Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Virtual Choir Completion!


I have finished all 4 video entries to Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir! I'm so excited I was able to get them all done in time. Originally, I was only going to do one (soprano 2) video but then I decided I should make the most of my new microphone.

I filmed my Alto 1 entry on Christmas Day... because I didn't really have anything better to do in the afternoon before Christmas dinner. I also practiced the S1 and A2 part but my voice was tired from all the singing already so I couldn't record the other two videos.

Today I started with the A2 video to get it out of the way since my voice does a funny thing in that when I am too warmed up... I can't sing below a middle C. Not the most convenient thing, I know. It took 3 or 4 tries to get a good take and one of my best takes was ruined because my Dad started hammering nails into the door downstairs and that penetrated all the way into my track. After a sigh of exasperation and some silent fist shaking I just reminded myself that the thing about recording is that there is no perfect take. Well, for me at least. Just good enough and the next track I got was good enough for me to post. I only recorded the soprano 1 track three times and the second one was best so I scrapped the other two. The most tricky thing was just learning the notes between the video filming. Most of the notes were the same but there are some tricky ones that only differ by a note or two so you can't go on autopilot.

However, it is finished! The new deadline is January 10, 2011 so you still have time if you haven't entered yet. Think about it, I was able to film two videos in just one afternoon. Look through the music, sing along with another virtual choir entry, and just go for it. This is no longer the time for procrastination since the deadline is creeping up. I have a feeling the project is looking more for mere numbers than impeccable quality if that makes you feel better. Check out my previous post for all the instructions! Now, we just need to wait until the Spring to see what the Virtual Choir looks like assembled!

Take care and hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!

You don't have to watch them since they're kinda boring to listen to on their own but, if you have time to kill, you can line up the four videos (using the beep at the beginning) and you can hear me sing for you a 4-part choir :)

Soprano 2

Alto 1

Alto 2

Soprano 1

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Greetings readers!

After a few weeks of Christmas music choral frenzy for me, everything culminated in a free noon hour carol-o-thon at the Winspear Centre to raise money for the Edmonton Christmas Bureau, which is a charity that provides meals for families during Christmas. Afterwards, we were extended an invitation to participate in a flash mob by the Edmonton Opera. They wanted us to sing the Hallelujah chorus over in the City Centre Mall. Random, I know.

Most of the singers headed over to the mall, and upon arriving, I immediately noticed media cameras perched all around the mall square and surrounding balconies. The Hallelujah chorus began playing over the intercom speakers at precisely 1:15 pm. In all truthfulness, it was not a real flash mob. I think of a flash mob when one person starts singing, then two, then three, then everybody involved. They should also be doing something ordinary... not just standing around. For our flash mob some people were using music and we were all clumped around the base of the Christmas tree not trying very hard to look incognito. There were camera crews weaving their way through the chorus and a few of my friends got some lovely singing close-ups. I think my favorite was when a man, who was clearly not a part of the mob, was going up the escalators and singing along with us as he ascended in his pinstripe business suit. Clearly, he was just on his lunch break since the rest of us were wearing our winter coats having just walked from the Winspear Centre.

It was a lovely way to bring some random Christmas joy to fellow shoppers :) Here are two videos from the afternoon:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cheesy Christmas

You know what Christmas wouldn't be the same without?

Cheesy Christmas music.

Maybe I'm becoming a somewhat jaded chorister from singing too many mass choir pieces but I've developed a knack for recognizing cheesy songs that are inserted into a musical program for the specific purpose of melting an audiences' heart. Don't get me wrong, I love a good cheesy choral piece as the next chorister, but there are some that just make me sing with a perma-grin because their ulterior motives are not so subtle.

A piece that Pro Coro is singing with the Edmonton Youth Choir is called "Night of Silence" by Daniel Kantor and it has the components for all good cheesy choral music. Lyrics that are trying a bit too hard to be deep, a gentle melodic piano line, and an unexpected fusion of melodies. It's the choral composer's equivalent of a mash-up. There is one part in "Night of Silence" where the soprano's and altos are singing:

Spirit among us, shine like the star,
Your light that guides shepherds and kings from afar

Alright, that's harmless enough, but it's paired with the tenors and baritones singing:

Silent Night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

It's so bad but so good at the same time :) I can hear the men in the choir really going for it with hyperexpressive diction and Il-Divo"esque" melodic flare. It keeps our rehearsals interesting and entertaining! Thanks guys!

You can get a taste for the song below:

The First 255 Voices

You know what is cool?

I'm Virtual Choir Entry #176.

That is all :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sing We Nowell

'Tis the season of Christmas concerts!

I have so many musical commitments going on that I can barely keep up with attending them all let alone blogging about them! I feel like I'm running from one rehearsal, to another dress rehearsal, to a carolling gig, and then back to another rehearsal, before doing it all over again the next day.

Today I started my day off with 3.5h dress rehearsal for our "Sing We Nowell" concert that is happening tomorrow at Winspear Centre. It was a relatively stress-free dress rehearsal. The carols are the same ones we have done in previous years and most of the tedious details were in the pacing and symmetry of the candlelight procession. It's not my favorite thing to run through but it's a necessary evil. The candlelight procession completes my Christmas. The rippling acoustic waves that are generated by the angelic processing voices entering the auditorium is goosebump-inducing.

If you are free Sunday, December 5 at 2:30 pm. Come to the Winspear Centre for some Christmas music goodness!
Click here for more details.

Here is a taste of "The Holly and the Ivy" from today's rehearsal. Please excuse my amateur video skills.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Start to the Christmas Season

Wow, I had a fantastic time at Michael Kaeshammer's concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) with opening artist, Jill Barber. It was like being transferred to another time. A time when singers sang into rectangular metallic microphones, where dresses were more crinoline than fabric, and getting dressed up to go to a dance was a ritualistic coming-of-age event. O.k, so I can't confess that I've lived those those golden times, but my stereotypical images are heavily influenced by the 1955 scenes from Back to the Future. And from what I can tell? It was one classy era.

I definitely felt classy listening to the warm and smoky tones of Barber's voice. Not only is she gorgeous to listen to and watch with her expressive face and arms, but her sweetheart halter dress did not disappoint my fashion expectations of her. She opened with a new song, "Mischevious Moon," which is the name of her new album to be due out in the Spring. She also made her way through audience favorites such as "Chances" and "Never Quit Loving You." During the performance, she detailed a heartwarming story about girl meets boy, girl meets another boy, girl meets man, girl becomes woman, and man and woman marry. Heart wrenching past histories and happy endings seem to inspire love songs. She introduced her final song, "Oh My My," with a story about how the tune came to be. She woke up singing it in a dream. Barber was also eager to receive audience participation to echo her choruses, and although the audience gave a good try, it wasn't anything compared to what I heard Folk Fest crowds belting out from the hillside. Her short opening set list was over to soon for my liking but hopefully I will have the chance to see her again soon. Maybe the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra will bring her back for another joint concert? A girl can hope.

Of course, the headliner of the evening was Kaeshammer and I can definitely see why. He is a pianist, vocalist, and conductor all-in-one that happens to have fantastic showmanship skills as well. He radiates energy on stage and, frankly, sometimes I don't know how he managed to stay seated on the piano bench. At any moment in the program he could be found simultaneously playing the grand piano with one hand, with another hand on the electric keyboard behind him, tapping his left foot to the beat and bending his right ear to his right shoulder to signal the downbeat to his band members.

Kaeshammer succeeded in making the expansive Winspear Centre feel like an intimate nightclub that happened to have excellent acoustics. He did some lovely orchestral arrangements of "Mary's Boy Child," "Merry Christmas Baby," "Marshmallow World," and "I'll be Home for Christmas" with the ESO in addition to his toe-tappingly catchy solo pieces such as "Lovelight." The ESO definitely was more of a back-up band since his own personal band was at the forefront, both physically and musically. However, it's not everyday I hear such orchestral richness backing up a boogie woogie musical act so it was quite a treat.

Another amazing point in the program? Definitely when Kaeshammer had a little musical face-off with his drummer where they tried to surpass each other in tempo and musical technicality.

Overall, a fantastic way to start December and the Christmas season!

Take care and stay warm readers!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Boogie Woogie Christmas

Greetings readers!

You know what I love about Christmas? Surprise, surprise! Christmas music.

In a busy season that can quickly become overwhelmed with multiple commitments and invitations to more concerts than you can physically attend, definitely see if you can make it out to the upcoming
"The Days of Christmas" concert with Michael Kaeshammer and The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO), with special guest: Jill Barber.

As you probably already know, I'm a huge fan of the ESO
from my previous posts. They do such an amazing job with providing an engaging season with refreshing and and dynamic musical programs. I'm also an avid fan of Jill Barber. Her smoky voice and killer sense of style makes me melt when I listen to her. It also makes me feel like dressing up in a Mad-Men-esque manner. I haven't seen her perform since the Edmonton Folk Festival in 2009 but I have been avidly awaiting her return to the city. She was the initial reason why I looked into this concert and lovely Phil from the ESO was willing to have me blog.

I haven't heard of Michael Kaeshammer before, but after doing some internet research, I think his performance style is exactly what my Christmas season is missing. I watched his "Lovelight" video and he seems spunky, charming, and extremely talented. I love watching live music unfold at the hands of talented artists. Especially one who is proficient with jazzy, bluesy, and boogie woogie tunes at the keyboard. Kaeshammer is currently touring the country to promote his new album, Lovelight, and the ESO site has him listed as performing "Christmas favorites" such as Mary's Boy Child and I'll be Home for Christmas. I'm sure there will be lots of lovely Christmas arrangements for Kaeshammer to perform with the ESO and I'm also sure he will be given the opportunity to play some solo tracks off his Lovelight album. He is headlining the concert after all.
I'm extremely excited for this concert! It'll be a refreshing change from the choral-centric Christmas offerings I will be participating in. As much as I love a good candlelight procession, it's nice to have balance.

For more details about tickets or the program for the "The Day of Christmas" concert click here

If you want a little preview of what to expect, watch this video:

As well, here are some more videos of the aforementioned artists.
Michael Kaeshammer's performance of "Lovelight"

Jill Barber's video of "Chances"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Voices United

Greetings readers!

The weekend has come and past and with it was my second performance with Pro Coro. I have to say, my anxiety has greatly decreased performing with them for a second time. It's a good and bad thing. Good in that my shoulders are no longer tense from holding my music up, but also bad and that I wasn't singing as cleanly as I would have liked. However, it was a successful concert nonetheless.

In the concert the ladies performed a unpublished piece called "Voices of the Tenth Muse" by Patricia Van Ness. Initially, I wasn't a big fan of the music but it really challenged my perceptions of what kind of choral music can be beautiful. It merged ancient Greek text with dissonant 20th C writing. Many of the parts only deviated by one semitone so there were many crunchy chords and textures through the 3 movements we sang. The men of Pro Coro also sang some lovely Holst and male voice pieces. By far the highlight was performing with saxophonist, P.J. Perry for the Swedish pieces in our concert. That part of the program was like "traditional choir concert" meets "night time jazz club". He would play improv sax lines on top of the choral parts and the double bass would establish this amazing groove with the percussionist. We ended off with Lars Jansson's percussively show-stopping "To the Mother in Brazil." I think one of the most exciting things about singing with Pro Coro is the diverse repertoire and collaboration with other musicians. Normally, I never get the opportunity to perform music like this.

Now that the "Voices United" concert is finished it is time to look forward to the Christmas season! Also, you may be interested to know that my first video submission for the Virtual Choir is now on Youtube. Remember, you have until December 31, 2010 to join in on the action. See my previous post for details!

I may be kicking myself later for posting this video, however, maybe it'll give some of you confidence to make an entry for yourself, but here is my submission:

In all honesty, I wish I had the range to do what this guy did. He sang all 8 parts to Eric Whitacre "Sleep"!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Approach of Christmas

Greetings Readers!

I had no idea that my last post was my 100th post! Clearly, I'm not so great with keeping score of my own milestones. Oh well, 100 posts or not, I will continue on in my merry posting ways.

This past week in Belle Canto we started to prep for our upcoming Christmas concert. However, it's going to be relatively stress-free since Belle Canto is only singing one song. Belle Canto will be singing a piece called "Hymn to the Virgin" by Michael McGlynn. It's the typical pretty latin-chant Christmas piece so it should sound very pretty in the Winspear Centre. The rest of our pieces we will be singing with Chamber Choir or they will be mass choir pieces. Oh yes, and there will be audience carols as well. If there's anything I go on automatic singing pilot for, it's definitely audience carols. Don't get me wrong, I love audience carols, but there's only so many ways to sing Silent Night.

As I previously mentioned, we will be singing with Chamber Choir as well and this year we will jointly perform John Rutter's "Dancing Day." Chamber Choir usually cycles between Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carol," William Mathias' "Salvator Mundi" and John Rutter's "Dancing Day" each Christmas and this year just happens to be a "Dancing Day" year. The last time we performed Dancing Day was not that long ago though, since we needed a piece to quickly fill the program when we found out the soloist, Nancy Argenta, would be unable to make it to our concert, but it is always an audience favorite so it's nice to have it back. I've posted a video of the King's College Choir singing "A Virgin Most Pure." It's not the Rutter arrangement but the video just looks so Christmassy-I just had to share.

Furthermore, next week is the second Pro Coro concert I'll be singing in! We had a rehearsal on Wednesday and for one of the pieces our conductor brought in a full keyboard and speaker so that our accompanist could play ocean synth noises. He stuck in his USB stick and uploaded the sound of squawking seagulls and squeaking dolphins. I have to say, it makes a pretty neat soundscape effect. Our voice parts are cascading vocal lines that weave in and out, to mimic the sound of the ocean wave on the shore, and the synth noises are played on top of it. However, I'll be surprised if I can sing that part with a straight face when I have the sound of giddy dolphins next to me. I suppose my true professionalism will be put to the test. Saxophonist, P.J. Perry, will also be doing lots of saxophone improv for the concert so it will be interesting to see how that all pulls together next week when he arrives from New York City. If you're interested in coming out to the concert, here are the details:

When: Sunday, November 21, 2010 @ 2:30 pm
Where: McDougall United Church
Tickets:$30 Adults, $25 Student/Senior
Tickets can be purchased here

Until next time, take care!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Therapeutic Music

Greetings readers!

There is this student group at the University called "Therapeutic Music" and what they do is provide weekly-monthly concerts at local nursing homes in the Edmonton area. They usually provide concerts for those with dementia and they accept musicians of all skill levels to contribute to the musical program.

A friend of mine ended up joining this group in September and asked me if I'd be interested in doing a few songs with him at some point. I didn't hesitate since music therapy is exactly within my area of interest and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to do a voice & acoustic guitar duet. You must understand, I never voluntarily sing solo repertoire. However, it's something I really should get better at. It is a great shame to be a musician but not be able to to share your music with others. Of course, recording music is great but the ability to perform live is a crucial skill every musician should have. The first concert in October didn't line up with my schedule but I was glad I was able to make it to the one this month. In September I did meet up with my friend to quickly run through two folk songs: "Arlington" by The Wailin' Jenny's and "Uniform Grey" by Sarah Harmer. That was the last time we saw each other until the concert.

I thought this was a good opportunity to try out solo singing in a supportive and low stress atmosphere. The last time I did any solo rep was when I had a solo line from John Rutter's "A Virgin Most Pure" from his Dancing Day Christmas set. Since I had that solo sprung upon me a few days before the actual performance, and due to the fact that it was at the Winspear Centre, anything else would seem less stressful in my eyes. I remember waiting for my entry from the harp, and I was about to come in early but, thankfully, my conductor made some serious eye contact with me and I waited until she brought me in to sing.

On the day of the Therapeutic Music performance, I was able to chat with some of the other musicians and listened to some nervous monologues about the upcoming performance. I guess I wasn't alone. There was a diverse set of instruments: some piano players, a violin player, a cello duet, a flautist, two acoustic guitar players and different combinations of some of the previously mentioned musicians. Overall, it was a concise one hour program. Due to a program swap, I ended up going first with my acoustic guitar partner-in-crime and our two songs were short and sweet. I was thankful for his supportive presence next to me on the piano bench. However, I cursed the fact that my nerves wouldn't allow me to get a good breath in for the first few phrases of "Arlington" so I had that nervous breath vibrato. Gross. But I was happy that my respiratory system settled down throughout the piece. By the time "Uniform Grey" arrived, I was in control again. Not bad, not bad at all. There is a glimmer of hope for me after all. I think the thing with choir solo's is that there is no time to settle in. By the time you're getting comfortable, your line is over, and it's time for the next song.

The whole concert was just nice and intimate. All the residents were sitting in faded pastel recliners and pudgy couches, looking slightly drowsy, and my fellow musicians were sitting on the ground against the walls. Overall, it was a positive experience for me and a good opportunity to see how my voice fares in solo"ish" settings. It's definitely weird not having to blend with another voice. I'm not used to doing things with my voice and having those little quirks be heard. Those details rarely ever emerge out of a choral fabric when only one person is doing it.

I'll take this time to say thanks to my friend who made it possible for me to explore some of my solo capabilities! I have a feeling this won't be the first or last time I perform with this group.

Until next time, take care readers!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An Update of Sorts

Greetings readers!

Since my last blog post, I've had a wide array of music related things happen:

Virtual Choir

Last weekend I tried video recording my entry for the virtual choir. Let me tell you, following a virtual conductor is tricky business! On my first run-through I was either a few beats slow or ahead and it was extremely challenging to line up with his conducting video! I'm so used to watching a conductor's lips but he doesn't mouth any of the words so I can't use visual word cues as a checkpoint. He also pulled out some conducting codes I wasn't expecting, thankfully, I watched his instructional video and was able to deduce what he wanted when he used it. He puts his hand in front of his mouth and rubs his fingertips together, it kind of reminds me of what I imagine my friend's Indian grandma does when she asks you if you want something to eat, but in this case, he actually just wants you to bring out the diction. He is also very generous with timing in his artistic conducting style. He employs a lot of wispy arm movements and it's hard to locate the downbeat sometimes. However, it was easier after a few runs but then I was running into computer glitches that prevented me from recording a solid take. I'm hoping to have another run at it this coming weekend when I have a long weekend break from school.

Pro Coro

I had my first rehearsal for the Male and Female voice concert happening on November 21 two weeks ago. They had trouble getting music in on time so the first time I read the scores was at the first rehearsal. Oh, sight-reading... It was actually fine since the music was pretty straightforward. I think by far one of my favorite parts of going to Pro Coro rehearsals is listening to Jeremy Spurgeon play piano. As I have said before, Jeremy is pretty much the organ deity of Edmonton. Though he was playing piano and not organ for our rehearsals, it was a treat to watch his sight reading genius unfold at the keyboard.

Alumni Choir Tour

Back in July 2002 I competed in the International Choral Eisteddfod in Wales, UK. I received an e-mail from my conductor, Heather, where she detailed the hopes of assembling an Alumni Choir to join with her current Chamber Choir to compete in classes again the Eisteddfod. She invited those 25 years of age and younger to tour with her for the summer. She wants to compete in six classes at the festival: Senior Children's Choir (18 and under), Youth Choir (16-25), Female Choirs, Folk Choirs, Chamber Choirs, and Songs from Shows-Musical Theatre (16 and over). Three of those classes do not have any age restrictions: Female Choirs, Folk Choirs, and Chamber Choirs. I knew I scheduled in a summer for myself for a reason! Most of my classmates are doing placements throughout the summer but I decided to extend the length of my placements into 2012 (most of my classmates finish in December 2011) so I booked off June-August to finish up my thesis and take a break.

My conductor said that we would be rehearsing in the last few weeks of June and then go on tour in early July to attend the festival. In a way, I feel like it would be making up for the fact that I was not able to go on tour to Italy with Belle Canto. Plus, this Alumni Tour would also be a chance for me to reunite with my A Capella group "Con Fuoco" which is comprised of my choral soulmates. Of course, the fine details that will make this tour a reality such as funding, grants, etc. have yet to be finalized. However, this Alumni tour is a most appealing prospect!

It was such a memorable tour in 2002. Some memories which are coming to mind are those of the delicious Welsh tea biscuits, walking in an opening ceremony parade throughout the town, taping up paper to cover up the windows on the door in the very public common room we were all sleeping in, watching male volunteers and choristers continuously pursue a modelesque girl in our choir, having to take showers at the pool since there weren't enough bathrooms at the campus-like facilities we stayed in. Though it seems like the negative things are coming to mind in my memory retrieval process, those are the best memories since I just laugh at them looking back on it now.

Until next time, take care readers!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Behind the Scenes of Tongue Talk

Greetings readers!

Although this isn't a choral related post, it is definitely a music related post. Recently, in my faculty, they posted a Rehabilitation Medicine Video Contest and I thought it would be fun if some classmates and I made a video for it. I suggested the idea to a few friends to do something like a music video or rap detailing what exactly Speech-Language Pathologists do and they were eager to participate. Our video didn't cover all the disciplines of Rehabilitation Medicine but we thought it was high time we detailed what Speech Pathologists actually do. We feel that the general public knows more about Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists as a whole and most people still think that Speech Pathologists only correct stuttering.

The project didn't really take off until Candace started brainstorming lyrics to Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" one evening in a Facebook thread and we just went wild from there. I found an instrumental track to "Tik Tok" so we wouldn't have to sing over Ke$ha's vocals and the next few days Salima and Candace figured out the lyrics, we went to Fabricland to purchase foam and pink material to make a tongue costume, and Candace and Christina developed the dance sequence that appears throughout the video. Then we recorded the song using Garageband that weekend and layered the voice tracks to compose our song. We also scripted out a video recording schedule for the next week since we wanted to recruit members of our class to participate and we also wanted to book time to get into the Speech lab to use the equipment and the soundproof booth.

On Tuesday, we shot all of our Speech lab footage and most of the footage around Corbett Hall, which is the home of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta campus (it's where we have all our classes and spend most of our time). That same Wednesday we shot all the footage of our class as a whole in the classroom we have most of our classes in and we also taught them the dance sequence. I played the song from my iPhone as we danced on the front lawn of Corbett Hall and recorded the sequence. The next few days we just needed to fill random clips in the video and record the dance sequence in the largest lecture theatre inside Corbett Hall. It's where the Occupational Therapists have most of their classes so we were lucky that it was empty when we decided to film.

The following week was the crazy editing week and Christina did a stellar job. We also had midterms and assignments but I think our fun video project kept us sane. After each day of shooting, Christina was so excited to start working on the footage that after the first day she put together a ton of sequences so we could see the video take shape. We would lose track of the time working on the video since we would start on it after class at 5:30 pm and it would be 9 pm before we knew it! It was meticulous work since we had to splice down the clips and each 0.5 second made a huge difference in the video, especially since we were trying to line up our lips and our dance. I applaud Christina for the amazing job that she did!

We were able to submit our video by the October 15, 2010 deadline and we also screened the video for our class that Friday. From the large amounts of laughter I heard, I think they liked it.

Then we just had to wait. The video had to be screened by a panel of faculty and students before the finalists were chosen to be put on the Rehab Med Youtube Page. We heard back yesterday that we made it into the finals and today the video was uploaded to Youtube. The video with the most views by January 29, 2011 wins $1000 so view the video multiple times and share it with your friends! Often, the Speech students have a reputation for being uninvolved in the Faculty and I hope that this video works to change people's perceptions about us. It was a something we had a lot of fun doing and I hope that people can enjoy the video and maybe learn more about what SLPs do in the process. I just want to say thanks to Christina, Salima, and Candace for being such amazing people to work with! I was often incapacitated with laughter during the filming of this video.

Enjoy the video below!


Wake up in the morning
Feeling like a speechie
Got my classes, got my books
Gonna help this city
When I leave I will have my Master's degree
In SLP, speech-language pathology

I'm talking, talking all day long
Getting my communication on
Finding out what's wrong
We've got a preoccupation
With speech language and communication
Stuttered speech & swallowing
We so ballin'

Don't stop keep it steady
Please say 'ah' when you're ready
Pa ta ka as fast as you can
DDK's are the plan
Tongue depressor and pen light
We'll treat you right

Don't stop, we're not done
SLPs are so much fun
Visipitch, PERCI
are definitely the key
Dear client see this hose
Please put it up your nose

Ain't got a care in the world, but got plenty of peers
I got PTs on my speed dial
And OTs are so near
Now the clients are lining up
Cuz they hear we got skills
Rehab Med's got their backs
Like nobody wills

I'm talking have you had a stroke?
Do you tend to choke?
Is your child talking late?
Call us, don't hesitate
We'll help you get your shout out
That's what we're about
Stutter got you down?
Don't you frown!

Chorus x2

We screen your ears
You raise your hand
Red, Right, Round
Yeah yeah we got this
I put my tongue up
You put your tongue up
You put your tongue up

Disordered voice
and aphasia
I cue your sound
I slide my snake
You slide your snake

Chorus x 2

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Must Have Done Something Right

Greetings readers!

In the past week or so I have been fending off a nasty bug that has been going around but I am glad to say that it is on its way out. I am regaining my voice and resonance but it was one of those cases where I had to let the sickness take its course. I am just glad I didn't have any singing commitments during that time. I'm not sure if any of you have magical remedies for warding off vocal sickness, but if so, leave me your wisdom in the comments section.

In the meantime, I must have done something right for that first Pro Coro concert because I'm officially signed on for three more concerts in their regular season! One this coming November, December, and one in March of the new year. I was ecstatic to make the cut and get some more opportunities to sing with the group!

The November concert will feature male and female choral voices with separate works and there will also be some mixed chorus repertoire. PJ Perry is also playing some improv saxophone with the group. I've never really sung with a saxophonist so it will definitely be a new experience for me. I am always in awe of improv musicians since my anal-retentive choral upbringing makes it hard for me to stray musically from the page, however, I'm always looking for more way to expand my musical horizons. I start rehearsals for the November concert next week.

The December concert is their traditional Christmas concert which, as the website informs me, will have: "Old and new festive music and audience participation." I can hear the audience carols already. I'm slightly wary of December already since I'll still be singing with Belle Canto, I'll be doing carolings gigs, Pro Coro has a full set of rehearsals, I'll also be working another retail part-time job as well as finishing up my coursework and finals for my Master's program. No matter. I always get it done in the end and I like feeling productive! Stressing about it in October really isn't going to help me :)

Their March concert is a special one for Pro Coro since it is a celebration of their 3oth season. The original Pro Coro founder, Michel Gervais, will be coming back to conduct the Founder's Concert and I just find it extremely impressive that this group was formed back in 1980! It's not easy to develop, fund, and sustain a professional choir in Alberta but Pro Coro has managed to do it and the arts culture in Edmonton has benefited greatly from the investment.

Therefore, I hope to be posting regular rehearsal entries starting again next week when my voice is functioning again. However, if I'm sounding better by this weekend, I'm hoping to start working on my Virtual Choir submission. I have a new Blue microphone and I've been dying to try it out.

Until next time, take care!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sing With Me! The Virtual Choir Project

Greetings readers!

If you haven't already heard the buzz around choral cyber space... Eric Whitacre has begun his second Virtual Choir project. I completely missed the boat the first time around and I definitely am not going to let it happen again this time!

His blog outlines the steps but allow me to provide a summary:
  • Pick a part (SATB) to his composition, Sleep
  • Sign-up with your e-mail address
  • Download the sheet music
  • Watch his handy dandy instructional Youtube video on how he wants it performed
  • Learn the music (it's pretty straightforward, lots of sustained vowels) but you can always listen to the song via the virtual music player on his website if you learn best by ear
  • Video & audio record yourself singing that part (wearing black) while watching Mr. Whitacre (with his Harlequin Romance good looks) conducting the track
  • Upload the video to Youtube
  • VoilĂ ! You're a part of the virtual choir!
Of course, Whitacre and his team (thanks Tony!) do go through the videos and they're trying to get at least 900 people to set a world record. Make sure to have your entry in before December 31, 2010. Set aside your insecurities about your voice, your age, your choral skill level and whatever else might be holding you back and just take this opportunity to be a part of something truly amazing and unique!

I just think this whole project is extremely exiting! It is a project to connect voices through social media! How often do we all get the chance to sing together? I would love to sing with all my blog readers and this virtual choir is the perfect opportunity for that to happen. They also have a cool google earth application that maps where all the singers have come from! Thus, I urge you to take the time to sign up and record yourself. We can be united in a virtual choir with 900+ other voices and create some beautiful music while doing it.

I'm hoping to get my entry up soon. I'm currently trying to locate/purchase a better microphone than the one built into my laptop.

To learn more check out this video!

I hope to be singing with you all in the near future!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Making the Cut


Sorry for the delayed update! Strangely enough, I thought that by joining another choir I would have so much more to blog about, and I do, but I greatly underestimated the amount of time it would take! The past few weeks have been a haze of rehearsals and schoolwork. I spend my days 9-530 pm in class and then I have a bit of time before rehearsal starts at 7 pm. I had up to 4 rehearsals a week and I definitely could feel my body fatigue to the amount of rehearsal and mental intensity that was required of me. I applaud the stamina of all musicians!

However, these rehearsals culminated to the concert I had with Pro Coro today. Everything went pretty smoothly, minus the fact that I slipped coming down a step and almost wiped out on stage! I was not being very careful walking down the polished wooden steps and I even thought to myself "I'm so going to slip on this step" and I did. The heard the audience gasp but I didn't actually fall so much as slip and then bounce back up to regain my footing. No damage done and I smirked at the fact that for my first professional choral experience I almost wiped out on stage. Classic!

During the past few weeks, I mainly focused on learning the notes and fitting my lines in with the other musical parts. However, I really wanted to focus on watching the conductor more for this concert. I find it difficult to watch the small nuances of the conductor when I'm still relying on the music heavily for notes and rhythms. However, that is the reality of a working choir, you never work on pieces long enough for them to become apart of you. Just when you start get comfortable with it to try some new things... it's time for the concert and time to move on to the next set of repertoire.

One thing that was really nice though was the personal acknowledgment from the choristers around me. It's something that they didn't have to do but it was nice that they did considering I was a new member. I always thought I would work past the stage of outsider awkwardness but it seems like that feeling of otherness never dissipates when you enter new environments. I was taken aback when the tenor standing behind me, who also happens to be the associate conductor, remarked that I was singing very well and I was taken aback at the fact that he could hear me. My sheet music is an extremely powerful sound reflector!
Also, today during the quick run-through time before the concert, a soprano standing a person away from me turned to me after we finished running a section, introduced herself, asked me my name, and remarked on my lyrical performance of the text. That was nice of her!

It kind of sounds self-absorbed but I rarely hear vocal praise anymore. I just assume what I am doing is acceptable but it's been years since anybody has said anything about it to me. I do have to say, it's nice to be recognized and it was also nice to know that other people could hear my efforts to meet the high standards of the group. Upon being accepted into the group, I felt this overwhelming need to deliver when I signed my contract, and though I was in no ways perfect during the concert, I really felt like I was contributing my voice to the overall choral sound.

Overall, I'm glad I had this experience. It was a steep learning curve but I am extremely impressed with the kind of musical quality I was able to produce in only 7 rehearsals. I'm not sure how many other concerts I will be singing with Pro Coro but I'm guessing I will find out soon enough. I have a feeling this concert was testing out of the sound of a lot of the new choristers. We'll see if I make the cut!

Until next time, take care!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Life of a Working Chorister


It's back to the regular school routine for me but this year is a bit different since I have taken on some more extracurricular choral activities. I started Belle Canto rehearsals last Monday and I also started rehearsing with Pro Coro. Things were the same as usual for Belle Canto but Pro Coro was definitely a new experience since it was my first "professional" choir experience. The rehearsals were intense and it was also strange singing with some of my past conductors. I joked that it was like yesterday I was in their youth choir while today I'm singing in their section. They remarked that I am now their peer but I answered with a statement of self-deprecating disbelief.

I received the music a 2 weeks prior the rehearsal so I had time to look through the pieces: Brahm's Zieguenerlieder (Gypsy Songs) and Frank Martin's Mass. I tried my best to sightread them on my own, but it was tricky since it was difficult to rehearse my line when I didn't have the musical context of surrounding voices. I remedied this by listening to streaming audio clips from the Naxos' online music library and tried to follow along to my part as the song played. It worked well for the Brahm's and also gave me an idea of how fast the German text goes in some sections! I really like the Brahms though. It's a set of 11 love songs and many of them have an exotic gypsy tones and sense of musical "otherness" about them. The Rheinberger's "Cantus Missae" is also on the program and I just received the music at the first rehearsal. It's a gorgeous mass with many romantic sounding lines.

By far the most difficult piece to learn independently was the Martin Mass since the musical lines on their own don't make any sense. It's a 20th C mass so it can sound pretty messed up tonally. However, with the rest of the choir, it's starting to make a lot more sense to me. There are tritones galore throughout the whole mass which makes me smile since tritones were the "Devil's" note and its use was often avoided in early Church days. The Martin's Mass continues to challenge me despite having three rehearsals. Especially during the last two rehearsals since there were only two people singing my part (including me) and one singer wasn't able to make it to two rehearsals. We only have three voices singing our section. The choir numbers have been stretched out since it is a double choir piece so there are 8 parts with 3-5 voices on each part.

The first rehearsal was the most intense. I arrived at the rehearsal location, chatted with some choristers I sang with in the University Madrigal Singers, conductor Richard Sparks greeted us all at the front of the room, Jeremy, our accompanist (and local Edmonton organ deity), played a note, Sparks raised his hands and the downbeat was my Alto II part. The piece opens on an exposed "A" and we had three voices supporting it. Man, that was terrifying! I've never had to think so hard during rehearsals in a long time. I had to use all my choral tricks, writing down the interval relations before they come, circling my notes that other parts sing so I can store them in my auditory memory, numbering weird rhythms, continuous listening around me for any choral context to help me find my notes. I felt like I needed to do multiple things at once: add dynamics, sing with good breath support and tone, pencil in breath markings as Sparks rattled them off as fast as my school professors, and respond to the musical nuances in other lines.
My brain was scurrying to do these things in addition to finding my notes!

For the professionals around me, it was just another day at work. For me, it was like I was trying to beat more information into my brain but it just was taking. I could only incorporate one new thing at a time! As a chorister who has been singing for leisure for the past few years, it was a steep learning curve. The worse thing is when you see your part coming up and you have no idea what you note is, your eye gaze goes haywire as you attempt to search for a musical crutch from another line, and by the time you breathe to give it a blind try, you choke and no sound comes out. Meanwhile, the rest of the choir is already two bars ahead. However, I've been feeling exponentially more comfortable with each rehearsal and I'm starting to be able to appreciate the music much more rather than being paralyzed with fear when I see my upcoming notes.
I strongly believe that if you surround yourself with experts, you learn so much faster since they're setting a high bar and it gives you the challenge of working up to their level. Without that stimulus, I wouldn't have had the motivation to get better.

Overall, I am quite impressed with how quickly I've adapted to the musical intensity and demands required of me. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to sing with Pro Coro. I feel like I have just been coasting in Belle Canto. It's comfortable and enjoyable but I no longer feel challenged. I wanted to see if I had the skills to perform with a professional group, and although I am still consolidating my place within the choir, I feel comforted by the fact that I am slowly adapting to this fast-paced musical lifestyle. I do not have another Pro Coro rehearsal until Saturday and after that I have three more rehearsals until the concert. It's a pretty condensed time frame! Over the next week I'll be working through some notes and trouble areas within the pieces so I can continue my prep for the concert on October 3rd. If you would like to listen to the first movement of Martin's Mass, Kyrie, try the video below. You can hear the exposed "A" that starts the piece!

To learn more about the music you can download the press release for the concert on Oct. 3.

Until next time, take care!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Finale.

Hello readers!

This afternoon marked the end of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Under the Sky Festival. It was a fantastic labour day weekend filled with food, friends, and music.

Today's concert was entitled "Great Canadian Songbook," and as the title suggests, it included works by Canadian artists (minus Tchaikovsky's but it's a festival tradition that the 1812 Overture is played at the end, so for today, Tchaikovsky is a token Canadian).

My mind is awash with Canadian tunes from this afternoon such as "Canada" by Bobby Gimby, "I will Play a Rhapsody" by Burton Cummings, "Snowbird" by Gene MacLellan, "Mon pays" by Gilles Vigneault, A Medley from The Happy Gang (from a show that is "before my time"), "Swingin' Shepard Blues," A Gordon Lightfoot Medley, "If I had a Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies (which had a "ka-ching" sound effect played by the ESO's resident conductor, Lucas Waldin), Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" (which I know from the Edmonton Folk Music Festival since it has turned into their anthem), "Don Messer's Fiddlin' Tunes," Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi", and "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young.

Many of the pieces, including the world premiere of the Mitchell and Young piece, were arranged by Red Deer composer, Claude Lapalme. Lapalme also educated the audience about what things to listen for, such as particular instrumental sounds. An anvil-like percussion played throughout the Young piece to symbolize the metallic core of the "Heart of Gold" and he integrated 2 more "Yellow-titled" melodies within Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," such as "The Yellow Submarine."

The Lapalme pieces were not the only world premiere pieces since Sean Doherty premiered his original work entitled "Rainstorm" as well. He was chosen through the ESO's Young Composers project to write an orchestral work. Props to Doherty who composed a beautifully textured storm piece! It was more of a soundscape rather than an opulent orchestral piece and it fitted the outdoor ambiance of the festival extremely well. The piece began and finished with the sound of the harp and vibraphone playing a singular note to echo the falling rain while the rest of the orchestra created the effect of a brewing and receding storm.

The afternoon concluded with a festival favorite, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, which was complete with members of the 20th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery firing the cannons at the end.

In my mind, this festival signals the end of the summer and the beginning of Fall since the start of school is only a few days away for me. My summer holiday is now officially coming to a close but it'll be nice to be back at choir rehearsal!

Enjoy some more pictures below!

The audience is assembling.

Instruments but no musicians on stage yet

Nora Bumanis warming up on the harp

The 20th field regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery

Chilling out and waiting for the concert to start

Saturday, September 4, 2010

John Williams + ESO= Love.

It was another lovely evening out at the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Under the Sky tonight. Don't get me wrong, the weather was questionable beforehand (there was a misty drizzle in the late afternoon), and it was pretty chilly, but the concert remained outdoors. It didn't rain for much longer after they opened the gates at 6pm and some Star Wars characters even made their way out into the crowd to mingle with the audience in support of the movie themed evening.

The repertoire from tonight's concert was either written by John Williams or at least arranged by him. The man behind epic film scores such as Superman, Harry Potter, Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Schindler's List (just to name a few) produces film music nothing short of spectacular. Conductor Bob Bernhardt cracked a joke stating that although Beethoven is famous for the first 4 notes of Symphony No. 5, John Williams has him beat by 2 notes since the famous opening of Jaws only needs 2 notes for instant recognition.

The evening began with a march from Superman. I didn't recognize it personally but there was an avid group of Engineering students near me that were clutching their lawn chairs with great fervor while listening to the music. Superman's march was followed by "Sayuri's Theme" from Memoirs of a Geisha. Probably not one of Williams' most iconic themes, however, I liked how the ESO incorporated a program that showcased the diverse scores that Williams tackled in his career. "Flight to Neverland" from Hook had a lovely soaring quality and it was a refreshing change for the sun make an appearance during the piece.

Following this was possibly one of the main highlights of the concert: three movements from Schindler's List. Karen Gomyo, from the previous night, was the violin soloist yet again (props to the ESO for making efficient use of their soloist) for "Jewish Town", "Remembrances" and the "Main Theme," which is the one that most people will recognize. It's hard to describe the music that was generated from the stage. Gomyo had such an evenly pressured and fluid bowing technique that the musical lines she created were just seamless and her tone never wavered no matter high the frequency. It was just exquisite. Selections from Jurassic Park followed Schindler's List before the intermission.

"Harry's Wondrous World" from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a lovely reintroduction to the concert after the intermission. I've almost forgotten how much of a role Harry Potter had in the formative years of my adolescence but hearing the music again reminded me. After the 7th book, I have felt my passion for the series dwindle, it didn't helped that they pushed back the date of the last film and split it into 2 movies. It feels like they're dragging out the inevitable. Gomyo came back out again to play a Williams arrangement of "Fiddler on the Roof" from Jerry Bock's musical score and "Por Una Cabeza" which was also a William arrangement. These two pieces were another highlight of the evening. Gomyo performed with a very playful and seductive quality and she received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of each of them.

The rest of the program were pretty much the greatest hits from Star Wars: "The Flag Parade" and "Anakin's Theme" from Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace, and "The Imperial March" and the "Throne Room and End Title" from Star Wars IV: A New Hope. I think the latter 2 pieces especially since they showcase all the iconic tunes from Star Wars. Especially the "Throne room and End Title" which is pretty much a reprise of all the major musical themes from the film. During the last piece, the Star Wars characters which were mingling throughout the park beforehand, came back out to form a unified front facing the audience as their themes played behind them.
Now I feel like watching Star Wars!

Overall, it was a chilly evening out but it's worth it when you have wonderful music keeping you company. They will be playing an evening of Billy Joel and Elton John piano tunes tomorrow night but I won't be back at the park until Monday afternoon when they have a program of Canadian-centric tunes.

Enjoy some more pictures below!

It was hard to resist a picture with some Star Wars icons

The bounty hunter was awesome. They always posed with their double pistols. I also like how it looks like they're chasing after the little girl.

Staying dry from the rain

Staying warm on the grass before the concert

If you look closely you can see the unified Star Wars front