Category: Repertoire

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 (www.fasola.org):

“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 www.fasola.org.


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.

Musica: A Great Benefit for ACDA Members

If you are searching for choral repertoire, and the fact is, we are indeed searching for choral repertoire all the time, your membership in the American Choral Directors Association offers you the entire Musica choral database to track down repertoire throughout the world.

Why would you use Musica rather than a Google search? Great question! Here are some answers I think you will find compelling:musica-international1

  1. The Musica database references the score for the choral piece you want to find and does not drown in all other areas that you will encounter in a typical Google search;
  2. Music is a structured database, which means there exists a specific field for each type of information describing a score—composer, title, voicing, number of voices, key center, genre, style, form, instrumentation, liturgical use, and much more (for example, try searching in Google for Swiss choral scores for mixed voices in French, for a harvest festival, lasting about five minutes….Good luck with that! But in Musica, your search can be pinpointed with these criteria.)
  3. With Musica, fields of a search are grouped, making the search much more friendly and faster;
  4. In Musica, several search forms are available for the user who can choose the one that is best suited to the research desired, or to the one that is most comfortable to the user;
  5. Musica automatically translates the important data into four languages, allowing access to all data, even those introduced in Musica in a language other than that used by the visitor;
  6. A Musica record includes all the information about the score into a single entity; you will find the bibliographic description, but also the multimedia links (video, audio clip, translations, pronunciation of the text, image of the page, and more);
  7. The information is monitored constantly and checked and improved (in other words, it is trusted) by the Musica coordination team, which is a team of choral conductors and music librarians (in other words, this is a trusted site, avoiding the negative aspects of Wikipedia and Google searches);
  8. The videos selected for the choral works sought are only the good performances, unlike Google and YouTube that mix the best with the worst;
  9. In the composer’s file, nearly 11,000 composers have one or more links to detailed biographies, again checked and monitored by the Musica team;
  10. Musica offers “favorite pieces of the month” for additional exploration and interest;
  11. Musica offers an “auditorium” where you can browse through the vast compilation of all audio and video links;
  12. Musica allows you to interact with the data by using a Musica Wiki or Facebook page;
  13. Musica offers a list of important anniversaries for composers.
  14. Musica can be used to manage your choral holdings without need of doing your own database, by benefitting from private fields to input for instance your location.

Musica has developed into THE choral music research and teaching tool for the benefit of conductors, musicologists, music conservatories and schools, music federations, and choral music industry members, worldwide. For the experienced choral musician, it is the source for discovering literature from around the world. For the student of choral music, Musica is a keen way to discover and learn about the world of choral repertoire.

Music comprises four databases that can be consulted separately: choral scores-170,000 records; choral composers-30,000 records; authors of texts-13,000 records; choral publishers-2,200 records. These databases are interlinked so that it is possible to navigate directly between them.

The database of scores comprises a series of records yielding as many as 100 different types of information about the score, including composer, arranger, publisher, title, genre, form, difficulty, type of choir, language, musical period, instrumentation, etc. About 20 fields are translated automatically through several multilingual thesaurus developed by the Musica International team. As a result, information is automatically and immediately available in the different languages.

Musica currently contains more than 200,000 multimedia links. The multimedia fields are designed to provide a fuller understanding of the piece: image of one page of the score, the text, its translation in several languages, a sound clip of a good interpretation and/or a video, a sound file of the correct pronunciation by a
native speaker of the language, a midi file, and links to pages external of the project. By the end of 2015, the Musica database contained more than 170,000 records, making it the leading virtual library of choral music in which all possible information about a score is available.

Since 2011, Musica has concentrated on the development of features allowing full interactivity with the actors of choral music. The choral world is able to contribute actively to its development through the linked online Musica Wiki, allowing every composer, publisher, conductor, musicologist, or choral music lover to leave comments, additional information and reports of experiences with the music, and to directly input their favorite pieces.

Musica is now a benefit of membership in ACDA. At the Eastern Division ACDA Conference in Boston in February, 2016, I will be joined by the Musica Board to present an Interest Session on the use of the Musica database with all of the features mentioned in this blog. I hope many of you will come and learn from the Musica team as they unfold the richness of this choral repertoire search engine and learning resource.

Tim Sharp is Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association, the world’s largest association of choral conductors, students, scholars, composers, and choral industry representatives. Tim has pursued an aggressive agenda of strategic planning and progressive initiatives to keep the American Choral Directors Association energized and relevant in the 21st century. He represents choral activity in the United States to the International Federation for Choral Music, and appears regularly as guest conductor and clinician throughout the world. Tim is in his eighth season as Artistic Director of the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, where critics characterized his performances as having “stunning power” and “great passion and precision”. In a recent review of the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus’ performance of Mozart’s Requiem, arts critic James Watts stated, “The Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, prepared by its artistic director Tim Sharp, was in excellent form, summoning up rafter-shaking power…and showing great sensitivity ….”

Reflections, Change, and Opportunity

Sal Cicciarella,
Together We Sing Chair

When reminiscing about my early days as a high school choral director, I remember anxiously waiting for two very important events: the closing of school for summer break, and finding choral catalog’s in my teacher’s mailbox–creating a summer long reading project of music choices.

When traveling home after a national or divisional ACDA conference with the bulk weight of single copies in hand, I looked forward to arranging them according to voicing, genre, and level. Those were the days of investigation and excitement long before internet exploration and the new world of finger tip octavo shopping.

Our concert selection process has certainly come a long way. Our young colleagues are fortunate in the way they are now able to read and listen to a number of recordings and performances from any place on this earth from the comforts of home, the cafe, or office.

In the 21st century, finding choral literature has become an effortless and pleasurable chore. Great performances continue to be an important part of the process, but so do advanced technological tools as well as social media links from our colleagues.

ACDA has also embraced change in how we offer our membership the best possible choral choices. Our esteemed R&S Committee Chairs are presently selecting their top choices of choral octavos for our Eastern Division Conference in Boston, MA, February, 2016.

Together We Sing (TWS) Sessions have leapt forward and transformed the older format of reading sessions into an engaging 1.5 hours of introducing and re-discovering new and established repertoire. To add to the excitement of each session, choral ensembles ACDA Boston logo-Smallrepresenting the best within our division will perform, explore, and share the value of these pieces by offering a live concert performance of the repertoire available in each of the TWS booklets. You can expect to hear great music from the R&S families, including male, women, children, high school, jazz, college and university, middle school, and music in worship. Plus, an additional curated list within each R&S family provides “bonus” choral recommendations for performance choices.

At our 2014 Baltimore Conference we first introduced the newer TWS format. Attendance at all sessions were to capacity and highly successful. We will continue to follow the same format for the Boston conference–just be sure to register for the conference before Early Bird Registration closes in order to secure your own take-home packet.

It is my hope that you will be part of this new and innovative process while listening, singing and sharing the best repertoire that ACDA has to offer. May you continue to be inspired by those you teach, engaging young minds to appreciate the higher standards of great repertoire choices while expanding beyond your own personal boundaries.

Looking forward to seeing you in Boston!

This L’il Light of Mine

Dr. Anthony Leach
Division R&S Chair, Music in Worship

Many of you know that the African American Music Festival at Penn State began in 1995 with a single concert presented by Essence of Joy. The following year I invited choirs from the School of Music to participate and then in 1997, I coordinated an extended series with guest lecturers, recitals and of course a concert by EOJ. In 2003 the Celebration of African American Spirituals Festival featured commissioned works by Moses Hogan, Keith Hampton, Marvin Curtis, Rosephanye Powell, Robert Morris, Roland Carter and Glenn Burleigh. Lawrence Burnett was our guest lecturer. This festival also brought to campus collegiate and high school choirs as guest performers.

In February 2005, I decided to only present EOJ in a single concert. My friend and colleague, Dave Dietz, choral director at Central Dauphin High School, Harrisburg contacted me to see if he could bring his Women’s Choir, CD Chanson to campus for the festival. I informed him that we were not hosting a festival but he could bring his choir to University Park for Dr. Lynn Drafall and me to share time. Dr. Drafall worked with the choir during the morning. I observed the process and was very moved by their choral sound. Nathan Trimmer, PSU and EOJ alum was student teaching with Dave Dietz so he was present for the session. During the lunch break, I went to my studio with a melody in mind but no text. As I continued to work at the piano, the text for This Little Light of Mine came to mind and I began to flesh out a choral arrangement for women’s choir. The arrangement is dedicated to David Dietz and CD Chanson as well as Nathan and Aimee Trimmer.

I returned to room 110 for the afternoon session and taught the choir by rote my arrangement of This L’il Light of Mine. It worked! The kids loved it. Neal and I scored it later in the month for SATB choir because Essence of Joy and the Oriana Singers were sharing Spring Campus Concerts later in the semester. This piece became the transitional piece to get one choir off stage while the other choir emerged. Success!

Since 2005 I’ve shared this piece with the Essence of Joy Alumni Singers as well as festival choirs in Pennsylvania. This past August, I presented two interest sessions at the 10th World Choral Symposium coordinated by the International Federation of Choral Musicians. This festival was held in Seoul, South Korea. I invited several members of EOJAS along with two guests to travel with me as we shared several of the commissioned works that EOJ has premiered since 2003. In that audience was Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir. We are very dear friends and colleagues in choral music. He asked if he could share my choral arrangement with the St. Olaf Choir and also at Carnegie Hall this spring when he will guest conduct a high school national honor choir. Absolutely, no problem!

[pdfviewer width=”600px” height=”849px” beta=”true/false”]http://acdaeast.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/TLL-1and2.pdf[/pdfviewer]Preview the first two pages of Dr. Leach’s This L’il Light of Mine

So tonight, I along with several friends are traveling to Pittsburgh, PA for a concert presented by the St. Olaf Choir in Heinz Hall. This L’il Light of Mine has been sung across the USA as this choir has shared its musical offering on its annual spring tour. There is also a ‘side’ story for this piece that is worth sharing. When I invited Moses Hogan to participate in the 2003 commissioning project, he consented to do so but shared that he would not be able to do an arrangement of This Little Light of Mine. He did not say why but instead completed ‘Let the Heaven Light Shine on Me’ since all of the composers were invited to create a work that focused on either This Little Light of Mine or the concept of light as revealed through text. While listening to the 2002 Christmas program presented by the St. Olaf Choir, a strange thing occurred. The choir sang This Little Light of Mine arranged by Moses Hogan. Well now you know the rest of that story!

So in the end, Moses Hogan and I have created settings of this text that reveal regional differences in melody and harmony depending on where one lives within the USA. EOJ, EOJAS and Essence 2 presented my arrangement last November  during our ‘Give Us This Day’ concert held at Bellefonte High School. I had no idea in February 2005 that this piece would have ‘legs’ beyond that rote session with CD Chanson. Well here we are ten years later and the piece is quickly gathering momentum beyond our Penn State experience.

For that I remain humbled and grateful!

If you are interested in This L’il Light of Mine, contact Dr. Leach directly.

 

On-line Resources in African American Sacred Music

Dr. Anthony Leach
Division R&S Chair, Music in Worship

The internet has positively transformed aspects of the planning that teachers, musicians, worship leaders and others use to frame and/or guide their process that often results in successful programming. Within the African American community there are two organizations that have become my “go to” points of reference as I coordinate repertoire and identify worship resources in African American sacred music:

African American Lectionary

A collaborative project of the African American Pulpit and American Baptist College of Nashville has archival planning materials for a wide array of worship services that are celebrated in African American congregations across the USA. Contributions from pastors, musicians, scholars and others occurred from 2008 – 2013. Selected categories include the following: Emancipation Proclamation Day, Holy Communion and Epiphany, A Service of Healing, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday, Baptism, African Heritage Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Lent, MAAFA Service, Contemporary Heroes and Heroines Day, Anti-Incarceration Day, Jesus and Women, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Jesus and Economic Justice Sunday, Earth Day, Jesus and Hip Hop Culture, Ecumenical Day of Worship, First Sunday of Advent & World AIDS Day, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Watch Night

For each topic, scriptures, themes, hymns, choral/instrumental repertoire, liturgical dance, video and other resource materials are provided. Additional worship and cultural resources are also listed as separate links. I enthusiastically suggest that if you are seeking materials that may help you in planning worship encounters that have an African American focus, visit the website and be inspired!

NTimeMusic.com:

NtTimeMusic is a music distributor based in Charlotte, NC. Their print, video, music transcription and audio holdings are vast in African American sacred music. In recent years they have provided downloading services for selected repertoire. Traditional and contemporary gospel, Praise and Worship, Liturgical Dance, Musicals, Children’s Choir Resources, Spirituals, Anthems and Hymn Arrangements by African American Composers are some of the broad categories that are available to the consumer. Currently there is a link on their website for compositions by the late André Crouch, composer of ‘Soon and Very Soon,’ ‘My Tribute/To God Be The Glory’ and ‘Let the Church Say Amen.’

NTimeMusic.com is my “go to” resource for compositions that I perform with all of the choirs for which I provide artistic leadership as well as festival choirs around the world. If you are seeking something that they do not have on site they will probably be able to connect you with the composer/arranger for further guidance.

The Value of Research

Dr. Amelia Nagoski
Research Initiatives Chair

I want to talk about the value of research. I’ll be writing a few entries about it in preparation for the next ACDA Eastern Conference, where I hope to help promote research and scholarship among choral musicians.

The word academic can have negative connotations: it refers to things not immediately applicable to practical implementation; things that are theoretical or semantic, that only only describe behavior–or, if they have influence, it is indirect. In my experience, this connotation is only true to the extent that you believe it is true. With judicious application of imagination (more important than knowledge, according to the Albert Einstein poster in my office), research becomes one of most powerful tools for improving real-world results.

At its essence, research consists of finding out what other people have already thought of and tried, imagining something new, and/or combining disparate things into something new. Then you try it, and report on what works… Read the rest

Notes from the 2013 ACDA Dallas Conference

Alice Cavanaugh
Two-Year College Choirs R&S Chair

At the 2013 ACDA Dallas Conference, I presented an interest session entitled Recruitment, Retention, and Repertoire for Two-Year College Choirs. Risk factors for college dropouts were examined and through this a retention plan was developed. This retention plan focused on connecting choir members to student services, creating an advisor/advisee relationship with the students, and fostering camaraderie between the singers. Recruiting was examined on both a micro level (posters, word of mouth, Facebook) and a macro level (removing barriers to repeat enrollment such as time the course is offered, registration restrictions, and financial aid barriers).In addition, Dianna Campbell, R&S National Chair for Two-Year Choirs, led a roundtable discussion. Between the interest session and at the roundtable, the following suggestions were shared:

Recruitment

  1. Invite a local high school choir to perform with your group
  2. Petition to make choir count towards the general education (core curriculum) courses
  3. Hold ensemble scholarship auditions
  4. Flash mob
  5. Use entrance and exit surveys

Retention

  1. Require all prospective music majors to schedule their classes with a member of the music faculty.
  2. Pass “good news” stick: At the start of each rehearsal, have each singer share a piece of good news
  3. A choir retreat early in the semester
  4. Have the students attend a concert together
  5. Do a community service project with the choir
  6. Perform off campus to build camaraderie
  7. Have an end-of-semester awards ceremony
  8. Use a collaborative learning seating chart

Repertoire

  1. When resources limit the ability to perform choral/orchestral works, consider combing forces with a symphonic band or wind ensemble.
  2. Combining forces with a local 4 year college or community choir.

A highlight of the conference was the outstanding and inspiring performance by the Mount San Antonio Chamber Singers (a community college in California) under the direction of Bruce Rogers. In his Inside the Mind of the Conductor ssession, Mr. Rogers expressed the importance of instilling a sense of personal responsibility in his students. He emphasized the importance of legacy and the Mount San Antonio singers in attendance at the session reported feeling pride in belonging to a choir with a strong tradition of excellence.