Category: General Choral Interest

Choral Music: Healing People, Saving Lives, Making a Difference

Choral musicians claim the immense power of choral singing to transform individual lives and communities. This is because:

  • we sing

But, it’s also because of

  • what we sing
  • where we sing
  • who is singing

and many other reasons.
The question that I pose is this:

Are we, as choral musicians, doing enough for ALL PEOPLE?

Are we doing enough to engage all people, not only as audiences, but as choral participants? By all people, I refer to people in poverty, in conflict, in hospitals, in prisons, in war zones, in psychiatric institutions, and so on.

I maintain that choral music is not simply good, as we like to say, but it CAN be good, strong, inclusive, healthy, humane, compassionate, empowering. It can also be elitist, exclusive, selfish, disempowering. Indeed, we have yet to fully explore the multi-faceted power of choral music in diverse settings.

To enquire into ways in which choral music can be a force for healing, social change, and personal transformation, my session will look at the forgotten world, those whom choral educators and conductors have excluded, neglected, or forgotten. There are many social issues that we might give more attention to, and my presentation deals with only two of them, incarceration in American prisons, and the conflicted environment of Israel and the Arab world. In the former, I will discuss and interrogate the Empowering Song approach, which my colleagues and I have utilized as an alternative to conventional choral and music education approaches. In the latter, I will narrate various aspects of the Community Heartsong Project. Originally conceived as a project to bring Arab and Israeli choirs and conductors together, it has progressed to include work specifically on community choral development in the Palestinian West Bank.

On February 9, I will conduct a new choir, the Common Ground Voices in a concert for the King and Queen of Sweden, at the Eric Ericson International Choral Centre. This unique choir consists of Arabs, Israelis, and Swedes. Additionally, on February 6, I will lead a workshop for choral conductors and music educators interested in working principally with asylum seekers. Freshly returned to the United States for ACDA, I expect to report on the short-term outcomes of this project. My presentation will also draw on my experience as artistic director of the new conducting institute at the Eric Ericson International Choral Centre.

Thus, my focus will be the power of transformation for people in prisons, in conflict situations, and in poverty. The purpose of this presentation is twofold. First, there is much to be gained from understanding what processes and procedures have happened in some of these projects. Secondly, the presentation will discuss strategies, problems, and repertoire for those who may interested in pursuing this kind of work in their own communities.

André de Quadros, conductor, scholar, music educator, and human rights activist, has conducted and undertaken research in over forty countries and is a professor of music at Boston University, where he also holds positions in African, Asian, and Muslim studies, and the Prison Education Program. He is the music director and conductor of the internationally acclaimed Manado State University Choir, and two new international project choirs, VOICES 21C and Common Ground Voices. He is artistic director of four international projects: a conducting program at the Eric Ericson International Choral Centre – CONDUCTING 21C: Musical Leadership for a New Century; the London International Music Festival, Aswatuna – Arab Choral Festival and the Bali International Festival in Indonesia. For the last four years he has co-led choral programs in two Boston prisons. Since 2008, he has partnered in projects with Palestinian and Israeli choral musicians in Israel, Jerusalem and Galilee, and in the Arab world.

The Sacred Harp

Several days ago, I was thrilled to read the New York Times article by Phillip Lutz, “A Different Note on Race at Yale.” It recognizes the efforts of Dr. Ian Quinn to implement a tradition of Sacred Harp hymn-singing at Yale University. Referring to his first experience in 2008, Dr. Quinn said, “It just turned my whole world upside down. How moving it was for me to see this musical space where anybody could just walk in off the street and have this experience of singing in four parts without having to audition, without having to feel like they were performing.”

Coincidentally, it was also in 2008 that I was invited to attend my first Sacred Harp event. As I was preparing to leave graduate school for greener pastures, a senior member of my community chorus gifted me his dated copy of The Sacred Harp (1971), with information about local and regional “singings.” I was familiar with a long list of shape-note arrangements, but I was embarrassed to say that I had never been to a traditional singing before. In response, I programmed an entire concert of shape-note tunes, and to address my ignorance, invited Jesse P. Karlsberg and Lauren Bock to lead several singing schools in Potsdam, New York in 2009. (Jesse is currently the vice president of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company. His 2015 dissertation, “Folklore’s Filter: Race, Place and Sacred Harp Singing,” is referenced in the NY Times article mentioned earlier.) Like Dr. Quinn, the experience “revolutionized my relationship to music,” and since 2009 I have taken dozens of students to regional Sacred Harp events.

From the website of The Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association (

“Sacred Harp is a uniquely American tradition that brings communities together to sing four-part hymns and anthems. It is a proudly inclusive and democratic part of our shared cultural heritage. Participants are not concerned with re-creating or re-enacting historical events. Our tradition is a living, breathing, ongoing practice passed directly to us by generations of singers, many gone on before and many still living. All events welcome beginners and newcomers, with no musical experience or religious affiliation required—in fact, the tradition was born from colonial ‘singing schools’ whose purpose was to teach beginners to sing and our methods continue to reflect this goal.”

My own Sacred Harp addiction led to the idea of sponsoring an interest session that would provide a participatory experience for other choral conductors who, like myself, have conducted many shape-note tunes without having experienced a traditional Sacred Harp singing. This session is being co-presented by Dr. Thomas Malone, with special thanks to members of the local Sacred Harp community who will be in attendance. To make the experience as real as possible, a very brief introduction will be followed by a solid forty-five minutes of singing.

What better place than Boston to start a new musical addiction? Early eighteenth-century Bostonians produced America’s first two music textbooks in 1721. Singing schools began in Boston, and spread across the Northeast, spurring the compositional creativity of William Billings and other tunesmiths from the First New England School. Composers and singing-school teachers began using fa-sol-la solmization and shape-notes to teach music across the expanding frontier. Today, Boston is home to one of the most vibrant and active Sacred Harp communities in the Northeast.

It is my hope that this experience will help instill in others a deep appreciation for traditional shape-note singing, a desire to become more active in local Sacred Harp communities, or the motivation to establish communities where none currently exist. For more information about The Sacred Harp, please visit

Dr. Jeffrey Francom is associate professor and coordinator of the choral area at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, where he conducts the Concert Choir and Crane Chorus, and teaches courses in music education and conducting. Previously, he taught at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island, where he also directed the Stony Brook Camerata Singers and Babylon Chorale. Prior to New York, Dr. Francom directed choirs at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, Florida. He holds degrees from Stony Brook University (DMA), the University of Florida (MM), and Utah State University. Dr. Francom serves as a board member of NY-ACDA.

The Sky’s The Limit! Literacy Techniques to Inspire, Empower & Advance Your Choir

More than almost anything else, literacy is the key to freedom, possibility, and advancement. Those who are literate in a collective language are able to work better together, learn from and inspire each other, achieve higher, and discover a world of previously unknown possibilities.

Likewise, since music is a mode of understanding like a language, the means by which we understand, create, interpret, and perform at a higher level is by laying a common foundation of musical literacy

Read more

The Sound of Contribution

The first time I had a true aesthetic experience, I was 17.

Within the first 30 seconds of the choir opening their mouths, my life was changed.

That sound.

It was bright, vibrant, fully committed, and filled with life. The singers’ faces and bodies completely engaged, their eyes in unison on the conductor.

I wept.

I wept, and I experienced that magic that we all have experienced a few times in our life when we

make music with others who are living with full hearts in the same place and time. The feeling that is so deep and overwhelming that you feel sick with wonder. One month later, I packed the car and moved to the middle of nowhere to go live in that sound for the next four years as an undergraduate.

I knew that my life’s work was not only to figure out how to recreate that sound, and that fire for my students, but to know how to teach others to create and perpetuate that experience for THEIR students.

A peak experience like I had, and that so many musicians have had, is addicting. It’s like a drug that we crave and constantly search for to get our next “fix.” When I graduated and began to look for jobs that would support my sound addiction, I naïvely knew that I would only take a high school job, in a really nice area, with lots of students, who all wanted to be there and felt like I did about choral music. That was easy to find, right?

The reality of what happened is that I took a job as an associate director split between HS and MS in a school district that was 60% affluent students, and 40% students that were in a very low socio-economic bracket who were bussed in from rough areas to help them succeed.

The disconnect between my drive for helping create people who were passionate about choral sound, and the reality of my choirs being filled with 90+ students, many of whom were there simply for a credit, mixed with a few great singers, caused a huge crisis for me. I cried every day for six months because I poured my heart out each minute trying to explain what they should/could feel instead of giving them an experience that made them discover for themselves. But, instead of running away, I decided that I wouldn’t stop until I figured out a system and a way to help my large, “y’all-come” choirs make unified sounds, remarkable music, and give them an experience that makes them want to be there every single day.

My mission became my passion, and my favorite choirs to work with today are non-auditioned, large choirs.  

Through my process of finding ways to unify these groups both musically and emotionally, I’ve found that there are a few key ideas and techniques (among many others) that I prioritize in rehearsals:


  1. Economic voice matching and changing seating often
  2. A system of exercises that standardizes healthy vowel space/placement and tricks to modify consonants/vowels to improve intonation
  3. Utilizing the forte dynamic and gradually working our way to a healthy, piano with a core tone and focus
  4. Picking repertoire that is diverse tonally, challenging and attainable for all levels of musicianship and singers.
  5. Building peak experiences through principles of appreciative inquiry


I believe that these priorities are the means to reach connection among singers.

I believe that connection leads to vulnerability and making mistakes.

I believe that mistakes lead to discovery.


I believe that discovery leads my students to find their own contribution to make to themselves, the ensemble, and the world around them.

I believe that it is unconditional contribution that creates that brilliant, unified sound that changed me when I was 17.

In the end, I believe that change is the legacy we leave behind.

Dr. Cory Ganschow is Coordinator of Music Education and Associate Director of Choirs at Western Connecticut State University. She is extremely active as an adjudicator and clinician for honor choirs across the country including All-State, All-Region, and All-District Choirs. Prior to teaching at WCSU, Ganschow taught choir in the Texas and Illinois public schools, and served as a facilitator of music in the adolescent behavioral health community. She has sung professionally in the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, Voce, and Spire, and is also a published researcher and presenter in the areas of choral rehearsal approaches and engagement. She currently serves on the NAfME National Council for Choral Education Executive Committee and the CT-ACDA Executive Board as the R&S Chair for Women’s Choirs. Ganschow holds a Ph.D. in Music Education and Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, a MME from Illinois State University and a BME from Millikin University where she studied conducting with Dr. Brad Holmes.

Are you a process or a product style choral music educator?

After presenting an interest session with the Mansfield University Concert Choir demonstrating vocal techniques at the 2006 ACDA Eastern Division Conference in New York City, Frank Albinder commented: “I didn’t know that you were such a process person.” The comment inspired my thinking. Since then as I have read articles on teaching philosophy and observed conductors in rehearsal, I have considered whether the process of how students learn is as important as the final product or, in other words, the performance. If the performance is great, does it matter how we get there? My answer is “yes, it does;” in fact, the process can enhance the product!

I am really looking forward to presenting interest sessions on Saturday morning in Boston, “The Choral Rehearsal: Process to Product,” with the Mansfield University Concert Choir as a demonstration group. Throughout my twenty-six years at Mansfield, I have been passionate about vocal pedagogy and sequential learning as applied to choral rehearsals.

Successful performances are grounded in a creative, yet systematic, rehearsal process that builds confidence through vocal development, musical knowledge, and security in musical performance. My process involves layers of learning centered upon the elements of music: rhythm, pitch, harmony, texture, and tone color, combined with articulation, dynamics, and cultural understanding.

The interest session will focus on specific concepts related to each musical selection and will demonstrate rehearsal techniques that define an efficient and effective rehearsal process resulting in a musical product that is grounded in healthy vocal technique and musical understanding. Techniques such as count-singing using the Tometics method, pitch-reading based upon solfège, text-chanting à la Robert Shaw, and changing choral colors using head- or chest-voice will be incorporated. In addition, exercises for achieving choral blend through vowel formation, dynamic balance, and voice matching will be demonstrated. Here are examples of pedagogical approaches to tone color:

Bright-forward timbre: Laudar Vollio from Cortona laudario (13th c.)

A. Bright tone color
1. Begin with puppy whine
2. Vocalize on tongue vowels only: “nee-ay-ah-ay-ee”
3. Five tones descending on “nyae, nyae, nyae,” or “yellow”
4. Fast vocalises with initial consonants: V, Z, Y
5. Vibration towards the hard palate; soft palate not as involved
B. Application to music
1. Chant text on Shaw chord
2. Learn pitches with solfège in E dorian

Dark vocal color: I’ve been in the storm so long (Jeffery Ames)

A. Vocalize with dark color (compare dark and bright)
1 Sense an open throat – sip air through straw to feel lift in palate
2. Use lip vowels: ah, oh, oo
3. Sing five tone descending scale on “ee-oh” with Oreo cookie concept
4. Sing ascending/descending scales on “noo noh nah nay nee” with puckered lips
5. Put hands on cheeks for tall vowels and rounded lips
6. Pretend you have marshmallows in throat
7. Imagine Timothy Seelig’s concept of the woofer and the tweeter:
woofer– resonance in the pharynx with lifted soft palate

The Concert Choir and I will demonstrate the rehearsal techniques with repertoire selections by Monteverdi, Parry, Britten, Messiaen, Esenvalds, Memley, Ames, Runestad, and Hatfield, and a handout with teaching techniques will be provided. Hope to see you there!

Peggy Dettwiler is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Mansfield University, where she conducts the Concert Choir, Festival Chorus, and Chamber Singers, and teaches choral conducting and methods. She holds the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Dettwiler has served as a guest conductor and lecturer throughout the country and has given presentations at numerous NAfME and ACDA Conventions. She has produced two DVDs, one entitled, “Developing a Vocal Color Palette for Various Choral Styles” and the second, “Sing in Style.” Dettwiler made her conducting debut in Carnegie Hall in January of 2014 and presented an interest session at the World Choral Symposium in Seoul, Korea, in August of 2014.

From the Vocal Studio to the Choral Classroom: Incorporating Key Concepts of Vocalism within the Choral Rehearsal

The benefits of having students in your ensembles participate in voice lessons can be invaluable. The reality is that access to these lessons is not always available or affordable. This participatory session will introduce vocal techniques, literature ideas and rehearsal tips that will strengthen your singers’ musicality and promote healthy vocalism throughout your rehearsals. This session is for the “do it all” teacher/conductor searching for more strategies to develop their choral singers’ personal vocal development.
Introducing vocal techniques that encourage the unification of registers and develop effective breath management are essential strategies for strengthening your singers’ musical capabilities. Unifying vocal registers refers to the singer’s ability to smoothly transition between the breaks that naturally occur in the voice. Singing a descending scale on a [i] vowel, particularly through the passaggio, is an effective tool for teaching your singers how to unify the tone through vocal registers. Effective breath management is essential for fostering the musical growth of your singers. Messa di voce exercises can be a key tool in developing effective breath management for your vocalists. Messa di voce is characterized as singing a on a single sustained note maintaining consistent resonance and vibrato while evenly increasing and then decreasing volume throughout the note (Ex.1). One can also make this exercise more interesting for the singer by utilizing a four part singing texture (Ex. 2)

Example 1
Example 1






Example 2
Example 2

The benefits of breath management include building stamina through increasing the duration of the sustained note, encouraging breath management and NOT breath control, and strengthening tone. It affords the opportunity to incorporate kinesthetic learning and reinforces musicianship through the exploration of dynamic contrast. The consistent implementation of vocal techniques that promote the unification of registers and development of effective breath management should be at the core of all vocal music programs.
At the center of any good choral program is well-planned and thoughtful literature consideration. There are many outlets from which to choose choral octavos to use a teaching aides in our choral ensembles. We oft neglect art songs as instructional tools in our choral programs and have relegated them to solo singing experiences. In fact, arts songs provide another outlet for capitalizing on the value of unison singing. Employing these songs in your choral program not only strengthen your singers intonation but can also be used in group vocal lessons, commonly found in schools throughout New York state, and offer options for assessments.
Collaboration and encouragement are also essential elements in helping your students translate vocal studio concepts into the choral rehearsal. Inviting professional singers into your classroom setting, especially if they are former students, can help your students see connections from your classroom to their career goals. Once might even consider programing a small work with soloists in which you can use your students as the soloists, i.e. Mozart Veni Sancte Spiritus. This type of experience can serve as encouragement for those students who choose to pursue singing as a career. We know that singing is a VERY personal experience. Choral directors should stay engaged vocally so that we never forget what it feels like to be on the other side of the podium. If we remember the skill and effort it takes to keep our own voices in shape, it will inform our efforts to do the same for our students.
Most teachers must subscribe to the school of “Do It All, ” meaning we are the choral director and voice teacher for our students. We may not be fortunate enough to live in areas where the resources are available to provide students with supplemental musical instruction and if we do, our students may not be able to afford those services. We have to continue to grow our knowledge base so that we can effectively and efficiently provide the necessary instruction our students need in order to support their musical growth. The practical techniques outlined in my session in Boston will be focused on equipping you with the tools to employ these techniques in your choral classroom.

Dr. Derrick Fox
Assistant Professor of Choral Music Ed./Choral Conducting
Ithaca College, New York 

Rounds of Ravenscroft in Boston

The session “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry! The Rounds of Thomas Ravenscroft” has the dual purpose of educating people on the profusion of woefully underappreciated rounds that Ravenscroft composed in his life and providing a fun social event to kick off the conference. The session will be taking place Wednesday, February 10th at Dillon’s in Back Bay ( Together we can imbibe refreshing beverages, dine on delectable cuisine, and sing together the many drinking rounds of Ravenscroft.

Ravenscroft was the musical mind behind the ubiquitous “Three Blind Mice” and “Hey, Ho, Nobody at Home”, currently staples of elementary general music. Active in the early 15th century, Ravenscroft is mostly known for his published collections of English Folk music, catches, and rounds, in three collections. While many early choral musicians were organists first and composers second, Ravenscroft was merely a singer at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As a theorist, he penned two treatises of music, only one of which was published.

Each session attendee will receive a collection of his rounds edited into modern notation and including a transcription of the Old English Text. The edition also includes definitions of more obscure words and explanations of the meaning of the rounds. An example of this is included below. While the quality of the singing will probably deteriorate as the evening progresses, our camaraderie and fun will increase, as will our knowledge of Ravenscroft’s rounds.

Malts Come Down – Ravenscroft Rounds – Chris Clark
Chris Clark is the Director of Vocal Music for the Southern Berkshire Regional School District in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where he teaches choir in grades 3-12. A 2013 Yale “Distinguished Music Educator”, Mr. Clark also is the Associate Conductor of the Cantilena Chamber Choir, Director of the Sheffield Messiah Choir, and Choir Director at Grace Church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He received a double Masters in Music Education and Choral Conducting from Bowling Green State University. Mr. Clark is the Treasurer and Webmaster for Massachusetts ACDA.

Winter in Boston? Aaaahh!*

“Vital Force – Using T’ai Chi Chih and Movement Techniques to Teach Conducting”

Early Morning Workshop Sessions to be presented daily on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, February 11-13, 2016 at the Eastern Division ACDA Conference, Boston, MA, by Stan Engebretson of Bethesda, MD

It’s February 11 and you’re in Boston for a very exciting ACDA Eastern Division Convention, ready to be inspired at every turn and surprise! It’s cold outside, with perhaps just a little bit of snow (hopefully not as much as last year). For any of the three mornings while we are there, I invite you to start your day with a moving, meditative session of T’ai Chi Chih and other movement styles. See for yourself how these simple techniques will center you and focus your breath while building your core and balance for strong conducting. Then, take these ideas home to teach your singers how to develop their own core support and enhance their mindfulness to create great music!

T’ai Chi Chih movements will be used to find the “Vital Force” with centering, balance, and core-strengthening techniques needed to become a strong conductor and singer. “Vital force” is a term that describes the central strength or creative force that is so apparent in master artists such as Robert Shaw or Eric Ericson – the gift of inspiration and strength balanced with focus, clear vision, and a will to achieve greatness. “T’ai Chi Chih” is a variant of T’ai Chi not based on martial arts per se, but rather on a more meditative, peaceful, slow and elegant style of movement, centering the concentration and breath of the participants while strengthening the core muscles of the torso and focusing the concentration of power in gesture. Adapted from T’ai Chi Chuan by Justin Stone in 1974, (a successful musician himself), these movements feature soft gestures that circulate and balance the Chi (intrinsic energy) which help the conductor or performer transmit expressivity in music.

There are 19 movements plus a pose in T’ai Chi Chih, and many of these (approximately 10) will be explored within the sessions to create an improved sense of balance and posture for conductors and artists. Additional exercises will show the performer how to concentrate the power of the Chi, or energy, that can transform the intensity of the musical line into gestures and increase musical communication to the performers. Expressions such as “feel the weight of the ocean in the elbows,” “find your center core (Tan-Tien) and move through the core (rather than through off-balance gestures),” “have a sense of floating within your posture of the upper body combined with a high carriage of the head that is aligned on top of the shoulders,” and “keep the legs/knees soft so that you always have perfect balance,” are all tenets of the movement style which serve performers in all disciplines.

The meditative aspect of the art is enhanced through playing background music that is very simple, enhancing the sense of peace, calm, and focused imagery that is so necessary to conducting and indeed, to all the arts and humanities. One of the purposes of T’ai Chi is to replace the ego with a sense of method, a discipline that focuses the energy of the individual into an acutely aware, almost transcendental state. When one arrives in this “zone,” one can see how the depth of the music will express itself, without the performer inserting egos over the music as a filter. The honesty of the art becomes apparent, and the conducting is enhanced by a music-centric approach to the work at hand. One can now clearly see both “the forest and the trees,” and can transmit the greater meaning that is perceived through this enhanced and focused look at the music and the composer. A performer’s depth of expression is developed through this quiet focus, and the ability to transmit this expression is presented through the new balance and focus yielded by the movements and the meditation. At the end of the session, participants will apply these techniques to conducting exercises and singing in basic movements that are drawn from T’ai Chi Chih principles.

While we will be learning 10 or more movements over three days, you can come to any single morning or all three, as you wish. The sequence will change each day and we will apply different aspects of T’ai Chi to conducting and singing, including showing how T’ai Chi movements have been used in choral works such as Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque to create a new form of “Music in Motion,” so popular now in European choral circles today.

Bring warm coats, big smiles, and great energy as you discover the Vital Force within yourself during the upcoming convention! The lineup of artists, ensembles, and workshops this year is fantastic and one of the best in the country of all of the regional conventions, so I know everyone will have an exciting time in Boston.

Safe travels – I hope to see you there!


Stan Engebretson

Questions? Feel free to email me directly if you need any information:

* (Btw, I was raised in Fargo, ND, so a little cold weather and snow in February is “nothing” – it only encourages me! <smiles>)


Stan Engebretson is the Artistic Director of the National Philharmonic Chorale in Bethesda, MD, and Director of Music at the historic “Lincoln Church,” The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, located two blocks east of the White House. He came to Washington in 1990 when he became the Director of Choral Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

Originally from North Dakota, he holds degrees in Voice and Piano from UND and a DMA in Conducting from Stanford University. He has studied with great masters of the choral art, including Robert Shaw, Eric Ericson, Roger Wagner, Margaret Hillis, Richard Westenburg, Dale Warland, and Gregg Smith.

He has led choral clinics and workshops throughout the United States and in many countries including South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, France, Iceland, and Italy. In undergraduate/graduate choral conducting courses he presents T’ai Chi, Pilates, and Alexander Techniques to young conductors. Additionally he offers T’ai Chi workshops widely for various organizations including major international humanities’ conferences and others.


Shining Sun: Choral Light in Boston

Had I not seen the Sun
I could have borne the shade
But light, a newer Wilderness
My Wilderness has made
Emily Dickinson

And there it is – the reason I go to ACDA conferences. I love each rehearsal and each performance in my life. I quite simply love what I do. And the day-to-day work is wonderful. BUT, to feel completely fulfilled, to grow as an artist, and to bring something new to my work I need the Sun. And not to overstate things, ACDA conferences have illuminated my work immensely over the years. From San Diego to New York, from Chicago to San Antonio, from Baltimore to Boston, I have heard new sounds, discussed repertory with old friends and had my mind opened and my ears refreshed over and over again at ACDA conferences.

ACDA really is the place to broaden our approach, learn new techniques, and view the accomplishments of world class artists in performance. Our President, David Fryling asked that I describe a particularly memorable performance or interest session – but there have been too many terrific events, so I am going to sort of free associate memories from over the years – artists and their music -Shaw, Salamunovich, Ericson, Rilling, Melkus – the King’s Singers, I Fagiolini, Berlioz Requiem, Britten War Requiem – so many powerful performances over the years.

And repertory, repertory, repertory! Standing in the exhibit hall next to friends and saying – have you done this one? Even better, going to a performance and hearing a new piece and being blown away. THAT is when my newer Wilderness is made!

Can the Kirkpatrick Choir shine a little sun your way? We hope so; we will at least sing the words quoted above in Tarik O’Regan’s inspiring setting of two Emily Dickinson texts. The program we have put together starts with Donald Grantham’s setting of Dickinson’s “This is my letter to the world.” Our letter for you includes our look at peace. We will follow our Dickinson settings with Kenneth Lampl’s calm request for peace in Jerusalem and then look at the historic quest for peace on earth in Arnold Shoenberg’s Friede auf Erden.

Patrick Gardner is the Director of Choral Studies at The Mason Gross School of the Arts, the arts conservatory at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 

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!