Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas: Day Two

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.
Sean Vogt
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! 

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