My Friday here at Central Division ACDA conference was helter-skelter. Too much to do and not possible to be in two places at once. But people come first, and just getting to concerts needs to come second, so....
I was able to hear Lyons HS from Michigan sing in the morning and just the first couple tunes from Augustana College directed by Jon Hurty. I've heard Augustana a number of times over the last few years, so I know how capable they are. Jon does some very creative programming, and I recall a great performance of the McMillen Cantos Sagrados a few years ago which was breathtakingly dramatic. They did it in the scaled down version, which I actually think is far superior to the orchestrated version (kind of like how I feel about the Bernstein Chichester Psalms). Lyons HS was excellent and since they are a small ensemble, I liked that Steve Lorenz had the singers spread out a bit and have some of that personal sound space which can be really effective when singing. But I couldn't help chuckling over the "la-la-las" in Gwyneth Walker's otherwise very nice setting of "How Can I keep from Singing" (the space-filling "la-la-la's" on my "Mashed Potato Love Poem" from "Play with your Food" are a friendly dig at Gwyneth's overuse of la-la-las!).
The reason I had to get moving and miss the balance of the morning's concerts was that the JHS honors choir directed by the always awesome and indefatiguable (hmm, never used that word before) Lynne Gackle is singing my "Peace on Earth...and lots of little crickets", and Lynne wanted me to drop in and hear their progress. Well, they were doing just fine on it and they seem like a great bunch of young singers, and the energy between Lynne and them was awesome. We worked on opening up the sound more without getting "Disney", as Lynne put it, and got them moving to this tune- a piece you can't sing standing still. The kids were great fun to meet and I even noticed a few of them with hand decorated "cricket" teeshirts. I asked what was up with that and it turned out that these seven sweet kids from Emerson School in Michigan had decided to make up these shirts (and make one for their conductor too) since they like the tune so much. So Lynne was kind enough to let us go out in the hallway and take some photos of these cool fun shirts- wow, classical music can be fun...who knew?!
After that I wound up chatting for quite awhile with two dear friends, Mary Alice and Gary Stollak. Mary is newly retired from leading the Michigan State University Children's Choir to greatness, and she is here because she is receiving a "major award" from ACDA on Saturday (let's hope it is not marked "fra-gi-le" and is in the shape of a leg). Gary was his usual witty self, and I love hearing his thoughts on everything, but especially child-rearing, as he has been a leading child psychologist working out of MSU for decades. Everything Gary says is in earnest jest, or jestful earnestness.
Post this were some afternoon performances... I'll put this current post up now and continue with those performances when I get back to the laptop keyboard later night or else over the weekend.
Final random thoughts:
PLUS The college choirs performing are all smiling when done- they seem to be happy and proud when they finish their performance-- I've been seeing too many dour or, even worse, blank bored looks on college performer's faces these last few years at performance events. Tom Carter- you and others are making a difference!
MINUS No one attempted a quad today, but I bet some of those wild and crazy kids from Ethan Sperry's choir were thinking 'bout it.
To the readers
6 years ago