Thursday, November 30, 2017

Long time listener, first time caller...

Ok, so that title was just a little bit of click bait. But in all honesty I try to be a good listener and I have been trying to be a good listener for a long time. Sometimes the hardest thing for a singer, or really just a person, to do is listen. I was reminded of this just last night as one of my choir members asked if she was the "issue" with a problem she was hearing in the section. In all honesty, I had only noticed the facial expressions on the singers and the lack of clarity in some of the music. I hadn't heard this particular concern. In the mix of the ensemble, amidst a busy rehearsal, maybe I wasn't listening. But she was. We spent a little time playing around with some ideas to resolve the concern and have an action plan to move forward, hopefully successfully.

What is it about listening that makes it so hard? I think we all want to be heard, singing, speaking, when we are happy or upset. But I also think we truly want to hear from and about others. So many things can get in our way. Some of which we can control, other things we cannot.

We have now entered that time of the year where it seems like there is no time for anything. This is when i find myself needing to listen even more closely. I need to focus on what is been said and sung. I need to stop the internal monologue and focus my energy on reaching out to others.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Choral Music

Mwah,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha! It's Halloween! 

The world of choral music doesn't often lend itself to spooky or terrifying music. But there are some exceptions that aren't just campy like "The Time Warp" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (one of my favorites, actually) or the "Monster Mash."

If you are looking for some spooky choral and vocal music check out the videos below. Special thanks to Choral Mix with Kent Tritle, WQXR, New York City for providing a number of great selections. I have also included a few others. Enjoy! And have a Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626 / Dies Irae

George Frederick Handel: Belshazzar, HWV 61: “Oh misery! oh terror! oh hopeless grief!”

Verdi: Requiem, Dies Irae

György Ligeti: Requiem: Kyrie II

Sergei Rachmaninov: The Bells, Op. 35: “Hear the howling of the alarm bell (terror)”

Hector Berlioz: Le ballet des ombres, Op. 2

Orlande de Lassus: Timor et tremor, motet for 6 voices, M. iii (S. xix/6)

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth “Che faceste? dite su!”

The Time Warp ;) 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Lincoln Civic Chorus Recording

Recently I have been working on transferring cassette tape recordings of Lincoln Choral Artists to CD. Today I'd like to share an excerpt of one of those cassettes. This project wouldn't have been possible without our LCA Historian/ Archivist Kent Remmenga and St. Thomas Lutheran Church Member Chris Olson. Thank you both so much for your support! 

Below is a link for a recording from 1983. This is the Kyrie from Charles Gounod's Messe Solonelle a Sainte Cecile under the Baton of Dr. Robert Walters. LCA (Lincoln Civic Chorus at the time) was directed by John Lauber. This performance was in collaboration with the Lincoln Civic Orchestra. this recording happened at a performance on April 23, 1983 at College View Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Lincoln where LCA had it's fall concert last year in 2016.

I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Music (videos) of the Renaissance

I had the great privilege of directing a Madrigal choir for 6 years. The Elizabethan Syngers (Minnesota) is an auditioned community ensemble that primarily provides choral music for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. They perform in full Madrigalia Costumes and have a lot of fun while making great music. Here is a music video of their renaissance setting of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance.
As director of the Lincoln Choral Artists I proposed a concert of Renaissance music and I can't wait for the performance on Nov. 5.

I have always loved the music and cultural significance of the European Renaissance Era. Below is a great video about the era. It's funny and fun. I do wish there mention of how influential the music of the era played into the development of culture and music. But it's still a great watch.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Collaborate, Create, Succeed!

Lincoln Choral Artists has always been a community-based, semi-professional choral organization that collaborates and combines concerts and events with local and regional organizations. This is one of our great strengths!

From it's beginning as the Lincoln Civic Choir, joint efforts between local orchestras, other choirs, and ongoing relationships, including the long-standing relationship with Nebraska Wesleyan University have allowed the choir to succeed.

I think the energy and drive to make concert events that incorporate ideas and music from multiple sources both reflects and sits in opposition to our human experience.

Our world is filled with diverse and ever-changing cultures, music, art, politics, and communities. We all push back sometimes on the pressure we may feel from change or difference.

I think LCA succeeds because we work to push ourselves to experience new, old, and different people, places, and styles as we develop our concerts.

Our first concert is no exception. We continue to collaborate with Nebraska Wesleyan for our rehearsals. Barron Breland, who directs the Creighton University choral program and the River City Mixed Chorus in Omaha will join us for a rehearsal. RCMC is Omaha's GLBTA Chorus! Dedicated to "Creating exceptional musical experiences to support diversity, inspire change, and empower communities." 

We will be performing in one of Lincoln's premiere performance and worship spaces, the Newman Center. We will collaborate and create music with two excellent ensembles: the Lincoln Early Music Consort and Dulches Voces. Both of these groups focus on music of the Renaissance. The entire concert on Nov. 5 will also be filled with music of and inspired by this musical and cultural period. This music still informs modern composition and performance. Ancient traditions, 20th and 21st century harmonies, and 3 ensembles plus organ will combine to create an entire experience of music.
A Choral Continuum: Retrospective

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Epic Piece! Performing the first movement of Carmina Burana

Few opening measures of music are as recognizable as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. The "O Fortuna" blows the top off of any performance space. I am very excited for LCA to perform this movement at our first concert of the season. A Choral Continuum: Retrospective, Sunday, November 5, 2pm at the Newman Center in Lincoln 

Below are some choice performances and spoofs of this great music!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Beginning: A new Season Starts!

I am so excited for the 38th Season of Lincoln Choral Artists. All of our board committees have been working hard. New members and more Choral Scholars have joined the choir. Last week We started off with a great rehearsal! And our season is full of unique and different experiences starting with A Choral Continuum: Retrospective Concert. This concert will feature special guests Dulches Voces and the Lincoln Early Music Consort. All of the music is influenced by the Renaissance Era. We will be singing (and playing!) in one of the most visually stunning and acoustically beautiful spaces in Lincoln, St. Thomas Aquinas Church (Newman Center). For more info about the concert check out our website and face book page!

Website with Concert Information

Our Facebook Page!

I can't wait for tonight's rehearsal! Come join us!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: The Season Begins!

I am so excited to begin the 2017-2018 Season of the Lincoln Choral Artists! The fall is when so many groups get fired up and begin rehearsing and preparing for a great year. With the help of the LCA board over the summer and all our break out committees we are ready get started. Below is video that explains just a little about how our year will begin.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Another Strong Season Comes to an end!

Wow! I was so happy to hear from so many community members, guest ensembles, and singers that this past concert on May 7 was one there most favorite ever! I thought is was a blast. Below are some pictures of the concert dress rehearsal and videos from the recording of the concert. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Faure Requiem

I am so excited to bring Fauré Requiem on stage again. I have conducted this piece a number of times. This time LCA is doing a reduced version, with organ, focusing on 4 movements; Introit and Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and In Paradisum. Last week, Matt Hill of Sing Omaha, was our guest clinician. He discussed with the choir that Faure intended this Requiem to focus on the joy of the life everlasting and not the sorrow or horror of death. This was in contrast to many of the most famous settings of the Requiem Mass Text:

Verdi's Requiem with it's terrifying descending figure in the Dies irae (day of wrath), or Mozart's setting of the Tuba mirum with solo Trombone (not terrifying, but epic). These are just two examples of the Dramatic nature of many Requiem settings. 

But Fauré searches for the beauty both musically and in selection of text. His choice of ending with the In Paradisum from the burial service, and not historically from the Mass of the Dead, points the audience toward a sense of hope. LCA's portions of the concert will end with this movement as well. We are blessed to have an opportunity to perform this work. I hope to add some more commentary to this discussion in the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Other passions: Star Wars

I have shared in this blog a lot of my passion for choral music, choirs, and singing. I've shared a little about my love of riding a motorcycle. I've alluded to my small obsession with The West Wing. But I haven't really discussed my passion for Star Wars. 

You may be asking "what does this have to do with the Lincoln Choral Artists?" or "Aren't they performing Faure's Requiem in a couple months? Why isn't he talking about that?" Well I guess I wanted to share my passion for Star Wars because it definitely is tied to my love of music. 

I can truly attribute both my love of music/ choirs and my love of Star Wars to my dad. One of my first memories is sitting on the kitchen floor watching "Empire" on our new VHS player. One of Dad's first VHS rentals was "The Empire Strikes Back." He still loves this episode, but he also a fan of Episode I. We very much disagree on that (damn Jar Jar). 

My dad is also a choir director and church musician at his core. Though he has done many things in his life, these two have always been present. I know some of his joy of Star Wars is the incredible score by John Williams. I remember listening over and over to the "New Hope" soundtrack on vinyl in my room in elementary school. This particular version had the dialogue included. So the first half hour of the Theatrical release of Episode IV is drilled into my psyche. I'm sure I have the entire movie's dialogue memorized, but I know for sure those first moments of Vader's entrance and Princess Leia's ( RIP Carrie) opening lines are immortalized for me. 

With the latest releases of "The Force Awakens" (now in my top 3), and "Rogue One" (top 2, Empire is, of course, 1) I am so thoroughly enjoying the new stories and the new scores. I'm even listening to a podcast (Star Wars Oxygen) that details and analyzes the scores of all the movies. Story telling in the way George Lucas started it, and now how the Lucas Arts story team is continuing it (good move Disney!) is probably some of the best writing happening for the big screen. I haven't gotten too much into the cartoons. But it's interesting to hear a little about them and how they are developing an all new Expanded Universe. 

But anyway, where I'm going with all this is my joy and passion for Star Wars is closely connected to my joy and passion for music, in particular choral music. Though the scores themselves don't have a lot of "choral" writing. The idea of creating a world of Stars Wars is like creating a world of sound in singing. I'm excited for the upcoming releases of The Last Jedi and the yet untitled Han movie, just like I'm excited for LCA to continue to work on Faure, perform with some wonderful Nebraska choirs in May, and plan an incredible season for next year! 

Remember: Do, or do not. There is no try. 
And also: May the force be with you, always!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Practice Makes "Perfect": or for sure, a positive group dynamic!

Today I am sharing a blog post from a choral colleague, Tori Cook, from the website

Tori Cook  January 25, 2017

Dear adult choir member,
I’ve heard that you don’t have time to practice your music outside of rehearsal.
Look, I get it. You have a life outside of chorus (and if you don’t - we should discuss immediately!). Perhaps you’re working a 40+ hour a week job, you have a family to take care, a partner that you need to spend time with, other hobbies (even other choruses!) that are equally as important to you, you’re dealing with the daily struggles of life (AKA #adulting) and you’re just tired. Trust me, SOML!
And you think, hey - I’m not getting paid for this! You signed up for the chorus because you love it.
You love the feeling that you get when a chord locks perfectly and shivers crawl up and down your spine. You enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow choir mates. You are inspired by your director and the other leaders in the chorus every day. And you love performing and making a musical impact on your community.
But here’s the thing: when you signed up for this chorus, it became more than you. You became part of an ensemble, a group, a second family. And as an individual member of this ensemble, you made a commitment to hold up your end of the bargain. And yes, this bargain includes practice outside of rehearsal.
I’m not asking for you to spend hours practicing every week (unless you want to!). But I am asking that you put in some time, any time, every week. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone multiple weeks without practicing (sheepishly raises hand while typing). That’s what I thought. Can we all agree that this is not the kind of commitment we want to give to our choir? We are doing ourselves a disservice and we all deserve more than that! Even if it’s only putting in five minutes a week working on your toughest measure, any time is better than no time at all. 
So, here is my request: take out your calendar and choose a date and time for a weekly practice session. You don’t need to put an end time, only a start time. That way, you can rehearse for as long as you feel like. But the trick is to actually get a practice session on your schedule, start the session every week, and hold yourself accountable.
The joys of singing don’t come without some work. And we all have to work! You can’t have a chord lock perfectly if someone doesn’t know their pitch. You can’t have the camaraderie of choir if your fellow choir mates are feeling let down. You can’t have leaders who inspire you if they aren’t themselves inspired by the music. And you can’t have an impact on your community if you’re not putting in the time to accurately develop and deliver the message. 
My point: make some time, any time. And then let’s make some beautiful music together!
Your passionate choir director and fellow choir members

 Pictured: The Harborlight Show Chorus (my chorus!) rehearsing at 7:30am before our regional competition. Pajamas are 100% acceptable for dress rehearsal attire.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The craziness of conductors

Mostly I'm just complaining about how good my life is today... But just as a quick update on what's happening with me, at the beginning of this month I hosted a Handbell Festival in Omaha. It was a great event! Tomorrow LCA will be on NET radio Friday Live from the Johnny Carson Theatre in Lincoln.

This Sunday I am participating in a Church Choir Festival sponsored by Nebraska Choral Directors Association in Collaboration with Grieg Zielke, Mark Kurtz, David Batter, and First United Methodist Church in Omaha. On Wednesday, Lent begins. And as a full-time church musician this season is almost busier than the build up to Christmas.

Next Friday is the LCA Gala "Crooners Over Lincoln." Then next week I am spending time with colleagues and friends at the National American Choral Directors Association Convention in Minneapolis. These are always great days filled with excellent music and building connections. But it is pretty exhausting. I know that I am privileged to be able to have a flexible working schedule and really do the work I love and serve singers and a conductor and church leader. But boy, when it rains... I am very excited for all these events. But I am also looking forward to some down time in the near future. I am blessed to great people, singers, friends, colleagues around me, supporting me and supporting my love of choral music!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Two other blog posts: Politics in Rehearsal and In Memoriam

I came across two interesting blog posts today on Choralnet. This is an online resource for choral directors. The first is a blog on what might be done to help with issues of politics coming into the community choir or church choir rehearsal. I think there are excellent points in this blog. There are no answers, but there are good questions and suggestions..

Choral Potpourri: Choral Ethics; Politics for Our Time

The second blog is an In Memoriam article about Weston Noble, giant of conductors, who passed in 2016. This blog post has a great link for a very meaningful episode of "Going Beyond Words" a choral music radio broadcast that can be heard on public radio stations across the country. In this episode, Luther College's Nordic Choir under the Director of Weston Noble, remembers Weston through the music he conducted and loved.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Practice, Grit, and Learning: A link to a great broadcast by the Freakonomics Podcast

Inspiration for these blog posts always surprises me. I was doing some laundry this morning, considering what I might post today, when I realized I wasn't paying attention to the podcast I was listening to. I started to pay attention and realized I needed to go back to the beginning. (Being a child of the 80s I always want to say rewind :P) Freakonomics Radio always has wonderful interviews and stories about a huge variety of cultural, scientific, and technological subjects.

Srinath Mahankali correctly spelling his word during the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee
(photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

This particular rebroadcast comes on the heels of another podcast they produced on practice, also very good. But with this particular episode the idea of practice, who practices, why they practice, and its effectiveness is fascinating. I encourage you to listen to the whole episode. As long time K-12 music teacher and piano/ vocal studio teacher I have admitted to many musicians that I am terrible at practicing. I do not love to practice. But I do love understanding a piece of music or a technique and this pushes me to practice. I think there are many incredible ideas in this short look at Grit and Practice. I hope you enjoy it!

How to Get More Grit in Your Life (Rebroadcast)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bobby Troup

Bobby Troup, was an American actor, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter. He is best known for writing the popular standard "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66", and for his role as Dr. Joe Early, opposite his real-life wife Julie London's character, in the 1970s US TV seriesEmergency!

Troup was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics.He was a member of the Mask and Wig Club, a famous collegiate all male comedy sketch group.
Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra recorded "Daddy", which was number one for 8 weeks on the Billboard Best Seller chart and the number five record of 1941; other artists also recorded it in 1941, including Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, The Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby and Kay Kyser.

In 1941 he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was assigned as one of two dozen white officers to direct recruit training at Montford Point, a recruit depot for the first African-American Marines.

He had many song, TV, and movie credits throughout his life. 

LCA will be performing an a cappella arrangement of his song "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring." 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Somewhere, You'll Find Me

Few pieces of music have become as iconic as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Judy Garland's performance of this short piece in The Wizard of Oz is part of the American Songbook fabric.

 Pop, Jazz, and Classical musicians, from vocalists to cellists, orchestras and punk rock bands, have covered this song. There is both an ease and a tension in this song. Musically, the opening intervals of the title phrase - a octave followed by a half step down - sets us up with a sense of hope and a little nervousness. The text is immediately a question inside of a beautiful scene-setting statement, "Somewhere over the rainbow way up high." We are "dare[d] to dream" and wish for a world that is better and safer than our current circumstances.

I keep referring to we even though the lyrics clearly saw "me" and "I." I think this song has left the confines of one song, about, or even sung by, one little Kansas girl. In fact, Lincoln Choral Artists will before performing this as a Choral piece, many voices singing as one.

Teena Chinn's arrangement is beautiful. It includes some Jazz chords and close harmonies that tug at the confined nature of the melody after the initial leap of the opening octave. The accompaniment delicately colors and enhances the voices. I am very excited to rehearse and perform this arrangement on March 3. Please join us as we sing about a world we are all in need of...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Swinging Bach- Doing a new "JAZZ" standand

As a part of the upcoming Crooners Over Lincoln Gala on March 3  
we are doing what I considered to be a "New" vocal Jazz Standard. The irony of this is that both the actual music, the longevity, and the popularity of the version we are performing, Bach's Fugue in G minor or the "Little" fugue, was originally composed in 1722. The arrangement for this upcoming concert came out of performances done in an acappella jazz vocal style by the Swingle Singers in the 1960s and 70s. So this isn't brand new music, but it is framed in a style that many crooners of the 1940s and 50s modeled. 
Jazz influence on popular music in the 40s and 50s cannot be denied. What is so incredible about Bach's Little Fugue, before it is ever adapted for by Ward Swingle and the Swingle Singers, is that the music already "swings." The Swingle Singers made this discovery in the early years of the ensemble when they would use Bach' Well-tempered Clavier as a warm up for acappella singing. At this point they were not even "swinging" the eighth notes.

I think the musical genius of Bach and the incredible musicality of the Swingle Singers combine to create and iconic "New" jazz sound. 

I am so excited to perform this piece with the the LCA singers! Tonight we have rehearsal 2 on this piece and many others influenced and informed by the era of "Crooners." We are going to swing it!