with you, on stage and off, in Boston a few months from now.

And no… we’re not singing “Leonardo!” I just thought it was a clever title.

See you in Boston!

The Heart of the Conference: Auditioned Choirs

Mike Driscoll
Auditioned Choirs Chair & Past-President, Massachusetts ACDA

I am honored to serve as the Auditioned Choir Chair for the 2016 Eastern Division Conference in my home city of Boston! One of the aspects of ACDA conferences that I enjoy most is attending the many fine performances – after all, the music itself is at the heart of what do as singers and musicians! And the great thing about our Division conferences is that we get a chance to spotlight and celebrate the work of colleagues and ensembles that are close to home.

Fifteen auditioned choirs will be performing at this conference, in one of the two magnificent daily concert venues: Saint Cecilia Church and the historic Old South Church in Copley Square. Saint Cecilia’s is right next door to the conference hotel, and Old South is just a short 10 minute walk, much of which can be spent walking through the indoor Prudential Center Mall – always a good option in Boston in February!

The fifteen auditioned choirs include several youth/high school choirs, six collegiate choirs, six treble ensembles, and two adult community ensembles, as well as an ensemble that includes a mixture of youth and adults. In addition, the Shenzhen Senior High School Lily Girls Choir from Shenzhen, China submitted an audition, and will travel all the way from China to perform for us!

The conference concerts provide an opportunity to hear excellent music, both new and old. As a listener, one complaint I have had in the past is that it sometimes feels like a rarity to hear music that was composed more than a couple decades ago. That’s why I am particularly pleased that so many of our performing choirs in Boston will be presenting a wide variety genres of music including works by Byrd, Scarlatti, Schutz, Brahms, Rossini, and Schoenberg. As a conference attendee, I certainly enjoy hearing beautiful and engaging performances of newer works, but I also really appreciate just hearing a beautiful, engaging performance of an old choral “standard.” I believe we’re going to have a nice balance of both at this conference.

I am really looking forward to hearing and seeing the fine work of my many colleagues in February. I hope to see you there, too!

 

Paul Rardin hopes to see you in Boston!

Paul Rardin
Director of Choirs, Temple University

ACDA Boston is months away, but it is already bringing back great memories for me of ACDA Eastern Division conferences of the past. Philadelphia, 1994 (favorite memory of this, my first-ever conference: Frank Albinder, then music director of Chanticleer, actually making conversation with me); Pittsburgh, 2000 (breathtaking double-bill of St. Olaf Choir and Westminster Choir – never before or since have Sarah Hopkins’s Past Life Melodies and Schönberg’s Friede auf Erden sounded so magnificent) Providence 2012 (Alice Parker teaching a packed auditorium the Jamaican folk song Watah Come a Me Eye); and Boston, 2004, site of this coming year’s conference (Temple University Concert Choir under Alan Harler performing the then-new Whitacre hit Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine). These musical snapshots are emblematic of the excellence, variety, tradition, and camaraderie with which I’ve come to associate ACDA Eastern Division.

The Temple concert took place at the great Old South Church in downtown Boston, and now, twelve years later, I am humbled to have the opportunity to conduct this very choir at this very venue. We will present a veritable mash-up of psalm settings: Bach Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied; Harold Owen In te Domine speravi; Tzvi Avni Psalm 150 from Mizmorei T’Hillim; and a Paul Rardin original setting of Psalm 108. We revel in the Bach for its exuberant joy, an antiphonal choral tennis match with comically athletic melismas. We dance with Avni’s equally joyous take, in Hebrew, of the same psalm Bach set, with playful refrains and a blazing finish. We marvel at the Owen for its pungent, searching dissonances that melt into the most heart-warming clusters I know – this may prove to be the sleeper hit of the set. And finally we – what, exactly? high-step? sway? rollerblade? – (insert chosen verb) into a new setting of Psalm 108 that can’t decide whether it’s vocal jazz, Gospel, or electronica, but is guaranteed to close the set. While I’m not sure what the piece is exactly, I can say that it is rhythmically driving, playful, and, if I’m lucky, bearing a modest amount of funk.

ACDA remains the greatest resource of my professional career. I believe that its conferences, especially those at the division level, have that wonderful combination of excellence and camaraderie. They model high standards, variety, and diversity, all while valuing friendship and professional interaction. I hope you’ll join my students and me as we listen and learn from the magnificent choirs and presenters, all of whom will surely add generously to your own choral memories.

 

Coming to Boston: the Student Conducting Masterclass

Since conducting is at the heart of all we do, we think that everyone will find something of interest in both the public student conducting classes (scheduled for Friday afternoon of the conference) as well as in the process by which students are chosen for those classes. They were designed with this in mind. 

Four conductors — two undergraduates and two graduates — will conduct the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, and will be coached by outstanding teachers: Ann Howard Jones leads the undergraduate classes, and William Weinert leads the graduate classes. 

And these truly are classes, with a format that allows for substantive time between the ensemble, the student, and the teacher: Each conductor will have 30 minutes to rehearse two pieces, as well as additional time one-on-one beforehand with maestro Jones or Weinert, respectively, to review and prepare for their time in front of the ensemble. 

Applicants need to submit video of their conducting (rehearsing and performing) and analyses of the pieces they conduct. Adjudicators from outside the division will score these anonymized applications. And while this selection process is meant to be competitive (the only competitive aspect of the class, by the way), it also is meant to offer professor and student a kind of practicum, an exercise reflecting and focusing on the real-life responsibilities of a conductor. While the student is, of course, responsible for the content of the application, it affords a coaching opportunity for professor and student. 

Conducting is a fascinating skill, and one in which we learn continually, with the challenges of every new piece and ensemble. From the interaction of these talented young conductors and master teachers, we can all expect to come away with insights that will feed into our own practice. So we hope that everyone will join us for the public sessions, that many students will apply, and—if you are a conducting teacher—that you will encourage your students to investigate the application process (deadline is October 1st!). Even simply considering the opportunity and process seriously, together, will encourage a dialogue about the essence of conducting—which is, perhaps, the most important dialogue you could be having right now.
– Wayne Abercrombie & Tony ThorntonCo-chairs
Conducting Masterclass Committee

 

Here comes the conference!

Dr. David Fryling
President, Eastern Division

I couldn’t be more excited about our conference this February, to be held in Boston’s brilliant “Back Bay.” Back in 2011, when I was asked to submit a Vision Statement for the Eastern Division as part of the ACDA President Elect nomination process, I wrote

ACDA’s vital artistic and educational leadership position springs from its ability both to be inspired by and to inspire its membership. “We the People,” as a recent division conference reminded us, are accountable for continuing our critical human-centered missions, which are:

  • to Invite every child and adult to sing
  • to Mentor the young and future choral leaders in our midst
  • to Engage our greater community in making meaning out of our art

Everything we do as an organization, of course, must also meet the charge of the National ACDA Mission Statement: “To inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.” And I think that nothing embodies all of these ideals more fully than our annual conferences.

ACDA Boston logo-SmallThe theme of this year’s conference is “Pushing Boundaries.” This theme, combined with our mission to invite, mentor, and engage while inspiring excellence, has been the touchstone for everyone who continues to be involved in the planning. It has coaxed us to search for and showcase collaborative performances that will inspire you. It has allowed us to uncover interest sessions that will refresh and revive you. It has pushed us to refine the ways you can interact with vendors, the conference program, and each other. In short, I believe it has encouraged us to think deeply and creatively about every aspect of what the conference can be.

In the coming weeks you will be hearing more from the folks who have been spending so much of their (pro bono!) time on your behalf envisioning and organizing this event. These people are passionate about what they have planned, and they can’t wait to share their ideas and visions for what you’ll see, hear, and experience this coming February. I hope you’ll take a chance to listen to what each of them has in store for you; their enthusiasm for what promises to be a fantastic conference is contagious!

I can’t wait to meet up with you all in Boston in February!

Honor Choir Men’s Auditions Reopened!

Auditions are re-opened for the following 2016 ACDA Eastern Division Honor Choirs:
  • Jr. High: Tenors and Basses (open to singers who are in 7th, 8th, or 9th grade in the 2015-2016 school year). 
  • High School: Tenor 1’s (open to singers who are in grades 10, 11, or 12 in the 2015-2016 school year.)
  • South American RepertoireTenor 1’s (open to singers who are in grades 10, 11, or 12 in the 2015-2016 school year.)
Deadline for submission for this second round of auditions is October 1, 2015. Click on the respective choir highlighted above to go to the online application and information page.

In an ideal world…

Dr. Elisa Macedo Dekaney
R&S Chair for Ethnic and Multicultural Perspectives

In an ideal world, music from world cultures and from our own folk tradition should be an integral part of a rich and diverse choral repertoire. Historically, our repertoire choices have been focused on Western European traditional music. This may have narrowed our vision about what should be considered quality music. What could our choristers and students in choral settings in the United States gain from experiencing the diverse musical traditions of our globe? Let’s think musically.

There are music theory systems in other parts of the world as sophisticated as our Western European music system. Take for instance North Indian or Hindustani classical music, with its hundreds of ragas (melodic organization) and talas (rhythmic organization), a music theory system so complex it would take us many semesters of music theory classes to fully understand it. How about heterophony, rarely encountered in Western music? Not homophony, polyphony, or monophony, but the less familiar texture that brings yet another perspective in music performance because singers can contribute to the overall piece by adding spontaneous ornamentation to a melodic line. Let us not forget the ability to sing microtones in Chinese Opera or with overtones in Aboriginal music and Tuvan throat singing. There is also the purposeful tuning of instruments in pairs in Indonesia to allow the presence of beats (not really something desired in our western ideal of intonation) and the intricate layers of rhythmic patterns present in multiple examples of African music, to name a few.

So, why should we incorporate music from various world traditions (in addition to our beautifully crafted Western European tradition)? Simply stated, because we are traditionally exposed to the elements that are common in our music traditions, but there are multiple important music elements still foreign to us. Performing and learning about these elements will only enhance our understanding of what music is and what it represents to millions of humans around the world.

Teaching Rhythmic Literacy in Rehearsal

Dr. Jason Bishop
R&S Chair for Youth & Student Activities

Like many choral conductors I’m sure, I begin nearly every new semester by making some change to my bag of rehearsal tricks. Whether it’s a small tweak or a major overhaul, exploring fresh new methods for addressing the same challenges keeps our rehearsals dynamic and deepens our understanding of our craft.

This semester, if you find yourself seeking a different method for teaching rhythmic literacy or strengthening rhythmic accuracy, I might suggest you check out  Takadimi.net, which provides multiple resources for employing the rhythmic literacy system known as Takadimi in your classes and rehearsals. Developed by Richard Hoffman, William Pelto, and John W. White in 1996, Takadimi is a beat-oriented language for teaching rhythmic literacy that fuses some of the best attributes of more familiar rhythmic systems (such as Kodály or Gordon) into a self-contained methodology. One of Takadimi’s key features is that it eliminates the possibility of duplicating syllabic patterns for distinctly different rhythms, thereby allowing singers to associate common rhythmic figures with combinations of syllables that are unique to those rhythms.

At Takadimi.net, you can read the article unveiling the system in the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, as well as access different teaching tools, read teacher testimonials, download a concise and very useful handout for summarizing the system, and more. I give credit to Carol Krueger, a well known musical literacy guru in our field, for inspiring me to learn more about this system. I began using it in my own rehearsals about a year ago at every level, and it has yielded tremendous results.

I look forward to seeing many choral friends at the national conference in Salt Lake City next month. In the midst of enjoying inspirational concerts and informative sessions, be sure to go watch the conducting competition, make an appointment with one of the 40+ conductors offering Face-to-Face sessions, and attend the Youth & Student Activities Roundtable on Saturday morning. See you in Utah!