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!