Friday, December 30, 2016

Best of 2016

Greetings readers,

I wish to reflect on the awesome happenings that occurred on The Choir Girl Blog as well as my own personal development as a singer. In no particular order, here are some of the highlights:


It's not everyday I get to have some of the most innovative social media choristers in my hometown. I was ecstatic when Missy Clarkson, Amy Desrosiers, and Jean-Pierre Dubois-Godin accepted my invite to join a social media team for Podium Conference and Festival. My local photog friends, Nanc Price and Twila Bakker were also equipped with their cameras throughout the Festival and Conference. We had the opportunity to create content prior to the conference and festival and we could share multiple perspectives at once. These aforementioned individuals showcased how we can use these tools to highlight the work of our choral community. I was humbled to work in close conjunction with them leading up to Podium. Podium 2018 will be hosted in Newfoundland, perhaps you may see some familiar faces once again.

The Interview Machine

National Youth Choir 2016

I managed to conduct 11 interviews in preparation for Podium. It was an ambitious feat to extend an invitation to interview all choirs coming to Edmonton for the Podium Choral Conference but I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the choirs arriving. I also wanted to show how online tools could extend the educational reach of the conference and highlight the work of conductors and their ensembles. To hear from the leadership behind ensembles like The National Youth Choir, Pro Coro Canada, Grande Prairie Boys Choir, Shumayela, i Coristi Chamber Choir, Elektra, Opus 8, Chorale Saint-Jean, Coastal Sound Youth Choir, Calgary Girls Choir, and the Prairie Chamber Choir provides for an invaluable glimpse behind these ensembles. Some of my favorite quotes were hearing Morna Edmundson from Elektra and Elaine Quilichini speaking about the mentorship of female conductors and providing nurturing spaces for women to sing, how Jeannie Pernal mentors a group 120 boys to sing within the Grande Prairie community, and Melissa Morgan's passion to create an accessible archive of Prairie choral music and an ensemble to share their works.

Love Fail

Love Fail Photos by Michael Zaugg, courtesy of Pro Coro Canada

This was by far one of the most challenging choral projects I tackled this past year.  I was in a solo quartet performing a work for a solid 50 minutes which was unconducted plus staging. However, as with most challenging projects, it proved to be the most satisfying because I had to stretch the skills I had a singer to meet the demands of the project. In the end, I had a positive result! I learned much about how I receive feedback, how I adapt that knowledge or how I require extra processing time to take notes into consideration. It was also a test in how I manage my nerves while getting through the performance when adrenaline causes my heart to race for the first 20 minutes in the piece. I also learned that my nerves decrease as I increase my preparedness level over time. It was also nurturing to be connected to a positive female creation process while working with the Good Women Dance Collective as well as with my fellow Pro Coro singers. Another fond memory was my fellow quartet of singers providing music at the bedside of a choral mother who was not able to make it to the performance. Since that time, her mother has passed away, and I will forever treasure the reminder that it is a true gift to share music with others, especially with the intent of healing and support.

Personal Voice Work

As any singer knows, we are in a process of training a biological instrument that is constantly changing throughout our entire lifetime. It is susceptible to changes in age, stress, hydration, hormones, general body fitness, and many more factors. I always like to switch up voice teachers and have occasional check-ins to to consider a variety of different perspectives. I find I gain the most from a intense period of voice lessons and then having time to decode and attempt to transfer those teachings into my functional voice practice.

In my training as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I received great advice from a Voice Therapy mentor. I sat in a group of eager voice trainers and clinicians appealing to her for the gold-standard approach to treat a voice disorder. Instead, she explained that the process is like tackling a knotted ball of yarn. There is no one right way or method to tackle a problem since everybody is different and all techniques must be adapted for a client. Instead, you go from different angles, you may work on one thread and then you may return to a previous thread; however, with enough persistence, it will eventually untangle.

At the end of this previous year, I had some excellent voice sessions. My voice coach showed me different techniques to access the upper and lower limits of my voice range. All of a sudden, I was able to attempt singing aria repertoire I deemed too challenging for myself five years ago. It blew my mind! There's something empowering about being able to sing works that you have previously shelved due to having an instrument that wasn't ready.

Ship Shape for Opera

A photo posted by misssable (@misssable) on

This last Edmonton Opera run of Turandot was the most physically and musically challenging I have had to tackle in my time as a chorus member. There was much text to memorize, quick tempos, and physical staging to execute at the same time. Challenges included making sure I could see the Maestro in the pit or projected in the video monitors in the wings while lying crouched on my side and, if there were no sight lines available, I had to memorize the preceding orchestral lines prior to my vocal entry point and still come in with confidence. It was the first show I started doing cardio before the performance so my muscles were warmed up from activity earlier in the day. It felt helpful to have muscles that were stretched and warmed up for the hours of evening activity in order to minimize injury. I also incorporated full-body stretches during during vocal warm-ups in order to coordinate singing with movement. It was a good reminder that voice work incorporates many body systems. Last time I was rehearsing for Merry Widow, we rehearsed a lot of curtsies and I did zero stretches. In the following weeks, I had to roll myself to the edge of my bed and use my arms to push my torso upright in order to wiggle out of bed because my legs and lower back were too sore to move. Never again!

A photo posted by misssable (@misssable) on

As 2017 unveils itself, keep me posted on your choral happenings readers, and I will promise to do the same. Until we meet again in the new year!

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