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 (www.dillonsboston.com). 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.
“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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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 representing 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.