Wednesday, November 28, 2012

matching pitch!

So I mentioned recently that I "conduct" a small choir of 8th-11th graders; 6 boys and 6 girls. With MANY frustrations, ranging from their still-changing voices, to the adolescent insecurities. Sigh. But overall, they're great kids.

One of my extreme frustrations has been that two of the guys have GREAT difficulty matching pitch. They are ok once I help them "work up" to the correct note, but then later they usually can't find it on their own. I think that the problem with one of them is that he truly can't hit even a middle C (except maybe with his head voice, but combined with his already handicapped pitch-matching, he hasn't learned how to access that register out of the blue,) and then it's a lot like the blind leading the blind! But, I have to say, these two guys do seem to have some of the best attitudes in the choir! (It's super cute.)

So I have been working with them, and the whole choir, and working with them especially on matching pitch, (but there is not a whole lot we can do in the 1 hour twice a week with all the other kids!) but today I was so happy, b/c I had actual confirmation that they are both getting better! I tried to get all the kids to audition for a couple solos, and they were all VERY reluctant, and I had the 2 most confident singers do it (and do a great job,) AND THEN both these young men asked to sing it, and they both sang it correctly! I was soooooo happy!

It's just been... particularly frustrating b/c I feel like I can hardly do anything with the choir when I have at least 2 people who can barely match pitch, but since I KNOW that neither of them could have done anything close to this 3 months ago at the beginning of the school year, I know that they are improving! It's just so.... heartening!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The most well-attended organ concert to which I have ever been...

There's the old joke in organ circles, that you can invite the most famous organist to give a concert, and you'll still only have about 40 people attend; 100 people is a huge concert! Well, today we saw what happens when you have a musical pastor who is onboard 110% with the organ program.

We went to a formal organ blessing ceremony of a new/refurbished organ by the bishop (I've never been to one,) followed immediately by an organ concert at a large church in the diocese. And the church was FULL. I'm terrible with numbers, but there was at least 500 people there! How does that happen? It was apparent that this project had the full support of their musically inclined pastor (also an organist- no surprise! Good things happen when organists become priests, this isn't the first time that's happened!)

As for the ceremony/concert itself, I thought that it was so well-done, that I'm going to keep the program to remind myself of it, on the off-chance that I'm ever in such a situation myself. (HA!)

It was a wonderful mix of choral pieces, hymns arranged for congregation and choir (all conveniently placed to give the congregation a standing-breather!), and of course organ music.
The organ was silent and only the choir and handbells were utilized up until the formal blessing by the bishop, at which time Karg-Elert's Nun Danket was performed. I enjoyed the R.V. Williams version of All People that on Earth, (as it reminded me of 6 years ago when I used that exact same arrangement for my parish's 175th anniversary Mass when the bishop attended, and it was totally botched b/c it hadn't occurred to me that the people would keep singing during the interludes! Oops... Wow, I've learned a lot since then... I'm glad to see that it was successfully pulled off today!) Among other pieces, there was also a Concerto by Handel, Mozart's Lacrymosa (yay!), Messiaen's Apparition de l'Eglise eternelle, and some movements of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with which I'm not at all familiar, but I greatly enjoyed. And it was closed with the Hallelujah Chorus. Overall, a very enjoyable 2-hour event. As the battles rage about electronic vs. authentic pipe organs*, it was lovely to see a parish and pastor supporting this organ project, and through it, music for future generations!

(*and on that controversy, allow me to add two points:
Sacrosanctum Concilium, the primary Vatican II document on the Sacred Liturgy, explicitly says in paragraph 120,
"In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things." Ahem. Pipe organ.
Secondly, when was the last time that you had a regularly-used electronic device that lasted even longer than, oh, 15 years? If properly maintained, this new pipe organ has the potential to last hundreds of years! The "cost savings" of an electronic instrument is not quite as direct as it seems at first glance...)

Friday, November 16, 2012


Two cute things happened today.

First, I requested a book about choral conducting through the inter-library loan program. I got it today. It came from a nearby university's music library, and included a hello-note from someone who works there whom I have never met. Small music world...

Secondly, (most of the reason for my requesting the above-mentioned book,) I teach/conduct a tiny high school choir of 12 students twice a week. There are many, um, difficulties and ups and downs in this job. I was told today by the woman "in charge," that one of the girls (the girl whom I had pegged immediately as having a bit of a "too cool for this/I don't wanna be here" type attitude,) this girl had walked up to her after our last choir rehearsal and said, "I really like choir. I'm learning a lot!"
Even in my random, crazy, multiple-job life, I get to experience a tiny bit of what "real" teachers go through.
You can't put a price tag on such an experience and knowing how you might be affecting a young person!