Category: General Choral Interest

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!

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!

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!


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!

Here comes the conference!

Dr. David Fryling
President, Eastern Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”][/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.


In an ideal world…

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

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

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

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

Teaching Rhythmic Literacy in Rehearsal

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

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

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

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

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

“Why do you sing in a choir?”

Dr. Mark Boyle
Men’s Choir R&S Chair

Recently I had the privilege of conducting the Mucho Macho Choral Festival–designed to get 6th through 9th grade young men excited about choral singing–and I decided to take some time to have these choristers share why that sang in choir. It was eye opening that these young singers felt so free to share such personal insight with a group of strangers.

I then did the same thing with a group of 150 middle schoolers in the Wisconsin Middle Level All State Choir–a fine SATB ensemble made up of 7th and 8th grade singers. They each shared from their heart, and I decided to write a blog post about the experience.

One young musician, Scedra, had many of us crying with her answer to the question ‘Why do you sing in choir?” Beyond the music, it’s our job to create a safe space for our musicians. Singing is such a personal art form; if you don’t feel safe, you won’t offer music filed with emotion, passion, and honesty.