Saturday started off with some interest sessions and then the final events-- the awarding of the Stace Stegman Award (which is presented at each Central Division conference to a member who has demonstrated skills similar to the late Stace Stegman's in service to the choral art) and then performances by the three honors choirs.
The Stace Stegman Award was presented to my dear friend Mary Alice Stollak, who not ony founded and led the Michigan State University Children's Choir for many years and also earned two Grammys with, but who also gave countless hours of her time to ACDA on the state, regional and national level, spent nineteen years as head of the choral division of the Northwestern University HS summer music institute and many, many other achievements. Mary Alice is such a humble soul and it was so wonderful to see the look of heartfelt joy on her face when she received this award. One of the great people in the choral world-- and I feel honored to have written music for her which I was glad she loved, watched and learned from her by example, and to get to be there and see her receive this award. What a great moment!
The honors choirs were next and I was greatly impressed with their level of musical artistry, stage presence, and tone. The JHS girls, a large ensemble of 85 dedicated musicians sang with gorgeous lines and support, tone color, and joy. Lynne Gackle was an inspiration to them, something I was able to witness as I attended two rehearsals not only of my piece, "Peace on Earth...and lots of little crickets", but on all the music. Two true highlights were the energy of the spirited "A-Maying, A-Playing" by Stephen Chatman (I love his music- it's so creative) and the lovely legato and rubato in Carl Bohm's "Still wie die Nacht". This piece is just gorgeous- it should be sung more often.
The presentation of the JHS boys honor choir was quite interesting. Led by Margaret Jenks and Randy Swiggum, they took multiple approaches to voice issues and repertoire in working with this age of the male voice, and I am actually going to discuss this in a later blog as I believe it warrants more exploration- perhaps I can even convince these two fine, dedicated directors to guest blog about their ideas on this subject.
The final honors choir was the mixed HS group led by Edie Copley. This choir gave a great performance, and Edie led them with such grace and artistry. Her repertoire was also wonderfully paced and quite creative. Here the pieces that struck me as most delightful were David Childs highly expressive "Salve Regina", two Brahms "Liebeslieder" sections (ooh, sing more!), and a blast of a folk song, "Sigalagala", replete with some Xena Warrior Princess fff tongue trills by one of the high sopranos!
It is no surprise that Edie and Lynne are frequent guest conductor/clinicians all over the country-- they know the voice, they care about people, they have drive and energy, and love music. They also know how to pace an honors choir with love, and not browbeat them and wear them out.
Which leads me to my final subject- why aren't ACDA conference attendees at the honors choir concerts? Are they in such a hurry to leave with their bundles of reading session music and just have to get out of Dodge? Do they think the honors choir concerts are beneath them and a waste of time? If that is their attitude, they are so wrong. To get an opportunity to observe this level of communication and musical leadership skill between a gifted honors choir conductor and their choir is not something to blow off. I learned a number of things Saturday from watching Edie Copley, Lynne Gackle, and the Jenks/Swiggum team and I don't even conduct on a daily basis. I think it is shame that ACDA conference attendees have developed such an unwarranted aversion toward attending honors choir concerts. And if anyone wants to debate this opinion, please send a reply this way.
Finally, hats off to all of the Central division folks who planned this conference. It was the best Central division conference I have ever attended. There was a performance venue with very good acoustics, amazing guest choirs, great performing choirs, highly skilled honors choirs and their directors, many interesting and unusual interest sessions, and a generally very high excitement level at the conference. Bravo!
Coming up: Blogs from ACDA Western Division in sunny Tucson
To the readers
7 years ago