Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday collegiate concerts at the ACDA conference in Cincinnati

The Friday afternoon concerts featured two collegiate ensembles, the Millikin University Chamber Chorale led by Guy Forbes, and the Miami (of Ohio) University Collegiate Chorale, led by Ethan Sperry.

The Millikin Ensemble was impressively musical-- exquisite phrasing and no oversinging- avoiding the issues that a few other college ensembles seemed to be having problems with. Their opening number, Charles Wood's "Hail Gladdening Light" was full of color shifts and gorgeous rubato, and when the choir reached an obvious high point, Guy Forbes led them in expanding the sound, not just trying to rev up rpms on a Hummer. An "Ave Maria" by Pawel Lukaszewski was gorgeous as was Forbes' own "Come back to me, Me Love". I have just visited Forbes website ( and apparently he has only been writing since 2005. I have already heard a couple other pieces by him, most notably a very fine Ave Maria. Guy obviously has some real talent as a composer and I wish him all the best as he keeps writing more and more.

Two nicely uptempo pieces were sung with energy, and once again, without trying to muscle the music-- Michael McGlynn's "Dulaman" and the Hogan "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel". The entire ensemble exhibited the usual Millikin confidence and comfortable stage presence. All in all, this was one of the finest concerts at the conference, especially if you took the care to listen to nuance, sophistication, and detail.

A very different program was presented by Miami University. While this choir does sing all repertoire, they are best known for their amazing performances of world music. I also found out in talking to Ethan later that this is an almost completely non-music major group- these are young people who love singing for Ethan and share his infectious enthusiasm for authentically prepared world music.

The program was divided into two parts- Haitian music and music from India. The Haitian music was great- uptempo music full of amazing rhythms (btw, these world music programs have drumming throughout most of the program) and some quieter music of great soulfulness. Present for this portion of the program and leading with flair was a guest, Sten Kallman, a Swedish fellow who has been to Haiti many times and has studied the music. Sten led the group mostly by his enthusiasm and moving about the stage- Ethan introduced him as a non-conductor in the usual sense. None of this mattered to the audience who ate up the joy onstage. The last section of music from India, including some sassy Bollywood stuff, was such great fun. The whole performance was a blast and done so effectively. I have always been leery of American choirs trying to do world music- I cringe a bit when I think how badly and lazily they may be doing it, or how caricaturized many of the arrangements are. Here was a shining example of how to do it right.

Later that evening I just happened into Mike Scheibe (current ACDA president) and Ethan. Mike and I listened as Ethan told us all about his program, the kids and their enthusiasm, his love of world music, and so on. It was fun to listen to Ethan talk as he is so excited about world music and the global paths it has taken him on, including many trips to India.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday at Central Division ACDA in Cincy

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.

Thursday Evening at Central ACDA: Penderecki's Credo at Cincinnati Conservatory

On Thursday night of the Central Divisdion ACDA conference we all boarded buses for a short trip to The University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music for a major program- Augusta Read Thomas's "Ring out Wild Bells" and the major work, Krzysztof Penderecki's "Credo". The CCM forces for this concert included the CCM Philharmonia, the CCM Chamber Choir (led by Earl Rivers), the CCM Chorale (Brett Scott), and the Cincinnati Children's Bel Canto Choir (Robyn Lana). The concert was conducted by Earl Rivers.

The faciilites at CCM seem to be amazing- a new(newish?) main building with a concert hall, Corbett Auditorium, with excellent acoustics (lots of wood surfaces and very elegant design) plus lots of other music facilities and buildings. I have never been to this conservatory but I was very impressed by these facilities.

I got a chance to chat with Brett Scott before the concert, and also got a chance to say hi to Glenda Crawford who is working hard on an advanced degree here.

I was not familiar with the Penderecki, although maybe I should have been. The work was meant to be part of a full Mass, but apparently he got so involved writing the Credo and other things added into the Credo, that it never became a Mass. It is quite idiosyncratic, at times very tonal, at times a bit gnarly, at times somewhat esoterically colored (I mean that in a good way), yet always with a very apparent driving purpose- a deeply held conviction in the meaning of the words assembled (the Credo plus other texts in Polish which obviously resonate for Penderecki). What seems to make the piece meander at times are some solo instrumental "contemplations" interspersed here and there. I actually liked these a lot (they are almost like moving through the stations of the cross in church), yet it would be very interesting if Penderecki had a version wherein all the vocal movements are tightened up by slipping past some of these instrumental interludes. It would make for a more concisely focused choral piece, and I may be crazy to be thinking all this- but it would be interesting to hear!

The soloists, choir, and orchestra were all students at the conservatory masterfully led by Earl Rivers. I have not heard a better conservatory orchestra than this one, and I hope to sometime hear these choirs in an a cappella setting so I can truly hear how great they are. There were not many extended a cappella sections in either of the pieces in the program, and I REALLY wanted to hear more a cappella singing by these great choirs. What I did hear was a richness of tone and complete command of phrasing for sure, and never once did I feel anyone, even in fff sections, was pushing the sound into unmusical territory. The children's choir was also incredible- amazing clarity of tone and really I thought a special color to the tone that I rarely hear in children's choirs- I will have to ask Robyn about that if I run into her.

Earl Rivers conducting was impeccable and always in charge- he is obviously a master conductor and his mature approach to this music was a valuable leadership element in this performance. I also would like to compliment the decision to use students in the very demanding vocal soloist roles- they were sung with complete professionalism and with strong, operatic clarity, full formant defined singing in the grand oratorio style. I can imagine other schools where the vocal performance professors might insist on singing these parts themselves, so I truly admire and applaud the ego-free decision to make this an opportunity for students, not profs, to shine as soloists in demanding music.

It's truly wonderful to see great creators continue to explore their world, to change over the years, to find very new voices within themselves and allow that to happen. When you look at Penderecki you see a man who granted himself, while still a star of the avant-garde, the freedom to completely reinvent his compositional identity beginning in the 1970's. Not content to keep writing the same piece in the same style year after year but truly astounding us with new ideas, sounds,styles, and a drive to express great human convictions- it reminds me of Stravinky's many new paths after the early big hits.

All in all, an amazing night of music from CCM- thank you and bravo!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday AM at Central Division ACDA Conference

Well here it is- the first day of the ACDA Central Division Conference- which apparently is now a conference and not a convention- not sure I know the difference!

I'm a little conflicted about my blog name "Musical Mayhem"- it sounds cool but I am not sure I want to create mayhem- I'm pretty mellow these days. And the idea of blogging about convention (er.. I mean conference) concerts and that I could easily become the typical critic, sniping down on all sorts of stupid minor things really does not appeal to me right now. Do I really want to go there,stressing negatives over positives? I think not. I'd rather find the good things and tell my inner cynic to go play quietly in some other corner! And I think I can find ways to say interesting things without being negative.

So here is how the conference started- three college choirs in a row starting at 9:15 AM. Somehow they all seemed very awake-- good for them. Clayton Parr's group from DePaul started things off with some very strong singing- the choir consists of about 75% vocal performance majors, so Clayton can create some big sounds when he wants. The program began with Break Away by Dan Locklair, with a ton of notes for Paul Nicholson to play at the piano. A fun, very effective piece, but maybe longer than it needs to be. I felt the most effectively sung piece on the program was Der Feuerreiter by Hugo Wolf.

The next choir was the Capital University Chapel Choir, directed by Linda Hasseler, a group I admit I have known nothing about until now. They sang a wide variety of music, probably the most effective was Otche Nash by Golovanov, which was full of rich dark chocolatey Russian sounds. Ta Tikee Thai by the underappreciated Sid Robinovitch was also excellent and the choir was able to create some hand and body motions to fit the music without becoming kitschy. A piece by Peter Klatzow, Cover me with the Night, was rich with beautiful harmonies and expressive phrasing from Hasseler and the choir. I would like to know more about this piece and this composer. I was able to talk to Linda Hasseler after the concert and told her how much I enjoyed the performance. She was very gracious and told me she studied with Charles Smith at Michigan State. It was pretty obvious that she had- I know some other folks who studied with Smith and they all have something special going on- an elegance and ease of control with their choirs. They invite their choirs to sing and collaborate with them beautifully. Bravo to Capital University!

The last choir on the first session was Paul Rardin's U of Michigan Men's Glee Club. This choir loves to sing- don't get in their way! Paul is a great fun guy who has amazing musical chops and the choir reflects all the good things about Paul (imagine that, a choir reflecting its directors personality!). They presented pieces you would never really expect out of a men's glee- a wonderful piece, Jonah's Song, by Peter Schikele, an oddball piece by William Bolcom and more. Paul also had a student conductor lead the Schikele- it's nice to see the podium being shared.

The repertoire for the morning was very heavy on new-ish music; I say that's a good thing-- having young people sing young music! The new-ish composer lists included (in addition to those already mentioned above)Samuel Barber, Aaron Kernis, Eric Whitacre, and Craig Courtney.

Final random thoughts for now-

PLUS I see lots of young conference attendees- not just HS and college choir members, but attendees. This is a good thing to see ACDA becoming younger.

MINUS The number of conference exhibitors is way down, I'm sure we all know why. But it's a little depressing that there aren't more exhibitors here. Especially missing are the music publishers-- virtually no one is here with a booth. Not a good thing. Come on big publishers, don't blow off Central Division.

Working with the fine choirs of Illinois State University

Final rehearsal

The final rehearsal I attended was Sarah Graham’s Women’s Glee Club. This is an unauditioned women’s choir numbering about sixty singers I would guess. They had just finished a concert recently and revisited audience comments and so on. Wow, were they pumped by their own performance and the feedback. In fact, I have never seen an unauditioned choir with so much enthusiasm and confidence! The energy in the room was electric. I was asked to observe two undergrad student conductors and give them a little feedback on theirconducting and rehearsal skills.

First up was Krista Chmiel, who made sure to tell me she is an “old undergrad”. Very funny, Krista- but age matters little to me, maybe being an “old” undergrad could be a good thing! Krista started right in working on a folk song. I loved her energy and communication skills and told her that it was obvious the choir loves and respects her; this sometimes is all you need- a choir that loves you will work their hiney off for you. My only real criticism was that she went to the piano too much to play notes for them- I challenged her to get away from the piano both now as a student conductor and also wherever she winds up teaching. Step away from the piano, I say!

The next student conductor was Megan Miller, another very energetic, strong communicator. Megan was introducing a piece with a bit of what I guess we could call “avant garde" graphic notation. Megan decided to not have them get all tied up in knots about the notation, and simplified things by teaching them part of it by rote, which was very effective (we could use a lot more rote teaching and learning in the choral world, methinks). Megan is also is loved by this choir, an enormous plus. The only constructive criticisms I shared were two little things-- try talking less and have the choir singing more (and save your voice) and 2) use a lower arm position and perhaps work on some more expansive arm gestures (something I saw Joe Flummerfelt do repeatedly in some undergrad conducting coaching lessons) centered in her own body. Little criticisms aside, I thought that both of these young ladies were already very skilled conductors and communicators who are going to be great leaders as they make their way out into the choral world and share their obvious love of music with others. Sarah, Karyl Carlson, and Tim Fredstrom should all be very proud of the work they are doing in training young conductors at Illinois State.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quick Review- The Swedish Radio Choir

A bonus for anyone arriving today for the Central Division ACDA convention- a chance to hear one of the great a cappella choirs of the world- the Swedish Radio Choir, made famous by Eric Ericson, who is now retired but led them beginning in 1952. This evening's concert was ably led by Ragnar Bohlin.

The big pieces, I mean BIG HONKING PIECES,on the program were for double choir- the Bach Singet dem Herrn and the Frank Martin Mass for Double Chorus. These are pieces that punish a lot of the college and semi-professional choirs that decide to take them on in battle, and perhaps that is the problem-- the pieces may be just too hard for anyone but a choir like Swedish Radio to a) sing all the notes and rhythms, and b) make it beautiful and expressive...and not like a battle. I actually hate seeing college choirs try to do the Bach, it most often causes a death spiral of woe; I think especially for the men, whose parts are extremely intimidating.

But back to tonight- what was so lovely to listen to was something as simple as this choir's tuning of final chords, and to listen them sing cadences or ends of sections, whether simple or more complex. It was a revelation to hear them sonically rejoicing in the magic of a beautifully tuned third, or creating an exquisitely detailed cadence, listening to them was perhaps the equivalent of watching a world famous goldsmith at work. In addition to this sweetness there were also many moments of amazing intensity, during the Martin I circled on my program the word Crucifixus, which occurred in the Credo and I will bet 100 dollars is the exact midpoint (hehe- or Fibonnaci point) of the music of this mass setting, as if Martin was pointing to to that exact textual event from the moment the piece started, whether the audience would know it or not. The writing there was amazing, and the choir was right with Martin in its emphasis on this particular passage of the music.

The other pieces on the program fit in well for the most part. Very effective was the Mahler "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" arranged for choir. Here the choir showed what can be done with held tones- they reverberated soulfully, sounding like gorgeous violas and celli and not ever sounding strained like held tones often sound in the hands of lesser choirs. In addition, this arrangement also featured a passage with a high soprano solo- a line which went above a high C and even after that kept snaking around all over the place- a long,long,long line sung in one breath by one of the choir's sopranos (sorry, no name to share from the program).

Another successful piece, though some may not care for it, was Ander Hillborg's Mouyayoum, a bit of a minimalist soundsculptre adventure which I thought was far superior to the better known piece within the same soundworld approach, Lobet den Herrn by Sven David Sandstrom, sung earlier on the program.

Thanks Swedish Radio Choir for your craft and dedication AND simply delish music. You made technically difficult music sound gorgeous and amazing!

Working witht the Fine Choirs of Illinois State University- part two

Hi all- I'm on the road to Cincinnati for the Central Division ACDA convention. I will be trying to blog as much as possible from the convention (seems like almost no one is making the time to do this!) so because of the time crunch this entry and the next few may not have purty pictures with them! I will start by trying to finish up blogging about my visit last week to Illinois State University.

After the rehearsal with Belle Voix at Illinois State, I next attended the concert choir rehearsal. This is ISU’s top SATB choir, led by Dr. Karyl Carlson. They had just returned from a tour of Chicago area high schools, which apparently went very well. Karyl has been doing a lot of instate touring with Belle Voix and the Concert Choir and has really increased people’s awareness of the great program she has developed at ISU since her arrival as Director of Choral Activities about six years ago.

Karyl was kind enough to allow me to work with the choir, and she wanted them to hear how a composer views texts. So I worked with them on reading and examining the text of “Fishing in the Keep of Silence” by Linda Gregg. This is a poem which I set a couple years ago, but have not yet had a chance to try with a choir.

Here is the poem:

There is a hush now while the hills rise up
and God is going to sleep. He trusts the ship
of Heaven to take over and proceed beautifully
as he lies dreaming in the lap of the world.
He knows the owls will guard the sweetness
of the soul in their massive keep of silence,
looking out with eyes open or closed over
the length of Tomales Bay that the herons
conform to, whitely broad in flight, white
and slim in standing. God, who thinks about
poetry all the time, breathes happily as He
repeats to Himself: There are fish in the net,
lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.

So I first started out by having a few people read the poem out loud, and we noticed that there were differences in how people read certain lines. I then had people find phrases they especially liked, and to read them and share them with each other. And then I also had them just pull out what I call bonus words- single words with a lot of beauty, impact or other meaning or value. Such a word was “beautiful”, which I told them I decided to emphasize and sought to specifically set that word beautifully. We discussed a number of things, and then I also went on to tell them what I am looking for when searching for a poem to set:

1) Is the text special in some way? Will it make an impact, will it interest someone to read it over again to look for more meaning?

2) Does it tell a story? Is it full of action, or is it more contemplative? Who are the characters in the story or vision?

3) Does the poem contain special imagery that might inspire a musical setting?Does it actually suggest music in some way?

4) Is the language direct, or is it difficult to grasp? (direct is better)

We then went ahead and read through my setting, and they did a great job. But Karyl was more demanding; she reminded them that sightreading should not be done in a passive way, just hitting the notes and sort of getting through the piece. She basically asked them to sing it through again and engage ALL their musical and communication skills in their sightreading. This was a great thing for her to say, and a great attitude to impart. After the second time through I thanked Karyl and told her how impressed I was with the group’s sightreading and she responded by saying it is something they work on as much as possible. Great!

We also talked about how to communicate to an audience, and I told them how much I think we need to sing from memory in order to allow our eyes and faces to be open to each other (singers, conductors, audience) in order to communicate as human beings- and not have our eyes buried in a score (please see my post from last Fall, which garnered a lot of response both in my blog and also when it was shared on ChoralNet). Karyl and the singers agreed on how important this was and how much performing “sans score” they are doing- I was very pleased.

As a special treat for myself I asked them to sing me their favorite piece from their tour. They actually decided on two, Sidney Guillaume’s playful “Twa Tambou” and a movement from the Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil. The Guillame was great fun, and I’m sure it was a crowd-pleaser for the audiences on tour. The Rach is one of my top favorite choral pieces (but l also have great love and respect for the vastly underperformed Gretchaninov All-Night Vigil as well) and the choir sang with a nicely developed darker, yet also very fluid sound which really let some long lines spin beautifully. It was obvious how much they love this music, and I’m sure they take their cue from Karyl.

All in all, we did a lot in one hour and it was very rewarding to work with these highly talented young singers, many of whom are in the ISU ACDA chapter and who will be traveling to Cincinnati for the ACDA convention there.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Working with the fine choirs of Illinois State University

Part One-

This past Wednesday, February 17th I was on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal, IL. Sarah Graham, whom I first met at a Central Division ACDA convention in Indianapolis in 2004, has planned a concert of all new, in manuscript music by *gasp* living composers to be performed by Belle Voix, ISU's premiere auditioned women's ensemble. Sarah asked me to come down and give the choir some composer insight on the two pieces by me that she has programmed for this concert, "God Says Yes to Me" and "Eve's Confession". Since I would be there for Belle Voix, we also decided that I would also visit super awesome Director of Choral Activities Karyl Carlson's Concert Choir (the top SATB choir) and also Sarah's unauditioned (yet very talented and enthusiastic) Women's Glee.

(Sarah Graham)

So with Belle Voix we started right in on "God Says Yes to Me". This is somewhat of a musical theater setting of a cool poem by Kaylin Haught- here's the text, and btw, Kaylin actually wrote extra verses for this setting, since her original is a little short for tune-writin':

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
what if I cavort with squawking saints
forage with a crowd of long legged water angels
sail with a regatta of white pelicans
sing glory hallelujah with the cormorants
drying their wings over the water
and she said Baby I made you for this
cavort as you wish
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

An amazing poem, eh? I was originally attracted to the humor of this poem- imagine my surprise when I found out that it's been quoted in sermons, but then you realize, it is a wonderful affirmation that God wants us to be happy! Some may object to God being a woman (whatever...) and in my setting God answers in a bluesy jazz (maybe God is a beatnik?). The point is this- it's a fun, creative, life-affirming poem- people need to lighten up on any criticism of this poem!

Well really Belle Voix had no problem overanalyzing the text or having hangups with it- they have become very busy having fun with it! We worked on the tempi of the swing and getting in and out of transitions. It's going to be great when they get it all worked up and staged, and student conductor Kara Vombrack is doing a great job preparing the piece. FYI, the first performance of this piece was by Sandra Snow's amazing group at Michigan State (in 2006 I think) where they staged almost every piece on their program. Another recent performance by Iris Levine's Vox Femina in LA was a big hit with audiences there.

We then worked on "Eve's Confession", a sugar-crazed deconstruction of Adam, Eve, some apple fritters and so on-- a witty text by Diane Lockward (from the collection "Eve's Red Dress").

a review can be read here


Sunday morning I slipped
out of bed, ran to the bakery,
and bought two apple
fritters, bulging
with fruit and slathered
with sweet white frosting—
breakfast in bed for me
and my husband.
While he slept on
in innocence, ribcage
peacefully rising
and falling, the kitchen
filled with essence
of apple. And oh!
those fritters looked
divine. I broke
off a sample—wickedly
good—then another
and another.
Of course, it was
my husband’s fritter
I sampled. I stuffed
my mouth. Globs
of tart gooey apples slid
down my throat, apple
after apple, and chunks
of dough, crusty
from the fryer.
I could feel
my cholesterol rising,
arteries hardening, and I
didn’t care. That fritter
was delicious.
As the calories
mounted, guilt entered
the kitchen. And still,
that pastry beguiled me.
“Eat of this fritter,” it called.
“Okay,” I said, “one last bite,”
but knew I was going to fall
and fall, knew in my evil
heart I was going
to eat it all.

The setting is very uptempo with a clangy piano part and vocal parts that accentuate Eve's obsession with the apple fritters and the sugar overloaded frosting. We worked on bumping up the tempi for excitement and then talked about ways to make my faux organum/quasi Dies Irae work staging-wise toward the end. It was a blast to try some ideas on how to bring this creative text to life, and Sarah surprised everyone by serving up apple fritters at the end of rehearsal-- talk about getting your singers into a piece!

(Karyl Carlson)

Belle Voix has been directed by Karyl Carlson until this year, and they are an amazingly confident, advanced group of singers. Their enthusiasm for working on new music is really exciting and Karyl (and continuing now with Sarah) has developed this group into a top tier collegiate women's choir. If you get a chance to see them in concert, do it! Note: the concert containing these two pieces will be on March 21st at ISU.

Coming up- Part Two- working with the ISU Concert Choir and Women's Glee

Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest Blog by Angie Johnson

Dear friends,

From time to time I would love for folks to step forward and guest blog here- so don't be shy if you want to blog a little without taking on the task of having your own blog. Send me an e-mail if you would like to give it a go!

Please welcome Angie Johnson, the very talented artistic director of The Young Naperville Singers (Naperville, IL). All of the six YNS choirs are directed by highly trained, motivated lovers of music and of children- the vibe at YNS is fabulous! Angie in particular brings an amazing positive energy to her rehearsals. It was exciting to come work with them this past November/December.To read more about the Young Naperville Singers, visit

Here is Angie's' guest blog about the recent ACDA Children's Choir Conductors Retreat in Cincinnati:

It was a great roadtrip for three of my fellow directors and me to the ACDA Children’s Choir Conductor’s Retreat held recently in Cincinnati, OH. With a five hour car ride on either side of the conference, our expectations were high. We arrived late Friday night after a fun and laughter filled car ride, exhausted but anticipating a wonderful weekend. Usually, I am happy to walk away from a conference with a few new techniques, pieces or ideas and this conference did not disappoint us. In fact, it surpassed any conference that I have ever attended in the past. Each session contained inspiring, useful information or ideas that directly pertain to what we do in the real world. From a wonderful team building session full of new ideas to build community within your choir (Angela Broeker) to great sessions on introducing repertoire (Ruth Dwyer) and incorporating sight singing (Sandra Matthias); there was plenty to take home to think about. It was wonderful to see many directors introduce newer “gem pieces” or “War horse” pieces – all wonderful literature.

(L-R:YNS directors Angie Johnson, Jennifer Helwig,
Scott Isemunger, Anne Kasprzak)

Roundtable discussions were held where ideas, questions and discussions were raised about such topics as auditioning and placement hearings, warm-up ideas and a wonderful session led by the Executive Director, Tim Sharp; “Establishing the Opportunity For Every Child in the US to Sing”. Chorus America sent representatives as well to talk about Tackling Critical Issues Facing Children’s Choirs and they shared extremely beneficial research. Their membership director, Catherine Davies was on hand to present the recent findings of their Choral Impact Study.

Wonderful choirs were on hand to share their music; Cincinnati Children;s Choir, Columbus Children’s Choir and Indianapolis Children’s Choir. Some participants had the opportunity to conduct and work with the conducting and teaching talents of Heather Potter, Kelly Ann Westgate, Catherine Sailer and Henry Leck. Perhaps the best part of this entire experience was the opportunity to meet so many colleagues, re-connect with friends and share ideas one to another. The atmosphere was one of generosity and collaboration; “fellow learners” sharing their thoughts and approaches. For the first year director to directors who have programs we have long aspired to, it was a “not to be missed” conference.

It would be impossible to list everyone who contributed their time or talent to this conference but a special thank you to Robyn Lana, Linda Berg, Jena Dickey, Judith Herrington, Sharon Smith and Barbara Tagg for planning an extraordinary conference. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again in two years in the mile high city of Denver when the ACDA Children’s Choir Conductor’s Retreat is again held January 14-15, 2012.