Category: Conference

Q&A with Jameson Marvin

Jameson Marvin, Music Director of the Jameson Singers

Why are you passionate about being a part of ACDA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonardo Dreams of His Singing Machine

Paul Head
President Elect, Eastern Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in Boston!

The Heart of the Conference: Auditioned Choirs

Michael Driscoll

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

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

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

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

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

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


Paul Rardin hopes to see you in Boston!

Paul Rardin
Director of Choirs, Temple University

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

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

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


Coming to Boston: the Student Conducting Masterclass

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

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

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

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

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


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!

Conference Discoveries!

Amelia Nagoski,
Research Initiatives

I don’t have much opportunity to alter my routine: teaching, conducting, score prep, meetings. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world outside my rehearsal room that’s influencing my students, singers, audience, and administration. Thankfully, there are passionate, brilliant people looking deeply into the world we inhabit and finding ways we can stay more connected to the past, the present, and the future, and how we can use those connections to make our work more beautiful and more meaningful.

One of the things I love about ACDA conferences is the chance to interrupt the self-perpetuating cycle of doing more of what I already know, and the chance to be influenced by those brilliant, passionate people. With inspiring energy and commitment, they show me things I’ve never considered — or at least never thought I could manage myself. They spark curiosity, and allow me to reboot my work, to break out of the merely habitual routine into fresh thoughtfulness. “Research” may sound dusty, but in fact it’s the thing that allows us to shake off the build-up of old assumptions!

I’m especially excited about our two Research Roundtable sessions, which will feature ACDA Boston logo-Smallconnections between established standard operating procedures and much broader issues: “The Science of Singing,” and “Saving the World Through Singing.” Both will have conversations among leaders in their subject, comparing notes and giving the rest of us practical advice on how we can make our rehearsals, our singers, and our communities better. These inspiring speakers remind us that we work in a world where technology advances side by side with social injustice. Both of these things — and so much more! — are influencing our singers and our audiences whether we acknowledge them or not. The impact of that influence could come sneaking up on us unless we’re paying attention. On the other hand, if we can see if coming, we can harness it to create more beauty, to connect more meaningfully.

The discovery of new ideas, or the discovery of new connections between old ideas, pushes open boundaries between scientists and artists, singers and conductors, audiences and ensembles, communities and music-makers. But it only works if we take opportunities like these to challenge our habits, and embrace new possibilities.

The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. There are thousands of us; we are mighty and we are legion. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s ask questions. Let’s look further and deeper for the answers. Let’s meet in Boston, and see how far we can go together.

Honor Choir Men’s Auditions Reopened!

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