Here is my recap of a very busy Wednesday at the ACDA 2013 National Conference.
I started out bright and early by attending the 8 AM middle school reading session organized by my pal Gretchen Harrison. The room was overflowing by 8:10- you could feel the energy and excitement of the first full day of a national conference. I was very pleased by the quality level of all the music in this session, which did include my unison treble/piano piece “Waltzing with the Moon” (published by Roger Dean)with texts by Vachel Lindsey. The audience seemed to like this piece a lot- it has some pretty tasty harmonies and they liked Lindsey's wry whimsical texts. These are three short waltzes that link together and here is the poem of the slow middle movement:
Old Euclid drew a circle On a sand-beach long ago. He bounded and enclosed it With angles thus and so. His set of solemn greybeards Nodded and argued much Of arc and circumference, Diameter and such. A silent child stood by them From morning until noon Because they drew such charming Round pictures of the moon.
After that session I attended the Dale Warland session hosted by Settle-based composer John Muehleisen. Dale lectured on a wide variety of topics, but his main focus was how he felt
choirs, their director, and their artistic decision-makers should make choices and clearly decide on artistic priorities. Dale felt that the most important thing to do is to develop the identity of a choir (and its conductor)
by clear choices in repertoire over the long haul. Amidst his own wisdom were also excellent quotes from New England poet Donald Hall and Steve Jobs.
Dale also gave us his three pillars 1) building the instrument, ie., meaning the choir and its sound identity, 2) building the repertoire, and 3) building the conductor.
In regard to choosing singers he felt that strong musical skills could and should often trump someone who simply has a beautiful voice, and also stressed that we need to
try to create more physical free space around each of our singers. He also spoke of the need to train singers to not “sit” on long tones, and make sure that these tones were sustaining liveliness. Another area he discussed was the importance of maintaining choral beauty in very soft as well as very loud passages. There was a Q and A session toward the end which Mr. Muehleisen directed very well and the whole audience left feeling very energized by Warland's session. I especially liked that he was so relaxed and sharing in his views; one never felt as if he was lecturing or scolding people when he discussed areas where we needed to pay more attention. By the time this session ended at 11:30 AM I had already had a great day! In the early afternoon I attended John Rutter conducting the Faure Requiem and his Mass for Children. The Faure was lovely and I especially liked that Rutter was in no hurry to finish phrases, something young conductors hopefully took note of. This was the strings, four horns, and harp version which I enjoyed- others didn't like it as much but I liked the rich prominence of the horns (and the horn players were excellent). There were no empty sets for this event, in fact, ushers had to turn some people away.
At 4:30 I attended the international concert which featured three invited choirs; the six member group (using handheld mikes) Rajaton from Finland, The Phillipine Madrigal Singers
and the mens group Camerata Musica Lindburg. Rajaton was the big hit here; their amazing singing as well as a delightful stage presence (often highly comedic, as in singing Fernando by ABBA) was exceptional. One wished they would keep singing for hours. If you don't know this group,
they are a bit like The Real Group, Swingle Singers, et all- but I think they actually exceed those groups in skill and presentation. While the comedic bits were hilarious and entertaining there was also some really expressive soul-searching singing, especially by lead soprano Essi Wuorela.
After a quick dinner I was supposed to go to the 8 PM performance in the Winspear Opera House but I decided to come in late for that for a very good reason: starting at 7:45 my friend Sean Vogt was to play a short program on the world-class pipe organ across the way in the Meyerson Concert Hall. So I got in early to make sure I didn't miss any of Sean's program, which was French music, including a delightful set of variations on an old Christmas tune.I was able to sit with Stephen Town, who I know from NCCO and whose new book on English music I have recently reviewed here. Sean ended his program with a hymn tune for the audience members to sing on, and I left the hall glad that I had attended- I am a big lover of classical pipe organ and Sean is truly a master. To read more about the Meyerson instrument go here.
|The Meyerson Fisk Organ- yes, those are 32' pipes!|
I was able to get into the Winspear space in time to hear a great set by California State Fullerton University Singers led by Robt Istad. Their singing was wonderful and their program was very creative- with a very skilled and gutsy string section they presented three movements of Part's Berliner Messe and jumped in attaca(!) into a chorus of Bach's from Christ Lag in Todebanden. The juxtaposition of Part to this Bach was shocking and amazingly effective- bravo for making a daring choice and not playing it conservatively in the realm of a national conference. The set ended with a composer underrepresented on concert programs around the US- Tarik O'Regan and excerpts from his Triptych for SATB and strings. The choir and strings tackled this work with energy and great skill- they received a well-deserved
standing ovation. Congrats to Istad and his choir- I hope to hear more performances by this group in the near future.
This concert ended close to 10 PM, but there was still more to do- this was the evening called Media Noche de Loca (Midnight Madness) where ACDA exhibitors get their most attention. There was food and drinks and a great strolling mariachi band. I met old friends, made new ones,and like everyone, finally met a few people who until Dallas were only e-mail or FaceBook colleagues. After Midnight Madness it was time for a bit more socializing in the pub and then bedtime for anyone who might want to get up in a few hours and do it all over again! COMING UP: Thursday ACDA, including the interest session I presented and a monumental performance of the Britten War Requiem
APOLOGY: My computer has been buggy and I apologize for the odd sentence and paragraph spacing/formatting you see here today!