PAUL CAREY REPORTS ON THE 2015 ACDA CONVENTION, where I just returned. Lots of interesting stuff including USC’s performance here as well as Tim Sharp’s opening speech. Additional reports here and here.
RICHARD SPARKS: The Power of Slow. “You can practice the passage 20 times at a fast tempo and it’ll still be sloppy. But a fewer number of repetitions at a slower speed can allow the singers to absorb the pitches and build them in correctly. The same thing is true for instrumentalists. When I rehearse strings, for example, if the music has awkward string crossings, difficult bowings, or simply calls for extreme speed, the only way to make it better is to slow it down. For both singers and instrumentalists, ‘muscle memory’ must be developed that allows passage work that can be done accurately without consciously thinking of every individual note.”
Joshua Bronfman: Singing Christian Music, Part 3. “The next most important thing to remember is that the need for a diversified program does not go away when we decide to be open and up-front about the inherent Christian-ness of choral music. I want to reiterate and emphasize that this approach that I advocate for does not mean abandoning in any way our commitment to inclusion, accommodation, and diversity. In fact, by taking this open, honest stance, we must work even harder to show our young pupils what is all out there in the choral world. This is our duty as educators.“
MARIE GRASS AMENTA: Choral Ethics, Part 8–Don’t Shoot the Piano Player. “She was unexpectedly not paid the first paycheck of the season one year. September was a brief month, as the chorus started up halfway through. Although she’d been paid the first week in October in previous years for the half-month of September, she wasn’t paid THIS particular October. She inquired as to why, and was told, ‘The pay period is too short for the money we have to pay the payroll company. It’s not worth it for the small amount you’re paid.’ During her time of employment, there was always some sort of paycheck issue.“
JOSHUA BRONFMAN continues on Singing Jewish Music:
Here’s the thing: Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday. In the scheme of things, Rosh Hasanna, Yom Kippor and Passover are much more important. Hanukkah has become conflated with Christmas for a number of reasons. In particular, they fall around the same time of year, gift giving is a part of both traditions, and Jews have adopted Hanukkah as a somewhat public display of their faith (think menorahs in the window). But Hanukkah is not a biblical holiday, as the previous holidays I mentioned are, and there are no restrictions on work, going to school or other such things. It is a relatively minor holiday that has become most people’s primary point of reference for Judaism.
When we employ tokenism, and include one or two Hanukkah tunes on every “Winter Holiday” program, we are emphasizing the wrong aspects of Judaism (plus many of those pieces one might include are garbage from a musical standpoint, especially the huge numbers of pieces that have been written specifically to give Winter Holiday programs a new Hanukah piece each year…you know, that brand new Hanukkah piece in your new music reading packet? Sorry, but they are often not that good). So, not only are we denying the importance of Christian music at the holiday program, we also do a disservice to Judaism by educating students and the audience on the less important parts of the faith and it’s musical tradition. For many people, the only Jewish song they know is “Dreydl, Dreydl,” which means that music educators have failed to teach about Judaism and Jewish music.
BRIAN CURRENT: How To Be While In Rehearsal: “Speak the language of music when providing feedback. I’ve found that many composers want to poetically convey the feeling of a passage when it would be better to give musical details. For example: ‘pianissimo instead of mezzo piano at measure forty eight.’ Talk in terms of dynamics, articulations, tempos, sul pont vs sul tasto, accidentals, and so on. Speaking poetically about the piece as a whole is a great inspirational strategy, but in fixing individual moments, try to offer the musical specifics.“
THE ATLANTIC: Everyone Can Sing. “Past studies have found that most bad singers can discern musical notes perfectly well, and they have similar vocal ranges as good singers. What they lack, however, is training: People feel so discouraged by being told they’re poor singers that they rarely try to sing—and they never get better. Demorest and Pfordresher said in a statement that adults should seek out ‘low-stakes’ opportunities for singing without feeling judged.” The article also talks about the benefits of music education.