Thursday, December 10, 2015

What are your Holiday plans?

It's not really beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Nebraska. It's 14 days until Christmas Eve and it's 60 degrees outside.

We all know with that this can be a joy-filled, hopeful season for some and a difficult, stress-filled season for others. So let's talk about Dreams.

My day job as church musician keeps me active with many different people in the community connected to the church. I, of course, get to enjoy a number of excellent sermons, and this week the pastor focused on the promise and hope that can really only be felt when we open ourselves to the possibility of dreaming. We like to plan for the Holidays, to make our events meaningful, special, unique. But we often can get caught up in the grind of the plan instead of being open to the dream of peace and joy in the world.

"These are troubling times" can be heard all over the internet and 24 hour cable networks, and yes this is true. But the joy of the season can be a blessing in these time. Not as a way to mask our pain, but as a way to connect with the world, our communities, and our families. I can't wait to be inspired by the season. And I already have in some ways. Of course I am also counting down (7 days) until Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens, but tonight I get to enjoy some dreams with the Lincoln Choral Artists as we sing carols and holiday favorites with the community at Eastmont Towers tonight, 6:30pm. So as a I sign off for a couple weeks I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a blessed New Year, and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

To Conduct or Not To Conduct, That is the question....

I am constantly surprised by my own sense of what a choir needs. Some weeks I think, "why even bother moving my arms, nobody is watching." Then I get a comment like "it really helped when you showed that release," or "can you help us at this point in the music."

LCA is going caroling in December. We haven't been preparing "easy" choruses either. This is real Christmas and Holiday literature. But I am thoroughly decided not to conduct. There is something to connecting with a choir in a different way by singing with them and not necessarily standing in front of them and waving your arms around.

Having two masters degrees in choral conducting I have had lots of teachers and pedagogical training about physical movement. I know that the way that I move my arms and physically express the music can encourage the choir to breath well, to be in synchronicity with each other, and to accomplish some musical aspects as a group that are hard to express when there isn't someone standing there to help.

I remember really enjoying learning about Laban technique from Henry Leck, learning about how to work with symphonic chorus and symphony size orchestra with Eric Stark, and having the experience of diving deeper into the Lutheran Choral styles and dealing with centering breath and encouraging healthy singing with Anton Armstrong. These are parts of my tool bag that I use on a weekly and even daily basis in my own practice and in rehearsal with choirs. But right now I'm very focused on encouraging communication across the choir without physical representation and having opportunity to sing with my singers as we prepare for the holiday caroling season.
 I know that many directors struggle with the balance between how much to do and how little to do in their conducting gesture. One of my most favorite experiences was the chance to watch and work with Charles Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale a number of years ago and see him communicate the musicality of the music through sweeping gestures that encourage legato and connective singing.

I realize this post is particularly pedagogical in nature and I've been talking a little bit more about what I do as an individual as opposed to what the group does. I think having an understanding of what's going on in the mind of a conductor really opens up the avenues for communication on what it is to be a part of an ensemble like to Lincoln Choral artists.

The ability for a choir to connect and communicate with the audience is part of the joy and journey of being a choral conductor. I am experiencing another joy as we make our way through this time with me backing away from the podium and more intimately engaging the choir. Hopefully the communities we will sing for will also enjoy the more intimate, and possibly more spontaneous, nature of these Holiday Caroling performances.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Caroling, Caroling: The Holiday Season

Tonight begins the great experiment! LCA embarks on a journey of learning carols to sing for a few performances in the Lincoln community for senior living facilities. We are always asking the community to come to us. We have had good success and great music at these events. But now we bring ourselves out to the community to lend our voices in holiday singing and bringing a joyful spirit to the season.

Here are the songs we are singing:
Caroling, Caroling  Alfred Burt
Sing We Now of Christmas  Arr. Fred prentice
Jingle Bells
Ding Dong! Merrily On High  Arr. Carolyn Jennings
Carol of the Bells  M. Leontovich, arr. Peter J. Wilhousky
The Holly and the Ivy  Arr. Jason M. Horner
Deck the Halls  arr. Alice Parker
We Wish You a Merry Christmas  arr. Arthur Warrell

All a cappella! 

Tonight also begins our adventure into The Great Gatsby Gala. In March we will be performing music inspired by the book The Great Gatsby, the roaring 20s, and prohibition. All of this will happen at the Speedway Motor Museum.

So tonight we begin, again. 
As we have begun in the past. 
We come together to sing, 
to form community, 
and to share our voices!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Working with Lincoln Christian School Choir Today!

Today is a great day. LCA went to Lincoln Christian School and sang with their select choir of 18 singers who will be featured on our fall concert on Oct. 25.


Image is the varsity select vocal group at Lincoln Christian. The group is made up of 10 boys and 10 girls. Image has won numerous awards, but more importantly brings the gospel message of Christ through music wherever they perform.
As a long time K-12 choral music educator, I enjoy so much hearing what is happening in the schools in Lincoln. Kirsten Jergensen is doing great work with wonderful students. I can tell they take pride in their art and because they are Christian based offer that art up to the Glory of God.

We sang together in small groups, in a large circle, and we talked about the emotions and joys we can bring to our audience through our combined choirs. Image performed two songs for us that will be featured on the concert. I heard incredibly beautiful singing from LCS Image and LCA singers today.

I have the best job in the world! Working with singers and choirs to bring beautiful art to the world that really needs it, is a unique and wonderful experience. I can't wait for the diversity of the Lincoln community coming together to experience our choral concert.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Some of My Favorite Youtube Choral Performances

Today is a list of youtube links to some of my favorite youtube choral performances.
I was tempted to just include videos with me singing or conducting, but then I thought better of myself. So here are some other ensembles in amazing performances. I include a little info about each below the link.

We start with Leonard Bernstein conducting his choral classic, Chichester Psalms. This recording is with the Poznan Philharmonic Chorus. The incredible artistry that Bernstein pulls out of the string players, in what is essentially a string overture to the final movement, is beautiful. The boy soloist in the final movement is spectacular!

The Kansas City Chorale, under director Charles Bruffy, truly sings the Russian Liturgical Choral music with amazing passion. This is Rachmaninov's Our Father from the Liturgy of St. John Chrisostom, Op.31.

In the long relationship between composer Morten Lauridsen, The Los Angeles Chorale, and conductor Paul Salamunovich, few ensembles have had as much beautiful success as this collaboration. This movement from Les Chansons de Roses: De Ton Reve Trop Plein is much less popular than the final movement Dirait Ton. But for me this is the movement that shows the width and breadth of this choir, conductor, and composers incredible ability and joy of singing.
From Arvo Pärt: A Tribute - Arvo Pärt by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Theatre of Voices, Pro Arte Singers and Paul Hillier, conductor

This also another great collaboration between composer and choir. Arvo Part and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir are inseparable in my mind. This performance of Part's incredible "Which was the son of..." is the lineage of Christ according to St. Luke. This list of "begats" could be very boring, but Part and the choir know exactly where the emphasis needs to be and the compositional style which Part calls "tintinnabula" is evocative and visceral. 

I hope you enjoyed these selections. I am a fan of many choirs and many styles of music, but these particular selections are a part of my choral vocabulary and my "go to" songs when I am in the mood for really phenomenal choral performances.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

MusicSpoke: Another blog about choral music, musicians, and ideas...

I have some choral anthems published through a relatively new publishing company with a new model for composers.

MusicSpoke's mission is to support composers in composing. It is artist owned and supports the composer's right to self promote and produce music of high quality. As a part of this initiative, Kurt Knecht,
one of the founding owners of MusicSpoke has a regular blog. Kurt is a Lincoln area composer, church musician, teacher, and supporter of choral music. He will also be one of the Lincoln Choral Artists guest musicians on our spring concert, "Song My Mother Taught Me." We will even be performing at Kurt's church, St. Mark's On the Campus on May 13th.

Below are links to a few particular blog postings I thoroughly enjoyed. I have read almost every blog, short or long, and they all have gems of knowledge and offer a more personal insight into composers' and musicians' minds.

One of my choral arrangements.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Music in the Rockies, or how I can't fight being a choral nerd!

Over the Labor Day holiday I traveled to Colorado on my Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. I went with my best friend from Minnesota. He and I met in youth choir over twenty years ago. We have both developed a love of riding, but we have also both engaged in less "cool" activities. I would consider us both Star Wars geeks, Muppets fans, Beatles lovers (that's pretty cool), and a million other nerd culture supporters. When I was in High School being a nerd was not the "in" thing it is today. There was no Big Bang Theory or massive support of Sci-fi movies, Renaissance Festivals, or Robotics teams. It seems that the tide turned and now it's "Hip To Be Square." Maybe part of riding a motorcycle for me has been about doing something that is completely different from my regular choral "nerdiness." But as I have directed many choirs and I always find the one or two riders in the choir, including in LCA! 
So when I was in the mountains over the weekend I had hoped to really let go of work and daily life. But of course I found myself, humming, even singing, and actually thinking of the score for the music of our first concert. Part of it is I love the music; Benjamin Britten's Old Joe Has Gone Fishing, Willamette Spence's At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners, Alice Parker's Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, Aaron Copland's I Bought Me A Cat... but also I think this music and the music being performed by Toasted Ponies (Lincoln Folk Ensemble) and Lincoln Christian School speak to the great folk music traditions and storytelling history often found in choral music. I found myself contemplating the deeper meaning of the text as I dropped down from the mountain into clouds in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was again swooned by simple yet beautiful harmonies as I whizzed around deep curves.

I was blessed to have such a great experience. I shared it with a great friend. I enjoyed nature in a way I have never felt before. And I got renewed and excited about the music I love and can't wait to share with you on Oct. 25.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Final Blog of the 2014-15 season or is it the 1st of the 2015-16 Season...?

I can hardly believe it. It's been almost a year since my first blog contribution for the Lincoln Choral Artists Director's Connector.

Last season was my first (very successful) season as Artistic Choral Director. I have used this space to promote the joy and trials of choral music leading, singing, and development. I have tried to show some of my personal joys in music and hopefully brought some new insight to the music we performed. I can't wait to get started with a new season. And really it begins with LCA singing the national anthem for the Saltdogs on Aug. 23, 5:05pm at Haymarket Park. We then begin in earnest with our first rehearsal on Aug. 27 at 7:30 back at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Writing a blog has pushed me to be more creative and clear about why I do what I do...why supporting choral music is essential to building community and adding to the cultural conversation in Lincoln and the surrounding area. 

I can't wait to stand in front of and with these committed and dedicated people. But of course we are always looking for more voices. Please share with a friend or neighbor, maybe a spouse or a child that we are looking for new singers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Blues...

So it's been a minute since I've had a chance to write. The summer for LCA has been filled with meetings and a performance at the Haymarket Park in Lincoln. We had a great opportunity to sing for the Relay for Life event. We reprised the "Lambscapes" from the spring concert and led the national anthem for the opening ceremonies. It was a great success and such a  great way to support and be seen in the community.

Summer can be a strange time for choir directors. It's a needed break. This is great time for short term and long range planning and budgeting. It is a great time for revisiting the needs of the library of music. It's a time to attend conferences and visit with choral colleagues, a time to visit family from far away, and connect to the outdoors. For me that's on my motorcycle.
But all of these things can get old (well maybe not the motorcycle!) The routine of rehearsal and performance preparation is also just a part of a director's DNA. We thrive on it. I am very excited to get back to our regular routine. Thursdays, 7:30-9:30 with a great groups of hard working, excellent singing people. Until then come join us for a couple other events. You can see them on our facebook page!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Check out our live Performance on FRIDAYLIVE: 9:47am on Friday, May 15 with Host Genevieve Randall

LCA on Friday Live, May 15th at 9:47am. I will talk about that evening's concert and there will be a live performance by the Lincoln Choral Artists.…/…/friday-live-johnny-carson-theater

Live stream start time: Friday, May 15 at 9:00am (CT)
Friday Live broadcast from the Johnny Carson Theater at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln with live performances from Deborah Greenblatt, Jackie Allen, Lincoln Choral Artists, and Ann Chang. Host Genevieve Randall will interview Jason Horner, the Homestead National Monument's Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival fiddler Deborah Greenblatt, Bill Stephan, Launa Bacon and Peggy Gomez of Tugboat Gallery.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New Youtube Videos, Twitter, and Facebook: Ways to support and help tell about LCA

You may not know this but the Lincoln Choral Artists 
are all over the web!

We have our main webpage: 

We have our Facebook page:

We have our Twitter Feed: 

And we also have a Youtube page with new videos from the 
2014-15 Season: 

So what does this mean for you? 
You can help us by visiting our webpage for information about upcoming events and joining us to sing! You can also connect to this blog, 
the Director's Connector: 

You can LIKE us on Facebook, share your like, our page, and Facebook updates with your friends and family.

You can follow our Twitter feed and share our updates on your feed.

And of course you watch videos of the Lincoln Choral Artists on multiple platforms including TVs, Phones, and Pads and Computers.

Please support choral music in Nebraska 
by connecting with us!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Final Rehearsals, concluding a season, gearing up for a new next normal

It's coming...the end of the 2014-15 Lincoln Choral Artists Season. We had a great community event last week, our first InChoir Event. It was a joy to share my love of the music LCA is making. 

This week we have an all choir meeting. These annual meetings really help us understand what we've accomplished, who we've shared wonderful music with, and look ahead to new endeavors. 

First United Methodist Church will be our "Dress Rehearsal" and final rehearsal, and concert location for "With One Voice...We Begin Anew."
 May 15, 7:30 pm

We will be joining the community this summer for three events. 


            Haymarket Park

Saturday, June 27, 2015
4:00PM - 12:00AM (details for specific time TBA)

We will be joining Abendmusick for
at 7:30 pm 
We join with the community to sing Haydn's "Creation" at First Plymouth Church.

And what could be more fun than a Saltdogs' Game! We will be singing the National Anthem for the baseball game on Sunday, August 23. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Movin' and Shakin': movement in choir

I have been so pleased over the last few weeks to have Mandy Swanson, one of our sopranos, conducting "Baba Yetu" which will be featured on the spring concert. Mandy will be conducting. This music is inspired by the Swahili text and has African-like rhythms. Mandy is continuously telling the choir to loosen up, and move their bodies. She always sets the scene and tone for them, focusing on rhythm, clarity of text, and feeling confident but free. She encourages their minds, voices, and bodies!

Choirs can sometimes be the toughest crowd to get excited about their own music! They are focused on so many things like, diction, dynamics, tone, vowel shape, intonation...It can be hard to remember that the audience needs to see the choir look engaged. I have seen all kinds of crazy and cool ideas about how choirs should look when singing, from hand holding to full choreographed action. All of it can have a purpose and meaning. What I think is key is seeing engagement. Are the singers committed to and enjoying the sound and text they are singing? Is it obvious on their faces? In the bodies?

I can't wait for LCA to stand up and sing for the Lincoln community on May 15th. I know we can show off our choral finesse. And I hope that Mandy and I will help them communicate in song and body language the joy of singing!

May 15, 2015
7:30 pm
With One Step... Beginning Anew

and the Summit String Quartet
First United Methodist Church, Lincoln