Guest articles
(Reprinted by permission)

Message from the President-Elect
by Scott Peterson

scott PetersonFirst and foremost, the membership of the Northwestern Division ACDA needs to thank Mike Frasier for his tireless work as president to make the 2006 Portland Convention a success.  Mike spent countless hours both in La Grande and Portland chasing down buses, working with the Hilton Hotel staff, and herding this Northwest officers and board to make the convention one of the most successful in our history.  Over 400 attendees, 27 choirs and people such as parents, teachers and chaperones who came to the convention and had a great experience singing together and hearing great groups.   Thanks to all the board members who put in time and also to Jeffrey Thyer and Steve Brooks for making all of our folks feel at home.  Special mention needs to be made of Honor Choir General Chair Christopher Silva and his crew, Linda Berg, Deanna Swenson, Mia Savage, Molly Fazio, Karen Bohart and Sue Schreiner.  My personal special thanks go to Debbie Glaze and her students from Portland State University who did a fantastic job at 1st Congregational Church as site organizers.  There are so many more who deserve our thanks, I just can’t list them all here.

So where do we go from here, and how can we top that?  The theme for our next convention will be “A New Destination” and it will be held in Vancouver, B. C., from February 20 – 23, 2008.  The reference is intended to be both figurative and literal.  In choosing Vancouver, I wanted to do something different and to go to a place we had not been before.  I am very excited about the possibilities of being in a new location for our convention.  While there will be difficulties going to Canada, hopefully, with adequate preparation and accurate information, we will be able to keep them to a minimum. 

I hope you will plan to attend the 2008 convention which will be held at the Vancouver Hyatt and the Fairmont Hotel which are right across the street from each other and close to fine restaurants and shopping.  We have already heard that ACDA members from across the nation and Canada are planning to attend.

Thanks to all of you for supporting ACDA.  Please encourage your colleagues who don’t belong to join up and take advantage of all ACDA has to offer.

See you in Vancouver!

Scott Peterson
President-Elect
Northwestern Division
American Choral Directors Association

     

Why Do We Sing?
William Hatcher

     

hatcherAre you acquainted with the choral composition “I Have Had Singing”?  This song by Steve Sametz (published by Alliance) has an inner core that may be obscure, because the text came from Fred Mitchell, an 85-year-old laborer and horseman from Akenfield, England who had evidently lived a very harsh life.

Yet Mr. Mitchell wrote:
“The singing- there was so much singing then, and this was my pleasure too.  We all sang - oh, the chapels were full of singing.  Here I lie.  I have had pleasure enough - I have had singing.”

In an issue of the International Choral Bulletin, there was a very scholarly study entitled, “What makes people sing together? - and the authors produced a great deal of research on this question.  The first general answer proposed was that music seems to have the effect of intensifying or underlining the emotion which a particular event calls forth, as well as coordinating the emotions of a group of people. Because of this intensification, music can make all the people feel the same thing at the same time, and give something of significance to what might be a trivial occasion.  They went on to say that there is no question but that, particularly in choral groups, people who are diverse in backgrounds, in age and in cultural environment can relate very beautifully and get to understand each other through music participation.

The solo singer is seen as an individual.  A company of singers, however, being a cross section of a society, is more easily recognizable as representative of a community as a whole, and the larger group often identifies itself with the smaller group.

Music itself is a potent symbol of identity; like language. In fact, a survey of members of choral societies and community choruses revealed as many good socializing attributes as musical or artistic reasons.  Whether the study really answered the question as to what makes people sing together, it was clear that collective singing is, after all, a basic human need. People need to sing, because they come to know that it is a source of some of life’s deepest rewards. This is no small matter, given the universal need for such satisfaction and its rarity in human life.

In a book called ‘Endangered Pleasures’ by Barbara Holland, she writes that the music we listened to during ages 12 to 22 are the songs that will ring in the coils of our ears until we die. We may add a few songs but we don’t forget the age 12 to 22 songs.  They are nontransferable; they belong to our generation, their shelf-life is limitless- and part of what makes us brothers and sisters to everyone else our age. 

If we play “our songs” to our children or grandchildren, they would gaze at us in despair hearing recordings of Rosie Clooney, Patti Page or Bill Haley!  Wave after wave of generations march toward the cliff, each to its own tunes - Margaret Whiting, Bing Crosby, Dick Haymes, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears.... Can you imagine that in the year 2056, when your teenybopper daughter gets to age 70, she will still be singing Britney’s songs?

According to Dave Barry, 16 is the age when you got kissed by the knowledge fairy, and your parents and teachers suddenly seemed, well, dull.  However, as if it were yesterday, I remember singing the Gounod Sanctus, Mendelssohn’s He Watching over Israel, and Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus as a member of my high school chorus back in Nebraska.  I didn’t realize then how lucky I was to have such an influential young choral director.  Some years later he confided that he had learned those three songs when he was in high school!

Like the day that JFK was assassinated, I remember precisely where I was and what I was doing when Robert Shaw died.  One of my favorite remembrances of Shaw is that insightful, almost brutal sense of humor. At the old age of 23 he wrote to his singers (according to the NY Times), "From the way you sing, I get a horrible picture of little bitty eighth notes running like hell all over the place to keep from being stepped on.  Millions of 'em!  Meek, squeaky little things.  No self-respect.  Standing in corners, hiding behind doors, ducking into subway stations, peering out from under rugs.  Refugees." 

Throughout his many decades of making music, Shaw was an absolute model of continued growth!

In “The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life” by Thomas Moore, he suggests that learning new music should be a little like walking through an unfamiliar forest.  You will discover brambles, forks in the path, and have need of a compass from time to time. But (as I discovered in Yosemite Park recently) you may also stumble across a roaring, resplendent waterfall -- and the experience will be absolutely profound.  You quickly realize that the elements of music that we sing, play or conduct are common, known, and expected -- but discovering the unusual combination of elements is almost mystical. While we must find insights by studying, reading and practicing, we must also be a student of nature.

The body needs food, and the mind needs thought, but the soul has an absolute need for regular excursions to fascination.  We and our fellow performers must have frequent opportunities to enter experiences that have more zest, more magic than practicality.  We are asked to examine, research, make our own discoveries, and then produce an experience which is almost absurd -- because we in performance are casting a spell upon our listeners.

As we grow up we get sophisticated, which means we grow out of enchantment, and get too smart to have a sense of wonder.  Jesus said, “If you become as a child, you shall know the Kingdom”, and the Zen Master wrote, “How important it is to resume our boundless original mind.”
Let us always, always have singing. 

 


 

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RENÉ CLAUSEN CHORAL SCHOOL OFFERS SCHOLARSHIPS

High school choral conductors completing their first or second year may apply for free tuition at the René Clausen Choral School to be held July 22-26, 2006 on the campus of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

"We wanted to create an opportunity to reinforce new conductors and provide them with collegial inspiration from the Choral School
clinicians and other participants," stated Clausen. Complete application details are found online at www.reneclausen.com.

One of last year’s scholarship recipients Joshua Shank of Prior Lake High School, Minnesota commented that the Choral School “allowed me to gain insight on music philosophies from the choral professionals around me and Dr. Clausen. I would attend again in a heart beat."

In addition to presentations and rehearsals by Dr. Clausen, Weston Noble and Rollo Dilworth will participate as guest clinicians. Lectures, rehearsals and presentations will focus on the theme "Inspire your Musical Mind & Soul."

Now in its ninth year, over 650 choral conductors from 45 states and four countries have participated in the René Clausen Choral School.

As opposed to a workshop format, Dr. Clausen has specifically created
a "choral school" with more lecture hours and intense content to
increase the participant's knowledge of style, literature, performance practice issues, and conducting and rehearsal technique. Three graduate semester hour credits are offered.

For complete information including registration forms and comments
from last years' participants, visit our web site at http://
www.reneclausen.com/. A brochure containing identical information may
also be requested via e-mail gmoe@reneclausen.com or toll-free (888)
736-3252.

 

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