Festival Chorus

Festival Chorus

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas/Epiphany Repertoire

Just in case you couldn't get enough of this music or you wanted a refresher, here are videos of the repertoire for the next couple of weeks

Sunday, December 22nd - The response of Mary
Magnificat - Charles Villiers Stanford

Christmas Eve
What Sweeter Music - John Rutter
Candlelight Carol - John Rutter

Sunday, December 29th
What Child is This? - arr. Jaco Sta
(no video of this, maybe we are ready to make one?)

Sunday, January 5th - only light can overcome darkness

Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light - J.S. Bach

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rutter "Gloria" Videos

I came across these videos for the Rutter "Gloria" with the sheet music displayed, and thought that they would be most helpful.

Movement I    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZAOQcUQtvo

Movement II    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rALKnDeUTlY

Movement III      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2-EsLZ2iBA

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rutter Gloria Resources

It is hard to believe that our concert is less than two months away! Below you will find resources for the "Gloria" by John Rutter for Choir, Brass and Organ. I hope you will find these useful in the learning process.

Cyber Bass - an website that has midi (computer) recordings of each part as well as all of the parts. This is very useful in learning notes but it does not include the words so you will have to follow along with the music carefully.

The archival recording of our Christmas Concert from 2007 should be rather handy as we prepare this piece.

YouTube - What would the internet be today without videos?
These recordings of the Gloria by the University of Utah are quite good but they do use the orchestral version rather than the one we will be using for brass, organ and percussion. The big difference is that the strings and woodwinds take the parts covered by the organ in our version.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Music is About People

I was able to catch this insightful interview with contemporary ("classical" not Christian) composer John Zorn. Though he claims he is not religious, he is a profoundly spiritual person with some great insights into making music including this quote that I thought was particularly relevant to the letter I sent out.

"I feel like there are messages, I feel like there are angels, I feel that there is a legacy and an energy. I feel that it's possible to tap into that. I just don't believe in ego that much. I don't think it's just me. I think you can even just talk about community. I could not do this music without these musicians. It's about people. Music is about people for me. It's not about sounds. It's about people; it's about putting people into challenging situations. And for me, challenges are opportunities." - John Zorn


Other great quotes...

In response to the discipline of learning an instrument through formal instruction
"...discipline is important as long as you're having a good time. What I always did is I did what I enjoyed and I think that's why I don't have any grey hairs. I'm 60 but I look like I'm 40. And I have a very beautiful life with great friends and I look forward to waking up everyday."

 Talking about getting rid of things that get in the way of creativity.
"My home is a device, a device for enabling creativity. A device for cutting out everything that - the chaos outside that people think is reality, that's chaos. My home is a way of insulating myself and stripping all that away so I can get into what reality is for me, which is creativity."

On battles with critics...
"Because I'm very susceptible to criticism, I'm very sensitive and, you know, my parents used to say, John, you're oversensitive. And, you know, you know what I can say to them now or what I said back then, I am just the right amount sensitivity I need to be me. And if you don't like it, take a walk."

Monday, September 2, 2013

John Wesley's Directions for Singing

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing to slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

From John Wesley's Select Hymns, 1761

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our Hearts Beat as One

For the full version of this article, including the multimedia samples, see the NPR post

When Choirs Sing, Many Hearts Beat As One

We open our hymnals to Hymn 379, and we begin to sing. "God is Love, let heav'n adore him / God is Love, let earth rejoice ..."

Lifting voices together in praise can be a transcendent experience, unifying a congregation in a way that is somehow both fervent and soothing. But is there actually a physical basis for those feelings?
To find this out, researchers of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied the heart rates of high school choir members as they joined their voices. Their , published this week in Frontiers in Neuroscience, confirm that choir music has calming effects on the heart — especially when sung in unison.

A Swedish researcher explains how heart rates become synchronized when people sing together.
Using pulse monitors attached to the singers' ears, the researchers measured the changes in the choir members' heart rates as they navigated the intricate harmonies of a Swedish hymn. When the choir began to sing, their heart rates slowed down.

"When you sing the phrases, it is a form of guided breathing," says musicologist of the Sahlgrenska Academy who led the project. "You exhale on the phrases and breathe in between the phrases. When you exhale, the heart slows down."

But what really struck him was that it took almost no time at all for the singers' heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks. The heart rates fall into a shared rhythm guided by the song's tempo.

"The members of the choir are synchronizing externally with the melody and the rhythm, and now we see it has an internal counterpart," Vickhoff says.

This is just one little study, and these findings might not apply to other singers. But all religions and cultures have some ritual of song, and it's tempting to ask what this could mean about shared musical experience and communal spirituality.

"It's a beautiful way to feel. You are not alone but with others who feel the same way," Vickhoff says.
He plans to continue exploring the physical and neurological responses of our body to music on a long-term project he calls Body Score. As an instructor, he wonders how this knowledge might be used to create more cohesive group dynamic in a classroom setting or in the workplace.

"When I was young, every day started with a teacher sitting down at an old organ to sing a hymn," Vickhoff says. "Wasn't that a good idea — to get the class to think, 'We are one, and we are going to work together today.' "

Perhaps hymns aren't for everyone, but we want to know, what songs soothe your heart? For a bit of inspiration, we've included a clip of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, whose members know a lot about singing together.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reasons to Sing

"I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free." These words from the familiar hymn His Eye is on the Sparrow turn out not just be a statement of faith but a phenomenon backed up by science. As it turns out singing with others has been shown to increase endorphins, a hormone associated with pleasure. Singing with others also helps us connect to one another, it creates surges of the hormone oxytocin, the hormone that helps bonds moms and new babies.

One of the surprising things about singing is that you don't even need to be good at it to experience these benefits. Professional singers in these studies show no noticeable difference in the pleasures singing they experience, with their untrained colleagues. Other benefits include lowered blood pressure, easier breathing, decreased stress and increased relaxation. For more information, please see the full article by Dr. Mehment Oz and Michael Rolzen.

Aside from the science, as people of faith we have the added benefit of uniting our voices in praise of God. As a church choir, lifting our voices in worship is the most important and gratifying use of our humble gifts. The founder of the Methodist tradition, John Wesley reminds us in the "Directions for Singing" printed in our hymnals: "Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing." We invite you to join us in testifying to God's beauty, majesty and power in our lives this season.

Sanctuary Choir rehearsals resume Thursday, September 5th at 7pm and the Sisters in Song resume on Monday, September 9th. For more information about the music program contact Juan Carlos Acosta, Director Music Ministries.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More On The Benefits of Singing

Singing Changes Your Brain

Group singing has been scientifically proven to lower stress, relieve anxiety, and elevate endorphins

Getty Images
When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape. Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all. It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony. So it’s not surprising that group singing is on the rise. According to Chorus America, 32.5 million adults sing in choirs, up by almost 10 million over the past six years. Many people think  of church music when you bring up group singing, but there are over 270,000 choruses across the country and they include gospel groups to show choirs like the ones depicted in Glee to strictly amateur groups like Choir! Choir! Choir! singing David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World.

As the popularity of group singing grows, science has been hard at work trying to explain why it has such a calming yet energizing effect on people. What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.

The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure.  Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness.  A very recent study even attempts to make the case that “music evolved as a tool of social living,” and that the pleasure that comes from singing together is our evolutionary reward for coming together cooperatively, instead of hiding alone, every cave-dweller for him or herself.

The benefits of singing regularly seem to be cumulative. In one study, singers were found to have lower levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress.  A very preliminary investigation suggesting that our heart rates may sync up during group singing could also explain why singing together sometimes feels like a guided group meditation.  Study after study has found that singing relieves anxiety and contributes to quality of life. Dr. Julene K. Johnson, a researcher who has focused on older singers, recently began a five year study to examine group singing as an affordable method to improve the health and well-being of older adults.

It turns out you don’t even have to be a good singer to reap the rewards.  According to one 2005 study, group singing “can produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.”  Singing groups vary from casual affairs where no audition is necessary to serious, committed professional or avocational choirs like the Los Angeles Master Chorale or my chorus in New York City, which I joined when I was 26 and depressed, all based on a single memory of singing in a choir at Christmas, an experience so euphoric I never forgot it.

If you want to find a singing group to join, ChoirPlace and ChoralNet are good places to begin, or more local sites like the New York Choral Consortium, which has links to the Vocal Area Network and other sites, or the Greater Boston Choral Consortium.  But if you can’t find one at any of these sites, you can always google “choir” or “choral society” and your city or town to find more. Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out.  It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.  Even if you walked into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

POPS Repertoire

Just in case you wanted to hear some recordings of our POPS repertoire I have found recordings online that you can check out

Tico, Tico - The same arrangement we are doing, performed by a show choir! Just be thankful I'm not making you dance.

One Moment in Time - performed by a German choir?

Seasons of Love - CSU Long Beach (strong program)

Time Warp - The Glee version our arrangement is based on.
The Hand's of Time -  No decent choral recording, so here is a solo version.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NPR article - Singing with others changes your life

You may have heard this story on KPBS or seen it posted by friends on Facebook, but just in case I wanted to bring the article to your attention.

You can listen to, download or read a transcript of the story on NPR's website

I started to pull some high lights but I found that I was just recreating the article so take a few minutes to listen to it yourself, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Anthems - June 2013

Choral Anthems for June

June 2 - Beatitudes by Martin Chambers
There is no video for this piece yet, maybe we should record one. You may hear the computer version of the piece on his own website. I told Mr. Chambers that if we are feeling good about the piece we may try to do a recording.

June 9 - Esto les Digo by Kinley Lange
Recording of the Phillipine Madrigal Singers. This is a world renown pro choir that does not use a conductor. It is a bit slow for my taste but one of the best recordings available on YouTube.

June 16 - A Song of Commitment by Don Besig and Nancy Price
I couldn't find a full recording of this one but there is a low quality 30 second sample available.

June 23 - Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven by David Schwoebel
No YouTube video but there is an excellent sample recording provided by the publisher.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Schedule April-June 2013

Upcoming Sanctuary Choir Events

Thursday night rehearsals: 7-9pm
Sunday worship: 9am call time, 9:30 service

Sunday, April 21       No Sanctuary Choir

Saturday, May 18     AGO Festival Rehearsal - 9:30-12:30   

Sunday, May 19        American Organist Guild Festival (6pm call, 7pm concert)

Tuesday, June 18      POPS Rehearsal - 6:30-8pm      

Thursday, June 20    POPS Dress Rehearsal (Mandatory) - 7pm               

June 21&22               POPS Concert (6:30pm call, 7pm concert)

Thursday, June 27   Final Rehearsal for season                    

TBA                              End of the season party

July-August                 Summer Choir (no weekly rehearsals)

Thursday night rehearsals: 7-9pm
Sunday worship: 9am call time, 9:30 service

Please sign-out on the choir calendar when you know you will be absent (particularly in the Summer), this helps us plan appropriately

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Anthemns - Volume 1

YouTube is an amazing resource that has really blossomed over the last five years. I wanted to share some pretty decent videos of some of the anthems we are doing this Spring.

Sunday, April 7th
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross - Gilbert M. Martin

Sunday, April 14th
Ain't Got Time to Die - Hall Johnson
(Just a hand held recording but a wonderful interpretation of this piece)

Sunday, April 28th
A New Commandment - Thomas Tallis

Sunday, May 5th
If Ye Love Me - Thomas Tallis
Andrea and I had the opportunity to hear this group do this piece in three different keys back to back as they demonstrated the different ways it could be adapted.

AGO Festival - May 19th
O Clap Your Hands - Ralph Vaughan Williams