Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sharing one of the most popular items I have posted

This particular post from a few years ago has received a lot of hits since I started blogging- it really resonates with folks so I like to re-run it once a year- so here you go (and thanks to Sir Rick Bjella, who now teaches at Texas Tech). As I read through this post again, I also like the fact that Larry Doebler was a contributor to this. I just met Larry this past year when he commissioned me for a piece for the yearly Ithaca College Choral Festival- what a brilliant conductor, teacher, and man.

Over the last three years I have combined elements of these suggestions (with Rick's permission) plus my own experiences teaching at the North Carolina Governor's School as the basic material for choral conference interest sessions I have presented in Hong Kong, South Korea, Nebraska ACDA, North Central division ACDA, and Iowa and Tennessee MEA with great success. There is so much rich material here to ponder.

Enjoy the read and the great ideas:

The three I's that don't include me: involvement, investment, (through inside-out rehearsing), independence...leading to integrity

(compiled by Rick Bjella-- contributing: Randal Swiggum, Nick Page, Larry Doebler, Lucy Thayer, Tim Bruneau, Patty O’Toole)

Reprinted by permission of Rick Bjella. 


Who or what is at the center of your rehearsals?
Whose opinions are valued most?
Around whom do your structure your strategies for the daily rehearsal?
Student involvement:
  • foster a safe environment ("well, that was creative", “basses I love you dearly...”, “I love the way you truly listen to each other and honor what was said”)
  • share affirmations with the ensemble
  • provide a more accurate, personalized, positive reflection on student efforts in rehearsal. (i.e. "Glenn you are particularly good at dramatic reading of texts, that is a real gift that you have, that is a contribution that you make in a way that is particularly stunning")
  • give the students only the title of the piece ask them “how do you think it will sound?”
  • give short writing moments (in journals, portfolios, 3 x 5 cards, board work, post-it notes
  • have student led warm ups prescribed by the teacher
  • have an improvisation on one note-(the drone has been a powerful musical force throughout the ages-explore different vowels)
  • ask YOU questions (addressed directly to students relevant to personal experiences meant to evoke personal opinions “Have you ever ______? How did it feel? Did you ____?)
  • develop listening squads: students sit out and listen to rehearsal, offering critical comments
  • giving students many opportunities to evaluate both rehearsals and performances (written comments, group discussions, etc.)
  • allow the individual person to react with free movement that reflects the phrasing-start simply and then work towards more subtlety
  • switching parts so that the student is understanding all of the choral parts
  • sing the instrumental accompaniment for understanding of the entire phrase
  • move to the pulse of the music- developing body memory
  • learn parts through solfege (movable or fixed do depending on the piece) Assists pitch memory and independence
  • have singers in positions to be compassionate. (Sing at a nursing home, a soup kitchen, hospital, or funeral, etc.)
  • have student compositions based on one phrase or one word
  • listening with intent (give them a puzzle, a problem, or a chance to share their opinion of something technically challenging - i.e. This Little Babe).
  • fellowship game - sit or stand in a community interview circle (this can also be done in smaller groups as well): a. interview a person in the middle - ask three questions student has a right to ‘pass’ on any question. b. model the activity by being in the center as well.
Student investment and ownership:
  • have students develop their own text interpretations
  • use story telling (composers, personal experiences relating to the text, communing with nature, growing-up, losing loved ones, stories by other artist, authors, poets, visual artist)
  • believe in your story
  • have the students read a letter (that you or they create) from the composer about her intentions for the piece.
  • have the students teach a spiritual, or folk song by rote to the class before passing out the arrangement
  • invite student opinions on an artistic decision (e.g. where exactly the crescendo should begin, which vowel color suits the mood of a particular word best, etc.)
  • have student-led sectionals
  • memorization squads: if the group is having trouble with individuals not memorizing their parts, have a team sit out and check the memorization of individuals in the group
  • have students come up with their own warm ups
  • have them listen to tapes from their own recording sessions and evaluate the relative quality
  • have an anger moment where they allow it to all come out in their singing
  • try student grading of each other and themselves (set up a careful list of criteria - they see much more than you do)
  • have a choir council or officers to meet and discuss issues from the students’ perspective, to act as spokes people, and to plan social events and group-bonding activities
  • use dalcroze activities led by students based upon the music that is being rehearsed
  • moving to the pulse of the note values- freeing the eyes from the score
  • sing silently - owning the score without singing it/ showing it completely through the eyes-check the memory at a predetermined spot.
  • find ways to actively involve them in the drama of the music.
  • have student invested towards nuts and bolt needs (library maintenance, attendance)
  • have touring planned by students- discussing at the ground level objectives and
  • discuss the etymology of words, showing links between one language and another.
  • have a student committee set clear goals regarding students able to sing their part alone with musicianship and understanding
  • have students write reflections concerning a concert
  • consider having student program notes
  • have an open forum -- pose a question on curriculum (i.e. “What makes this a good piece of music?”, “What makes an exciting choir rehearsal?, If you had one wish for this choir it would be..) ask a follow-up question/ journal entries
  • develop abstract expressions - break the choir into six groups, provide them with markers, crayons, finger paints -- ask the them to illustrate a concept you have been working on such as dotted rhythms open vowels, binary form, the heart of the music.
  • run rehearsals of difficult passages in circles (basses, tenors, altos, sopranos) while running the passage have the leader in the middle make suggestions for improvements -- set strict time lines -- change leadership in the middle constantly. (use movement within the circle to solidify different learning styles)
  • have a no limits day -- suggest that they can sing in any manner they think is appropriate and the only thing off limits is the ‘can’t’ word.
  • student independence:
(knowledge=Independence (K=I) and complete imagination)
  • shoot for depicting the text in a synergetic manner not as a result of what the conductor might impose
  • show the score through physical movement reflecting dynamic, dramatic, linear and harmonic elements with complete physical understanding
  • sing one part and reflect physically another part.
  • interact with others through discussion with people not in the choir
  • have students understand the integration of all study with the music that is being performed
Developing Student Integrity [IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DREAM]:
Start small. Just as it is difficult to know what to do with a blank page, it is difficult for some students to know what to do with authority. Don't expect overnight change.
  • model the behavior you wish to emphasize.
  • model them before the rehearsal
  • model them during the rehearsal
  • model them after the rehearsal
  • never stop modeling them
Slowly lead students to independence (i.e. ask students to troubleshoot for a solution to a musical problem instead of volunteering one yourself). This will get them thinking for themselves and eventually, they will think independently all the time and take more responsibility for musical excellence. Know your own musical and emotional interior. If you are not comfortable with the things you are asking students to share, then the students will not respond well.
Constantly invite student input and then LISTEN CAREFULLY TO WHAT THEY SAY. Students have insights into what is going on in the music (or in the group) that you will never have.
Consider the difference between student-centered and student-directed. Is it enough to plan activities around student interest and input? For more adventure, try moving toward student directed activities. Students have many things to teach each other (and you).
Consider these four elements of all rehearsals:
  • time
  • structure of the ensemble, rehearsal room / form of the rehearsal
  • how things are learned and percieved
  • pedagogy: who teaches whom? why?
What can you and your students learn as a result of ‘tinkering’ with one of the above elements?
Moving towards a more student-centered rehearsal (like a new idea) can be messy and not always productive on the short run. HOWEVER, investing in a well thought-out process that encourages students to take charge of their own education will be motivating and exciting for them, and for YOU. 

Special thanks to Randal Swiggum, Nick Page, Larry Doebler, Lucy Thayer, Tim Bruneau, Patty O’Toole for their insights into this document.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kurt Knecht's How to Sing in Ten Easy Steps

I kind of stumbled upon a really funny post by Kurt Knecht today (I didn't know Kurt was blogging). Silly me for not keeping track of everything happening in Nebraska (oh settle down Nebraska- I'm messin' witchoo)! It really resonated with me since I was a choral accompanist for 14 years before I ever directed a choir. This is really fun tongue-in-cheek (or is it diaphragm-in-THE MASK?) stuff. Kurt says he doesn't mind that I repost the whole thing here (well at least it is in the special WarrenBuffettNebraska font italics). Check out some of Kurt's other blog posts- many are very funny and display a highly educated, sharp and slightly off-center wit- my kind of stuff!

And parenthetically, here is a link to a blog post of mine from awhile back if you want further amazing singing advice:

I'm not a lawyer, but I have watched a lot of Law and Order, so I feel some amount of confidence in my courtroom expertise. In a similar way, I'm not a vocal teacher, but I have spent the last 25 years playing for hundreds of voice teachers and choir directors. Some of them are famous in their field. Most are not.  Since I have a compendium of knowledge that would be tragic if lost, I have distilled my years of experience into 10 easy steps which any singer can follow.  Since many vocal teachers can be confusing (phonascus obscurum syndrome), I have added some clarifying comments.

1. Breathe in the shape of the vowel. Since there are about 19 different vowel sounds in English alone, you have lot of breathing to learn. Once you master the English vowels, you can progress to der Umlaut breathing exercises.

2. When you sing, drop your jaw North and South, not East and West. North North East by South South West is also acceptable. When you press into the NorthEast and SouthWest jaw dropping, you are approaching the danger area, and East North East and West South West are right out. Obviously, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, everything needs to be inverted, so drop your jaw South and North.

3. When you sing, think of the vowel as a circle of sound. After you can imagine the circle, imagine the vowel as a trapezoid of sound and then a rhombus. Finally, imagine the vowel as a triangle with angles of 92, 68, and 20 degrees.

4. For an open throat, imagine the beginning of a yawn with a softball sized scoop of canard à l'Orange with pomme de terre and arugula salad in the back of your mouth.

5.  Keep the tone forward in the mask of the face..but not too far forward and not too high or low in the mask. Once the tone starts slipping into the side of the mask, you are in deep trouble. If you find yourself in this situation, it's best to begin by placing the tone in the left eye. From there, progress to the left ear and gradually work your way around the back of the head and then move back around to the center.

6. When you sing with your whole body, the sound will seem to come from the depths of your soul. At first, it may be difficult to sense where your soul is located, but as your singing develops, you will begin to feel a sensation roughly between the kidneys and the adrenal glands. That's where your soul is. As you mature, you will be able to use not only the depths of your soul but you will also have access to the shallow end and wading pool.

7. When you sing, think of your body as a tree. Your head is a branch with new leaves and a birds nest. Your body is the trunk with initials carved in the trunk inside a heart shape. Your feet are the roots which a small dog is using...actually, I don't think I've ever understood this one.

8. Breathe from your diaphragm. Since it isn't really possible to breathe without your diaphragm, I also encourage the use of lungs. Some teachers prefer to use clearer imagery for the instruction of breathing like "breathe from the abdominal muscles", or "breathe from your pelvic muscles." I was surprised to learn that most people in the medical profession are simply unaware of the role of the pelvic muscles in the breathing mechanism. 

9. Once you have mastered singing with proper pressure from your abdomen, imagining a large enough object in your mouth, centering the tone placement, and dropping your jaw, add vibrato. Now take it away.  Now try things in different combinations. Vibrato, a small live bird in your mouth, jaw East by Northeast, breathing with diaphragm and pelvic muscles but not abdomen. The possibilities are endlessly fun.
10. Sing in tune.

Here is the REAL Mask- and now all of you who didn't quite get all that there voice studio jargon until just this very moment ("light bulb" in Steve Carrell's character voice from Despicable Me), you can each send me one dollar:

And here is some more great input on how to get your whole body and mechanism to get those soundwaves into motion- these sounds can't be produced by amateurs:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Recent Guest Blog on ChoralNet: ACDA Los Angeles 2005

 Here is a rerun of my guest blog on ChoralNet this past Saturday. The Choral Journal cover is from back 2005 with the Disney Music Hall front and center.




The Dallas ACDA National Conference is coming soon but it's not too late to register and attend. I’m writing to encourage everyone in the choral field to attend the Dallas conference. There will be so much music to hear by so many choirs, all the way from children's groups to international touring professional choirs. There will be a performance of the Britten War Requiem which should be astounding. There are interest sessions on every imaginable topic, led by experts in the field (most of whom are very personable and fun, by the way). There are reading sessions and roundtables, and for those who may want to be on the move in regard to their career, opportunities every day to meet people from around the country and create some positive networking.
Each of us may have a different motivation for attending, but all are served by the wide range of events at a national conference. For the next few Saturdays I am going to give a personal view of amazing things that I experienced at the last four national conferences. These are personal and somewhat anecdotal, which I think can be a good thing. Sometimes the personal story garners more interest than a simple “Go to the conference” directive.
My first national conference was in Los Angeles in 2005. The weather was great and I was able to stay at my brother's house just north of LA.  This was already an improvement over things like the weather in Chicago, my hometown. At this conference there was the first performance of a piece of mine on the national ACDA level, and an amazing amount of camaraderie with my fellow composer friends, especially a small group of us who had just recently been picked up by Oxford University Press. I also got to meet Kirke Mechem and many other great people.

There were many great performances and I will share two of them with you; the first was the final Saturday night concert which held the choirs from the University of North Texas under Jerry McCoy, St. Olaf under Anton Armstrong, and LSU under Kenneth Fulton. I happened to wind up with a side balcony seat so that I could easily see the face and hands of each of these masterful conductors as they directed their choirs. Jerry McCoy especially was great fun to watch. All three choirs were amazing and I especially will remember Anton's choir holding hands and swaying as they joyously sang and danced their way through a Bach motet. After the concert I went out onto an outdoor balcony area of the Disney Concert Hall and just let all the sound that I had just heard wash over me again in my head- what a gift from those choirs to all of us in the hall that evening.
The second concert experience I am sharing was from a program by the Finnish female choir Akademiska Damkören Lyran directed by Kari Turunen. At a certain point in the concert these amazing young singers (mostly in their 20s's) started creating subtle bell overtones with their voices - it seemed like an ethereal glockenspiel was embedded into the sound and it was nothing like the very obvious overtone singing we hear today in some pieces like Sarah Hopkins' Past-Life Melodies. To hear amazing international choirs with different ideas about choral sound than we have here in the US is  another great reason to attend the upcoming conference.
So please, if you are on the fence about going to Dallas, make the decision to go and get your logistical ducks in a row- it’s not too late to make the plans. And if you are a young director who has never attended, do the same (there is even a special reception this year for younger attendees). I am sure you will have an amazing, highly rewarding experience there!
Next Saturday I will share moments from the great conference in Miami on 2007.
See you in Dallas,
Paul Carey

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Give your Valentine some Mashed Potatoes

For all you incurable romantics, here is Kokopelli from Canada singing movements 2 (Mashed Potato Love Song) and 3 (Vending Machine)  from my "Play with your Food", published by Walton. Enjoy!

The text for Mashed Potatoes is by British doctor Sydney Hoddes, who in his rabble-rousing youth hung out with the Beatles in their early days! All of Sydney's poems are about sex, food, or both. Dude has his priorities.

Lightly whipped, with a little pool of butter

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

REGISTER NOW for the ACDA National Conference

Hi all,

Just a quick post to announce that I will be blogging for ChoralNet for the next four Saturdays. I will be sharing some of my ACDA national conference memories from the last conferences (LA, Miami, OK City, and Chicago) in hopes of encouraging newbies/fence-sitters to get on down to Dallas.

In addition to my own favorite memories, would any of you like to add a short one of your own? It could be something about a performance, an amazing interest session, meeting and networking with new people, something humorous- whatever you might like to share (and I will want to use your name). Of course we will keep it G or PG rated, por favor.

And in case it has crept up on you- the early registration (a savings of $50) ends after Feb. 15th. If YOU haven't registered get on it! Here is the link to the conference page. And if you haven't read what's going on March 13th-16th, you will be amazed by this conference which is jam-packed with so much great, varied stuff!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Justin Raffa and the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers

Here's a very nice article about Justin Raffa and the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, a great group which keeps getting better and better in the Tri-Cities WA area (that's Washington state my dears, in the dry tumbleweed zone a couple hours drive east of Starbucks/Microsoft central). And I should know from tumbleweed there, as I took them on at my composer friend Reg Unterseher's house in Kennewick and lost the battle a year ago while in the area (but that's another story). 

Justin has a great knack for programming- and he's still very young- keep your eye on this guy!

 From the Tri-City Herald:


Justin Raffa has what is sometimes called a Mana personality. Such people tend to be the keepers of our collective hopes and dreams. They are charismatic and pour themselves into their pursuits. They are rare and unmistakable in their effect.

Less than five years ago, Raffa moved to the Tri-Cities from Arizona, took over the helm of what was then called Consort Columbia, changed the name to Mid-Columbia Mastersingers and quickly turned the choir into a finely polished, stylistically gorgeous ensemble.

In other words, he and the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers are a force to be reckoned with. The Tri-Cities has long had more than its fair share of excellent amateur performance groups. But Raffa evidently has his eyes on a bigger prize.

If you want to be part of the sea-change to a vibrant, Big City-style arts scene in the Tri-Cities, you won't want to miss the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers next concert, which is Feb 9-10 in Kennewick. It is beautiful and amazingly ambitious. The program is called “Double Feature” because the entire concert is comprised of pieces which are sung, unaccompanied, by two choirs of 16 singers each.

To this end, the Mid Columbia Mastersingers are joined by the Spokane Choral Artists, a talented and relatively new group founded in 2009 and directed by Max Mendez of North Idaho College.
Although it is splendid, this is not an easy concert to listen to. The works are all in non-English languages, including Latin, German, French, and Italian. The text and translations appear in the program.

In addition, the concert is supertitled. In case you have not seen this technique, it means that the English translation of the sung words will be projected onto a wall or screen above the choirs. The texts to these pieces are as beautiful and ambitious as the music and must be understood as part of the enjoyment.

Much of the music, particularly Figure Humaine – The Face of Man by Francis Poulenc, is complex, with odd and alluring harmonic changes that are immensely challenging to sing. The program also includes works by Palestrina, Schumann, Vaughn Williams, and Mascagni.
The works are very European, strong, and uplifting. It would be easy to sing them too loudly and overdramatically. But Raffa will have none of this. His choir has a rare mixture of passion and restraint. They sing in gorgeous waves of sound.

Their performance of Schumann’s Four Songs for Double Choir is particularly lovely. Their rendering of Vaughn Williams’ Mass in G Minor is a little uneven but makes up for this by being hauntingly beautiful in places.

The two choirs perform “Double Feature” on Feb. 8 in Spokane’s St. Aloysius, a Romanesque church with magnificent architectural details built during that city’s Age of Elegance. The program moves to Kennewick’s architecturally unique mid-century church, The Parish of the Holy Spirit, for the final concerts at 8 p.m. Feb. 9 with a 2 p.m. matinee Feb. 10.

Raffa gives a talk on music appreciation beginning about a half hour before the program starts, so arrive early if you want to include this in your concert experience.

Admission is $20 for adults and free for students K-12. Tickets are available at, by calling 509-460-1766, or at the door.

And if you are in the area- check out The Atomic Ale Brew Pub: 

Read more here:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Zombies + Der Rosenkavalier = Lots of Musical Fun!

I write plenty of serious music- a missa brevis for the incredible Korean choir Incheon City Chorale, a powerful setting of a war poem by Amy Lowell for the Ithaca College Choir, settings of Antonio Machado's beautiful Spanish poetry in a piece called "El Limonar Florido" (The Lemon Grove in Blossom), and a double choir reinvention of William Billings' "When Jesus Wept".  Yet many people know my humorous music the best, for instance the three movement choral cycle "Play with your Food" and its middle movement "Mashed Potato Love Poem". Another humorous piece is "God Says Yes to Me"- which proclaims God to be a woman *gasp* and a lover of jazz *gasp again*.

So recently someone was prodding me to write another humorous piece and so I began to think- what is the funniest thing you can think of, and my answer was - zombies! While I do love a cuddly, fluffy kitten, puppy, or unicorn- zombies are kinda cute and adorable too, doncha agree? And they're funny because they are so ridiculously slow, have bad skin, and moan and drool a lot. All in all, they are just so awesome.

So I decided what the heck- let's write a zombie piece. We'll let some of those other composers write their mezzopiano vertical piled-up sonic cotton candy- we'll cut to THE CHASE- the blood, gore, and yet cuteness of a pack of starving zombies. The next step was contacting my New Zealand wild man friend Oliver Twigge for some lyrics. Oliver provided the goofy yet sweet texts for the children's choir hit "Peace on Earth...and lots of little crickets" plus another recent kids choir piece. So with Oliver mulling over my lyrics request down under I also began to think- what is the most ridiculous musical  thing you could pair with an onslaught of ravenous zombies? Well how about the most purtiest music you might ever hear- the Richard Strauss "Der Rosenkavalier" waltzes? So now we had a plan- Oliver would cook up some sort of witty, yet also ridiculous text and I would pair it with Rosenkavalier tunes (hurray, Rosenkavalier is in the public domain) and we would have a good old time with this project. After awhile we realized that maybe Strauss himself could be one of the zombies, and that he, in his urbane, yet highly conceited way, would remind "normal " humans that zombies might be gourmands of the highest level and just might have feelings too, and that maybe we are the savages. Aha- a way to turn the piece on its side a bit!

My favorite Marschallin (not Martian) - Elizabeth Schwarzkopf!

So with Oliver's witty words (I think Ira Gershwin would grin at many of the rhymes), I set about finding the most delectable of the Rosenkavalier waltz tunes (a must-have was the one waltz, ascending melody in the strings, that Baron Ochs sings over) and getting crazy with the piece.

The final product (SATB/piano, not difficult) is just a few minutes long and would probably make a great final number or encore, especially for a concert of humorous music or a Halloween concert.

The piece, titled "Zombi Sing Prety Song 4 You" (yeah, zombies are spelling challenged)  is just now finished and if anyone would like to see a free perusal score, let me know. The piece is just a few minutes long and the staging  possibilities (subtle or over the top) for this piece are endless, methinks.

I won't be sending this to any publishers- I'm pretty much done dealing with them. So if you like, you can see a free perusal score and if you like the piece, get permission through me to make copies and perform it. I will be pricing this one a little lower than usual- just because it is a novelty piece and the music is Strauss's, not really mine!

Thanks for reading,


Oh yeah, if you'd like a perusal score of any of those serious pieces mentioned up top- let me know! Excuse me now, Woody and I have a bead on an abandoned Hostess Twinkies truck... see ya later.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

CD REVIEW: OF THE VALLEY, Univ. of North Dakota


University of North Dakota Concert Choir
Dr. Joshua Bronfman, director
Doug Geston, recording engineer
CDs are available by calling the UND Bookstore at (866) 791-4888.

Track List

I am the Rose of  Sharon                  Ivo Antognini
The Spheres                                   Oal Gjeilo
Pater Noster                                   Vytausas Miskinis
Otche Nash                                    Nikolai Golovanov
Crucem Tuam Adormus, Domine          Pavel Lukaszewski
War Song                                       Shin-Ichiro Ikebe
Lux Aeterna                                    Brian Schmidt
Joshua Fir the Battle                         Edwin Fissinger
O Vos Omnes                                   Richard Burchard
Signs of the Judgment                       Mark Butler

This recent release by the UND Concert Choir under Joshua Bronfman includes music they presented in a highly successful concert at the North Central ACDA conference in Madison, WI about a year ago. I was present for that concert and was thrilled to hear this fine choir and watch Bronfman in action. I had never met him before or heard this choir, so when their program was so mind-blowing I became a big fan. I then did meet Josh there at Madison and we had a nice lunch together, at which time he was able to tell me more about the choir ( strong, highly skilled and balanced musical sections from bass on up through sopranos) and about the repertoire. I am glad that this CD documents their achievements for last school year, especially their presentation of the  striking, high-octane/high decibel War Song by Shin-Ichiro Ikebe (Japanese composer, b. 1943). War Song is the composer's version of a Maori folk song from the Cook Islands. The text is essentially about the warriors  driving the devil away. Ikebe's concert version of this song could be seen as similar to an arrangement of an African-American spiritual- ie., somewhat stylized for concert use. The piece is truly breathtaking in its energy and force, perhaps a cousin to Curse Upon Iron by the Estonian composer Veljo Tormis.

The University of North Dakota Concert Choir

Backtracking to the beginning of the CD, the first five tracks preceding the boldness of the War Song seem to create a set which explores the balance between vertical/horizontal  elements (roughly, vertical = harmony; horizontal = melodic line or lines) of contemporary choral music (well yes, Bruckner is not contemporary, but he actually sounds contemporary within this context). The more horizontal pieces in the early tracks are quite successful and not weak knockoffs of the reigning king of the horizontal approach to choral writing, namely Eric Whitacre. To me there seems to be a very interesting, gradual transition from track one through track five, as each new piece Bronfman has assembled begins to pay more attention to the horizontal world,  as is obvious when we arrive at the Bruckner. Josh may have not intended this quite so obviously as I am stating it, but it was interesting for this pair of ears to hear and notice. The singing on tracks one to five is impeccable, gorgeously tuned  and still robust- Bronfman does not fall into the trap of creating wisps of unsupported sound that some other directors do when singing some of these vertical clouds of music. By the way, the title of the CD comes from a phrase in the text of track one:

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley;
The Fissinger Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho is familiar to all choral folks, and the choir does a great job with this, adding a few touches of their own and keeping it fresh. I am glad to see Bronfman placing a spiritual on the CD- spirituals seem to have fallen strongly out of favor in the university choral performance world.

Of these first five tracks I highly favor the Pater Noster by Vytautas Miskinis (Lithunian composer,
b. 1954), a marvel of odd ostinati and shifting worlds, and the Bruckner Os Justi

Two tracks don’t really do it for me (hey, I'm the choral composer blog guy- I get to freely express my opinions here). Brian Schmidt's Lux Aeterna seems too beholden to Morten Lauridsen- too many Lauridsen-like cliches or things verging on the cliche for my liking. Burchhard's O Vos Omnes is a pretty piece- but at over seven minutes I don't feel it has enough actual material ti support it that long. My opinions aside, they still are sung well and fit well into this CD.

In summation, the singing on this CD is highly musical and displays amazing attention to detail both by the singers and the director. Only rarely do you ever realize that this is an undergraduate college ensemble, not a professional choir. Bronfman's repertoire choices are intelligent, are within the scope of this choir's ability and strengths, and also, I am sure, pushed this choir to new levels. I highly recommend this CD to anyone wishing to hear some new and new-ish choral music sung very well. Bronfman is extremely talented and a young conductor you should watch for- I predict many new and wonderful achievements from him. I would also like to single out a remarkable sound engineering job by Doug Geston- bravo!

Dr. Joshua Bronfman is Associate Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of North Dakota, where he directs the UND Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, and Varsity Bards. He also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in choral conducting, choral literature and choral methods. In addition to his duties at UND, he is the Artistic Director of the Grand Forks Master Chorale, a select chamber choir. In 2005 Joshua was selected as a Conducting Fellow for the Eric Ericson Masterclass in the Netherlands, where he directed the Netherlands Chamber Choir and Netherlands Radio Choir. He is an active clinician in the region, directing honor choir festivals at the middle, high school and collegiate levels. His published articles and presentations on choral music and choral music education have reached state, regional, and national audiences. In 2011-2012, Joshua led the UND Concert Choir in a performance at the North Central American Choral Directors Association Conference, sat on a panel on the teaching of undergraduate conducting at the National Collegiate Choral Association Conference, and judged the Oregon State Choir Competition.
Dr. Joshua Bronfman

Joshua studied conducting under noted conductors such as Anton Armstrong, Bruce Brown, Rodney Eichenberger, Simon Halsey, and André Thomas. Joshua received his Ph.D. in Choral Music Education and Choral Conducting at Florida State University. Joshua received his Master's degree from Oregon State University, and his Bachelor's degree from Florida State University.