Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas- Saturday


As I stated in the previous blog entry, I had to leave Dallas early Saturday to get back to Chicago for a commission premiere. I was sad to leave Dallas and its warm weather, its amazing Arts District of grand performance spaces and excellent art museums, and a variety of dining offerings, but we composers need to be at premieres! So my good friend Reg Unterseher is guest blogging about Saturday, the last day of the Dallas conference. 

Reg Unterseher


Reg is a very cool guy- he has a great baritone voice, wonderful chops as a composer (he is Washington State Music Teachers' Association Composer of the Year for 2013), and is quite visionary about the future of choral music. He is also NW Division Men's R and S chair, and sings with MEN- Male Ensemble Northwest, a truly great group. Reg's website is here. Here is Reg's recap of his Saturday in Dallas:

By the time the last day of any ACDA National Conference rolls around, my ears are full and my body is spent. Saturday in Dallas was no exception. My day started with an 8 AM Men's Chorus Reading session. I am NW Division Men's Choirs R and S chair, so I conducted a couple of pieces. The thing that especially made it worth waking up for was the inclusion of the Turtle Creek Chorale (directed by Trey Jacobs), who served as demonstration choir for three pieces. 

Trey Jacobs


The use of demonstration choirs is something that I think improves the usefulness and musicality of reading sessions. Turtle Creek Chorale stayed for the R and S roundtable session, where they sang some more and took part in the discussion of why men sing, how to get and keep men singing, and how a community of choral singers can have such a huge impact on a person's life. They brought me to tears several times with their stories and their singing.

By the time that session was over, I was even more wrung out, physically and emotionally. Even though there were marvelous choirs on the next scheduled concert, I decided to pace myself and headed to the food trucks instead of the Opera House.



Ah, the Dallas food trucks, and yet also a nod to the goodness that was the Dragonfly Bar at Hotel Zaza (order the Moscow Mule off the drink menu also the Wasabi Wonton Potato Pouches). These trucks were a wonderful aspect of the conference both for the varied and good food and the social aspects. I loved the Ssahm BBQ truck, with their fusion Tex-Korean Daeji and Ddak tacos and kimchee fries. I did not try the bacon wrapped hot dog, but it got my attention. My other favorite was the Cajun Tailgaters truck with the crawfish pistolette, red beans and rice. I did not sample from every truck, so maybe what would have been my favorite passed me by. That’s the way it is with so many things at these conferences, you can't do everything. In any case, with the weather so perfect, I frequently found myself at the picnic tables, in conversation with interesting people who I had never met before and felt like instant friends.

The early Saturday afternoon Gold Track concert in Meyerson featured mixed choirs from Florida State directed by Kevin Fenton, the Fullerton College Chamber Singers directed by John Tebay, and the Kennesaw State Men's Ensemble directed by Leslie Blackwell. I loved the whole thing--varied, excellently prepared, visually interesting without becoming gimmicky; all three choirs exhibiting different ways to be wonderful. My R and S responsibilities will show in my particular enjoyment of the men's ensemble. I had attended Dr. Nicole Lamartine's excellent session on Wednesday morning on women conducting men's ensembles, and Dr. Blackwell's leadership was a great example of how successful this can be. I loved their literature and the creative use of unusual percussion sounds without it turning into a percussion concert.


Nicole Lamartine








Leslie Blackwell


By this time I was starting to feel the onset of a cold, and I had heard so many performances of depth and power that I was considering calling it good and skipping the last concert. In my defense for even considering such a thing, it was my second National Conference of the week, as I had been at the MTNA Conference in Anaheim for four days before coming to Dallas. I had a student in the Senior Voice Finals there, and I am very proud to say she took third place. The opportunity to hear the Tallis Scholars live, though, was too great an opportunity to pass up. I considered hopping tracks to hear them in the glorious acoustic of Myerson Symphony Hall, but had to weigh that against how I felt physically. I bit the bullet and headed to my hotel room to lie down for an hour before hearing them in the Winstead Opera House at the evening performance.

Feeling much better for having taken the break, I arrived early and found myself in the company of Bruce Browne, Kevin Memley, and Ethan Sperry. I am constantly amazed at the brilliant, open, friendly folks I am allowed to rub shoulders with at ACDA, such a treat. We were in the center close to the front, which we all felt was the best place to hear well in Winstead. In Meyerson, I loved sitting on the side in the box seats, where I could both see well and almost watch the sound swirl around the hall and perfectly tail off towards heaven through that dome above the balcony. Getting to hear the organ in those AGO sponsored pre-concert mini-concerts was fantastic, BTW.

The first chorus, the University of Delaware Chorale directed by Paul Head, had well-balanced literature, from Byrd to Bruckner to modern composers, including some that I did not know but will now look out for. They gave an energetic, excellent performance.


The second chorus was the San Antonio Chamber Choir directed by Scott MacPherson. I was immediately struck with the richness of the sound, especially the basses, in a room that seemed to me to favor the upper voices. They had a mature sound, a rich and dense program, different than any of the other programs I heard. I always love the infinite variety of excellence that can exist, and how different choirs can sound so different from each other and still be spectacular.


Scott MacPherson


Then, the Tallis Scholars came out on stage and began singing what was for me the standout performance of the entire conference. A quick aside—I tried something for all the concerts that I had never done before, which was to not take or read any programs, just listen to the music and watch the performance to see if this reduced the influence of my prejudices. I would not do this every conference, but I am glad I tried it. They began with Palestrina, as so many things should. It was fascinating to hear them take a few bars to really find each other's voices in the hall, having just come from singing the same program in the very different acoustic environment of Meyerson. It was, of course, well sung right from the start, but then it became almost miraculous. Next, they sang the piece commissioned for their 40th anniversary season, Whitacre's "Sainte-Chapelle." I am glad to say that it was truly crafted for the approach, sound, and programming of the Tallis Scholars, starting with a chant melody that moved into contrapuntal textures and allusions. It was not just another series of cluster chords, something I had heard more than enough of by the end of the conference, though by the middle it was identifiably a Whitacre piece and did have plenty of his signature harmonic structure and movement.

The Tallis Scholars



Then, the Pärt Nunc Dimittis-from the first bar, my eyebrows went up at the thought of doing this piece with just ten singers. It was a revelation, in so many ways. When the C# Major “Lumen” progression rang that room, I could not breathe for a few seconds. I could feel the sound in my whole body. Now, I had happily felt the power of opening up the floodgates of a large chorus many times during the conference, but this was different. True, they were singing with full resonance, but it was not the volume that gave it such power. It was the alignment, balance, and connectedness of the sound. I will remember that sound, I can still hear it in my head. In the whole conference, those 15 seconds were the absolute peak for me. When Pärt writes a major chord, it sounds more major than when anyone else does. I feel like now I know what a major chord really sounds like.

From the Pärt Nunc they took us straight into the Palestrina Nunc, perfect Palestrina bookends. When they were done, the audience of course would not sit down or stop clapping until they came out for an encore. The Tallis “Loquebantur variis linguis” was another perfect choice. With its unapologetic dissonances, it sounds timeless.

These three choirs of the last concert represented so well for me three very important faces of choral music--the energy of a large ensemble of young singers, the depth of a medium sized group of mature singers, and the pinnacle of what a world-class, targeted, visionary small ensemble can achieve.

COMING UP NEXT: Uncle Paul's short recap of the whole conference, with shout-outs to some of the people who made this whole thing happen.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas

The Friday evening concert at the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas held three choirs- the Union High School Chamber Choir from Vancouver, WA directed by Mikkel Iverson; Chroma, the womens ensemble of Seattle Pro Musica directed by Karen Thomas; and the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg. The Cardinal Singers were happy to be back from Vatican City after electing a new pope.

Union High School presented a program of music all by living Washington state composers. The choir sang with great skill and confidence and as each piece finished the audience grew more and more enthusiastic. A new Ethan Sperry Indian-influenced piece in manuscript titled Albela Sjan was led by a tabla player with great effect- this will no doubt be another hit for Ethan.

Ethan Sperry

The totally engaged audience spurred the choir on and by the time this program ended with two movements of John Muehleisen's Eat your Vegetables (very campy in the best sense of the word) it was obvious that this choir was on a par with many a university choir. Iverson and the choir are high-achievers and it was an absolute delight to hear a fine high school ensemble singing advanced, adventurous (yet still appropriate for their age) music. I would also like to applaud the composers on this program for cultivating their own voice- I heard no blatant Lauridsen or Whitacre imitations, and also generally  heard no blandly simplistic forms of homophonic music. This concert made all the many ACDA members in attendance from Washington state and the Northwest division quite proud.

Mikkel Iverson

The NW flavor continued with one of the few women's ensembles at this years conference, Chroma directed by Karen Thomas. Their program was probably the most adventurous one I heard in the whole conference. Some of the pieces were moderately avant-garde which something really missing from this conference- most of the "new" music on programs were safe plays and, again, mostly homophonic pandiatonicism in one way or another). Thomas led the ensemble with great skill and the ensemble was an apt model of the new sound that has developed in women's choirs in the last 10-15 years- strong, full-bodied women's voices covering large territories of tessitura and dynamic range. To me the highlight of their program was an odd, very subdued and mysterious setting of the Charles Orleans text Quant j'ai ouy le tabourin. The choral tone palette of the choir here was mystical and intimate. Thomas' own Wild Nights, a setting Emily Dickinson's R-rated poem was passionate and - oh yeah, sexy and wild! The group then finished their set with a rollicking Bulgarian folk song sung expertly in the style made famous by the Bulgarian State Radio Female Vocal Choir. Thomas displayed expertise in this, to many, unusual singing style both in this concert as well as in her "Into the Mind" session a day earlier. This was another state of Washington triumph.


Karen Thomas

The evening ended with a performance by one of the premiere choral ensembles in the country, the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg. This was the third time I have heard them- the first time was an epic all-Baltic program at the ACDA 2009 Southern Division conference and their more recent NCCO performance here. For this evening Hatteberg once again showed his great knowledge of current  non-American choral repertoire. The program opened with a piece I am a big fan of- Josep Vila i Casana's Salve, Regina, which I first heard in a performance at the Western division conference of 2010 in Tucson directed by Brady Allred (review here). There is an absolutely magical passage when Casanas music becomes mesmerizingly polytonal. This is no bland,  accidental pandiatonic collision of notes, but true dissonance created by clashing chords. This Salve, Regina is something more conductors need to discover. After some great Monteverdi and Max Reger, an actual four-part fugue broke out (it was kind of like a fugue flashmob, man) in Swedish composer Michael Waldenby's Hominus dies. While the piece seemed a bit too long and not that great, I was pleasantly shocked to hear some- wait for it- REAL COUNTEPOINT! Hurray to Hatteberg for presenting such a musical curiosity. The entire program was excellent and beautifully sung- that's what this choir does! If you have never heard them, try to find a way to get to one of their concerts. Bravo to Hatteberg for being one of standard-setters not only in choral sound but also in presenting high quality repertoire, much  off it off the proverbially beaten path.


Kent Hatteberg
My evening ended with a visit to the NCCO (National Collegiate Choral Organization) reception where I had a chance to chat with cool folks like Josh Bronfman, Steve Grives, Steven Sametz, Giselle Wyers, as well as Mike Murphy from Idaho who I had not yet met. The NCCO reception was great and we all look forward to the NCCO conference in late October in Charleston, South Carolina hosted by Rob Taylor and of course led by current president Lisa Graham.

ADDENDUM to any earlier blog: During the Friday afternoon gold track concert Tim Sharp gave a state of ACDA address. It was pretty positive information about membership, initiatives and so on. Tim has led this group so successfully into the twenty-first century and has expanded the association into global initiatives and collaborations. Bravo, Tim and and to all at the national office in OKC. Tim also announced that the Brock commission composer for 2013 will be Alice Parker and for the 2014 national conference in Salt Lake City the composer will be Jake Heggie- quality folks, although Heggie has written very little choral music.

I had to leave early Saturday morning to get back to Chicago for the premiere of a new commission later on that day. I went from 75 degrees and sunny in Dallas to 25, cloudy, windy, and the streets filled with 20-somethings who had already been drinking way too much cheap beer in "celebration" of  St. Paddy's Day. The shift in weather was a shock, but the drinking wasn't. I'm pretty much used to seeing the ridiculous drinking that goes on here on St Paddy's Day-ugh. So......

COMING UP: The final day of ACDA 2013 in Dallas from guest-blogger Reg Unterseher. Reg has some good stuff for you (including some great insight into listening to The Tallis Scholars), and I think he's a better writer than me- so enjoy this when I post it!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas: Friday

Friday at ACDA in Dallas

Friday morning for me began with attending the two year college reading session. The session was well-attended and the music was all quite good; once again, another quality reading session.

Next up I attended Debra Spurgeon's interest session which centered on the release of her new book "Conducting Women's Choirs: Strategies for Success" (published by GIA). You can read my review of this book here. Debra was able to gather all but one of her chapter writers for this session. Those attending were Hilary Apfelstadt, Lynne Gackle, Lori Hetzel, Mary Hopper, Iris Levine, Jeannette MacCallum, Janna Montgomery, Joelle Norris, Sandra Peter, Sandra Snow, Phillip Swan, and Shelby Wahl. Nancy Menk was not available as she was on tour with her choir. Debra was kind enough to also acknowledge other contributors to the book who were in attendance such as myself, Joan Szymko, Carol Barnett, and Sharon Paul.



Debra had each chapter author give a thumbnail sketch of their contribution and the session went very well and was highly attended. I especially liked Jeannette McCallum's words about the Venetian ospedali and her negative view toward pieces presented these days for women's choirs made available by composers and publishers which are just poor rewrites of SATB music (this is a pet peeve of mine as well, and I talk about it in the interview Nancy Menk did with me for the book).

After the session ended all the authors and their audience walked over to the GIA booth where they sold and signed the book for those who wanted a copy. I dropped over  an  hour later after and they were still signing books! For those of you who work with women's choirs, you really should buy this wonderful book.

I skipped the 2 PM concert in order to continue doing some off the beaten track activities. I attended a Paul Head/University of Delaware session of "Into the Mind"; these are thirty minute informal sessions with directors performing at the conference (usually with their choir in attendance)  talking about the music they are doing and details of their work. These session also provided some Q and A time as well. Head's session was quite good and the Swiss composer Ivo Antognini was there since Head was doing a piece of his- Ivo proved to be quite a sweet guy. He even stood up and directed the choir for a bit and admitted he had never directed a choir before- it was a cute moment.

Paul Head

I had also earlier attended two other "Into the Mind" sessions. They were Karen Thomas' excellent session with her women's choir Chroma where Karen talked about their repertoire, including the tone-color requirements of singing Bulgarian folk music and Jerry McCoy's session where he shared all sorts of great details and tips on how to successfully record your choir and choose your repertoire in order to gain a slot on a divisional or national conference concert session.  For those in the audience Jerry's tips were great info. The Into the Mind sessions were new for ACDA- I think they are a keeper.

After Head's session I went and watched Ken Fulton work with young collegiate conducting students. The repertoire they were working on were the openings of the Faure and Durufle Requiems. Fulton was great to watch and the main thing he kept stressing to the young conductors was to not rush these openings, especially not to be in such a gosh darn hurry at cadences, and to keep soft dynamic levels under control. Each conductor did a great job and I believe they left with some new ideas from Fulton.

The 4:30 concert session was excellent. Phillip Brunelle's Vocalessence sang an unusual program of music in Spanish, much of it from the New World. Vocalessence sang this program very well. The same was true of the Houston Chamber Choir directed by Robert Simpson They sang a quite difficult program with great skill and a very broad dynamic range. The focus of their program was Dominic DiOrio's kaleidoscopic "A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass" for SATB and marimba. Those of you looking for a fine choral piece with percussion by a rising young composer should definitely look at this piece (published by G. Schirmer catalog #HL 50498607.

Dominic DiOrio

The absolute highlight to me of this conference (other than the War Requiem) was the performance on this session by the Pacific Lutheran University Choir of the West directed by Richard Nance. Here is their program:

Exultate                                 by Brian Galante
When David Heard                  by Thoma Weelkes
Luxuriosa Res                        by Zdenek Lukas
Sept Chansons                       by Francis Poulenc
(three of these were sung)
Northern Light                        by Eriks Esenvalds
So I'll Sing with my Voice        by Dominick Argento

Galante's Exultate was full of prismatic color and energy. This is a very exciting new piece in manuscript by Brian and I would love to hear it again. The choir sang this excellent concert opener with energy and precision. The Weelkes was a perfect contrast, sombre yet still full of wonderful richness. The chansons by Poulenc are filled with potential tuning landmine issues, yet this choir never faltered as they traversed passages which have tripped up many a good choir. The French diction was perfect. Northern Lights was a premiere with the composer in presence all the way over from Europe. This was an amazing piece and utilized tuned water glasses and hand chimes. The texts were creatively assembled (I am sorry I cannot give accurate details of them as I seem to be missing my concert program) and the piece displayed a creative, individual voice, something we all are hoping to hear from composers. Esenvalds has used choir and handbells for concert music before to great effect- I would just hope that he does this only occasionally and not overuse the idea.

Brian Galante

Eriks Esenvalds (apparently looking up at King Kong?)

The concert ended with a delightful tune by Argento in the style of an Alice Parker spiritual. As this amazingly varied program ended the audience erupted into wild applause- the conducting was masterful yet never got in the way of the choir or the scores, and the singing was perfection in every detail. Dynamics ranged from a hush to a roar, diction was perfect, tone quality changed from piece to piece, and phrasing was always natural and fluid. I think everyone in the audience knew they had just heard a performance of a lifetime by Nance and the choir. I saw Richard later that night and he indeed called it the highlight of his career!

Richard Nance


COMING UP: FRIDAY EVENING CONCERT AND THE NCCO RECEPTION

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas- Thursday Evening

Thursday Afternoon and Evening

My Thursday afternoon was taken up in meetings with Roger Dean/Lorenz, my main publisher (other than my current drive toward more self-publishing) as well as talks with various conductors. I missed a few performances but they were mostly choirs I have already heard and like- the Crystal Children's Choir comes to mind, what a great group (catch them sometime).

Thursday evening for gold track folks like myself held the Brock Commission premiere of Steven Stucky's "Take Him, Earth" and the Britten "War Requiem". Reg Unterseher and I were there early enough to grab some great seats (lower balcony front row) and the concert was one to remember for a lifetime. Stucky's elegiac piece is dedicated to John F. Kennedy (and we are in the 50th anniversary of the assassination right there in Dallas) yet is universal in text choice- JFK is never mentioned directly in the texts. The texts are quite sublime and highly expressive. They are by Aurelius, Aeschylus, Prudentius, and Shakespeare. The Shakespeare quote is from act two of Romeo and Juliet (cited by Robert F. Kennedy a few months after JFK's death):

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Steven Stucky


I liked this piece very much but it really needs more than one hearing to grasp. That is a good thing, I hope you will agree. I would like to be able to explore its nuances AND understand its main arc through more listenings. The piece is for SATB and nine instruments- two violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, and horn (I do not know if there is or will be a performance version with piano only). The ensemble under Craig Jessop was impeccable and the singers- well, let's talk about that. I was amazed to note in an emergency ACDA NW posting I saw to learn (just about two days before the conference) that due to the government financial sequester that the choirs who had been rehearsing in DC with Jessop and who were to perform this piece (and the JFK tribute at the JFK memorial on Friday), namely THE JOINT SERVICE CHORUS (members of the Air Force Singing Sergeants, Army Chorus, and Navy Sea Chanters) were forbidden to make the trip to Dallas. This very late governmental decision would have hamstrung anyone else but musicians. Instead of giving up on performing these pieces, Tim Sharp, Karen Fulmer, Terry Price (and I don't know who else?) put out a call to ACDA members with high skill sets to see if ACDA could still go ahead with these performances. Who else but classically trained singers could dare to do such a thing (does the general public have any real idea about how highly skilled many of us are)? About 40 singers rallied to the cause immediately and I must tell you that their singing was exceptional, and highly artistic and expressive. No one on the planet would have guessed that these amazing singers had not seen these scores until about 48-72 hours before the premiere of the Stucky on Thursday night. I am amazed by what they achieved- they had only one rehearsal on each piece!

The Britten War Requiem followed. I had only heard it once before live, and was really excited to be able to hear this piece in such a venue and with such great performers. I believe most of the orchestra were members of the Dallas Symphony. The Dallas Symphony Chorus directed by Josh Habermann and the Childrens Chorus of Greater Dallas, directed by Cynthia Nott, made up the choral forces. The conductor was Craig Jessop and the soloists were Barbara Shirvis, soprano; Stanford Olsen, tenor; and Philip Cutlip, baritone.

Craig Jessop
I had never seen Jessop conduct with such amazing grand scope and yet still fine detail- this was a conducting performance for the ages. Shirvis, singing from the midst of the balcony chorus area was magical and her voice awe-inspiring in its clarity and power. Olsen and Cutlip sang the most heart-wrenching parts of the piece, and were equally up to the task.

Both the adult chorus and the children chorus were extraordinary- this was choral singing on a level you rarely hear. Every syllable of every word was important, every phrase sung with nuance, every part of the story told. Bravo to Josh and Cynthia- and everyone felt the same as I, the extra bows for them and the choirs were numerous. I hope that the children in Cynthia's choir know what this evening meant to all of us hearing them. What a great bunch of young people, many of whom I saw outside later on and who were all beaming with pride. Finally, the orchestra played with passion and pathos. The chamber orchestra toward the front of the stage was especially expressive and magical- this group is made up of almost the same instruments as the small group for the Stucky (with harp added). Their virtuosity was remarkable. So I think that by now you understand that this concert was epic in proportion (and that I am running out of adjectives!). One last note- as the piece ended in pianissimo, Jessop touched his fingers together in the air to hold and then very slowly release the last sound. But even yet he had only released the musicians- not the audience- he then held that position for a very long time and there was not a noise in the hall until he finally released this fingertip pose/gesture. Even then silence remained for awhile, and in a sense, time stood still, we were all so entranced and overwhelmed by the soul of this great piece. Finally there was thunderous applause, and the many curtain calls lasted for a very long time. Special applause and hollers went to the childrens choir, a very touching way for us as an adult audience to recognize their artistry. Bravo to all.

Joshua Habermann



Cynthia Knott


My evening ended with a trip to the President's Reception (this would be through invitation of incoming president Karen Fulmer who led the planning for this great conference) way up on one of the top floors of the Sheraton (nice view!). I was happy to see very cool people there including many folks from IFCM and foreign countries as well as folks I already knew well  like Rick Bjella, Karyl Carlsen, Mary Hopper, and others. I was also happy to get a chance to meet Susan Knight from the Festival 500 organization, someone I had been wanting to meet for quite awhile.


So that was my Thursday at ACDA- it was aboutt sixteen hours of great activities!

COMING UP: FRIDAY AT ACDA, including an absolutely astounding performance by the Pacific Lutheran University choir under Richard Nance

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Try to catch the Bemidji State U Choir on tour NOW

Bemidji Choir Spring Tour 2013

The Bemidji Choir and Chamber Singers, under the direction of Dr. P. Bradley Logan,will embark on a fall concert tour, March 20-24. The tour will consist of daytime concert/workshops at high schools along with public concerts.

Public concert locations are:

March 21: St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Roseville, MN (1660 W. County Road B) - 7:30 PM
March 22: Monticello High School, Monticello, MN (5225 School Blvd.) - 7:30 PM
March 23: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Crosby, MN (617 Poplar Street) - 12:30 PM
March 24: Bemidji State University Main Theatre - 3:00 PM

High school concert/workshops will be held at:
Grand Rapids High School, Hibbing High School, Duluth East High School, and St. Michael’s/Albertville High School.

TOUR PROGRAM

BEMIDJI CHOIR
A Simple Alleluia  by Andrew Miller
When David Heard  by Thomas Weelkes
Hosanna to the Son of David by Orlando Guibbons
Lord, How Long Wilt Thou Be Angry? by Henry Purcell
Fishing In the Keep of Silence   by Paul Carey
The Choir Invisible by Ron Harris
My Spirit Sang All Day by Gerald Finzi
Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal  arr Alice Parker
De Profundis by Aaron McDerimd
Christ Is Arisen by Ludwig Lenel
Set Me As a Seal  by Rene Clausen
Danny Boy  arr. Peter Knight

CHAMBER SINGERS
Crucifixus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Antonio Lotti
Three Love Songs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kenneth Neufeld
I. They Know Not My Heart
II. The Young, May Moon
III. O Doubt Me Not

Concerts are free of charge and open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken at each performance to help defray tour expenses.

[FROM PAUL:  My "Fishing in the Keep of Silence" is a premiere. You can read more about it here ]
 


THE BEMIDJI CHOIR, founded in 1937 by Carl O. Thompson, has gained an international reputation for excellence. Under the direction of his successor, Dr. Paul Brandvik, the choir represented the United States five times at the international choral festival, The Europa Cantat: in France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain. They have appeared in the Israel Festival and at the Zimriya, World Festival of Choirs in Israel. They have also performed at national and regional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the Music Educators National Conference. 



In addition to concerts, tours, and recordings, the choir has produced a series of Madrigal Dinners for forty-four years.

Under the direction of Dr. Logan, since 1998, The Bemidji Choir has performed for the 2003 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Convention in New York City, the 2002 ACDA North Central Division Convention in Des Moines, IA, the 2002, 2006, 2010 Minnesota Music Educators Association Conventions, the 2006 North Dakota Music Educators Convention, and the 2001 Minnesota ACDA Convention. On April 15, 2002, The Bemidji Choir presented a concert in Carnegie Hall, New York.

On the international scene the 2000-2001 choir toured Italy, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Concerts included the Third International Festival of Choirs in Siena, Italy, and a performance for Pope John Paul in Rome. The 2004-2005 choir toured Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic including a concert at the Röthenburg Choral Festival in Röthenburg, Germany. The 2007-2008 choir toured Scotland and England. Performance sites included York Minster Cathedral, Coventry Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral (Oxford), St. Paul’s Cathedral (London), and Westminster Abbey (London). The 2010-2011 choir toured Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Performances sites included St. Thomas Church (Leipzig), St. Nicholas Church and St. Vitus Cathedral (Prague), St. Ann’s Church and St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Vienna), and Keiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Berlin).


CHAMBER SINGERS isan ensemble of fifteen singers chosen by audition from the membership of The Bemidji Choir. They specialize in literature for small choirs, such as English carols, renaissance madrigals, and chansons, and a wide variety of contemporary works. During fall semester they serve as the Royal Court for BSU’s annual Madrigal Dinners.

Under the direction of Dr. Logan, the Chamber Singers have performed at the 2002 ACDA North Central Division Convention, the 2001 Minnesota ACDA Convention, the 2006 North Dakota Music Educators Convention, and the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Minnesota Music Educators Conventions.




DR. P. BRADLEY LOGAN, is Professor of Music, and Director of Choral Activities at Bemidji State University, where he conducts TheBemidji Choir and Chamber Singers, teaches conducting, choral studies, and applied voice. He has served on the faculties of the University of Montevallo, Louisiana College, California State University, Long Beach, and Pelham High School. Dr. Logan holds his B.S. in Vocal Music Education from North Dakota State University, his M.A. in Choral Music from California State University, Long Beach, and his D.M.A. in Choral Conducting and Literature from the University of Illinois.

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas

Thursday Morning at the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas

Well this was my big day- the panel session I proposed to ACDA over a year ago and which was accepted to be presented was set for this day at 10:30 AM. Was I nervous abut this? You betcha. And had I been nervous about it off and on for weeks? Again, a big yes.

But first I made myself get up and go to Our Lady of Guadeloupe Cathedral (I have a soft part in my heart for that lady) to attend the women's choir reading session, as I have a big personal investment in the world of women's choirs (I founded and directed a professional women's choir in Chicago back a  few years ago and have written dozens of pieces specifically for women's voices). This 8 AM session was heavily attended (awesome, as many of us are just not 8 AM people) and Iris Levine and her division R and S people did a great job leading the session. I was especially proud to see my pal Lisa Fredenburgh leading some pieces and was very impressed by Janice Vlachos' skills at the piano. This was the second reading session I had attended that was far above and beyond the usual mediocre reading session experience that many of us have come to hate. Bravo to all involved.

Once this was done, I really had to vamoose back to the Sheraton to get all my ducks in a row for my session. There were handouts to grab from my room and get into place, panel members to brief for one last time, and of course last minute snafus- when we showed up at the space there was only one mike and it was tethered into the audience area. Between me, the session presenter Joan Catoni Conlon, and session fixer-upper Tom Shelton we got the Sheraton to get us two more mikes pronto- thanks to Joan and Tom!

Before I go any further, here is the handout from our session- I hope you may explore some of the links here!


2013 ACDA INTEREST SESSION
Paradigm Shift:
The New Conductor/Composer Dynamic

Thursday 10:30 A.M.
Sheraton Hotel - San Antonio Ballroom


MODERATOR: PAUL CAREY

PANELISTS: ABBIE BETINIS
DR.BUDDY JAMES
DR. DEBORAH SIMPKIN KING
JOAN SZYMKO
REGINALD UNTERSEHER

WEBSITES/RESOURCES:


National Collegiate Choral Organization Music Series: http://www.ncco-usa.org/ncms/

NW ACDA e-publishing reading session article (plus more) by Reg Unterseher:

NJ American Guild of Organists paperless reading session of new works, held in Feb 2013
by NJ ACDA board member Steven Russell: https://www.facebook.com/events/205885122883082/

Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde (Paige Mathis, dir.) Composer Next Door Series
blog at : http://ayscomposerproject.blogspot.com/


COMPOSER WEBSITES/BLOGS OF INTEREST:



Paul Carey's choral music blog: http://paulcarey440.blogspot.com/



Independent Music Publishers: www.imp.coop (music of Abbie Betinis, Joan Szymko, Edie Hill,
J. David Moore, Elizabeth Alexander, Jocelyn Hagen, Linda Tutas Haugen, and Timothy C. Takash)


As our start time of 10:30 approached we saw that we had a great turnout, even though there were many other very interesting sessions competing against us for attendees. We jumped into our topic with glee and everything went very well. My panel members were gregarious, entertaining, and thoughtful, and my batch of second round questions for them didn't even have to be pulled out- each panel member was so good AND passionate about their subject that I didn't have to worry about the session stagnating or becoming boring.

I also worked hard to maintain some time toward the end for Q and A, even though I failed to preserve as much time as I really wanted for this. The real mark of success to me was this astounding fact- after the session was over, at least half of the audience stayed and talked to me and the panel for an hour after the session ended. I had never seen this happen before, usually people get up and leave and go onto something else. But we had provided so many great new ideas that people wanted to stay and talk about them, and also share their own insight into the new ways that composers and conductors are working together.

Deborah Simpkin King, Buddy James, Joan Szymko, and Reg Unterseher




I was thrilled to greet some folks from the audience afterwards who I had no idea would be there - people like Kathleen Skinner of the excellent Canadian group Kokopelli (who have performed my music), Paige Mathis, and many more. I was also pleased that many fine composers such as Sydney Guillaume, Paul Aitken, Joe Gregorio, John Muelheisen, the amazing Donald Fraser (we visited the pub afterward!), and my Irish friend Michael McGlynn were there too- and I was glad to meet, for the first time, young composers like Jake Runestad and Joni Jenson. I was also happy for the support that someone as experienced as Joan Catoni Conlon could provide- I sense that Joan liked our session and she was in support of what we were discussing. Thank you, Joan! Also Philip Copeland was in attendance- Philip has been an outspoken supporter of new ideas through his posts in ChoralNet in the last few years. I hope that Philip will soon start posting more on whatever topics interest him- he has a great mind.

Just so you know, here are the main topics that each person covered:


Reg Unterseher discussed the first-ever paperless composer/conductor collaborative reading session, held by NW ACDA. Reg humorously also noted that on the very same day Steven Russell held an almost identical event on the east coast.


Joan Szymko related how the use of Skype is revolutionizing the ability of choirs to work more directly with composers and she discussed some of her projects she is currently working on that related to our topic.


Deborah Simpkin King talked about her Project Encore- a database and advocacy for second performances of important works beyond their premiere performance. This was big news to most everyone in the room. Deborah has also told me that interest in her project has exploded since the interest session was held.


Buddy James talked about NCCO (National Collegiate Choral Organization) and its publishing venture which is publishing and promoting works of high quality with the composer receiving all revenue after costs. Once again, most of the people in the room did not know about this endeavor.


Abbie Betinis talked about IMP, the Independent Music Publishers co-op that she and others founded not long ago and which has been very successful.

All in all, I believe the session was a massive success and I want to publicly thank Buddy James, Deborah Simpkin King, Joan Szymko, Reg Unterseher, and Abbie Betinis for a job truly well done. I hope to continue working with these folks in any way I can over the next decade. I also want to publicly thank Tom Merrill who guided this session and all its details over the last 12 months- Tom you were great to me. And I would also like to thank Joan Conlon and Tom Shelton for their support as well. Also thanks to Howard Meharg for the photos you see here.

COMING UP: THE REST OF THURSDAY NOW THAT THE PRESSURE WAS OFF!
THIS NEXT POST WILL INCLUDE THE EPIC BRITTEN WAR REQUIM PERFORMANCE

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! 
 






Monday, March 18, 2013

Recap of the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas

Recap of the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas

DAY ONE: TUESDAY

Last Tuesday I left the delightful 35 degree and drizzly mecca of Chicago to go to the ACDA National Conference in Dallas. After landing there I discovered that it was about 72 degrees and sunny in Dallas, a horrific environment which we all had to endure during the entire conference- in fact, by Friday the thermometer was flirting with 80 degrees and actual flowers were blooming. I was happy to leave Saturday morning so that I could get back to Chicago for a commission premiere and my city's lovely 20 degrees and delightfully gray skies. Despite the awful weather in Dallas, I did discover one natural element I liked, namely the brown-headed cowbirds which flitted around downtown. I wasn't familiar with these feathery fowls and their love of screeching and imitating sounds in their environment. In fact at one point one of these birds did a perfect (and quite loud) imitation of the Dallas trolley car bells plus the screeching of brakes!



As many of you know, when I do these recaps it is admittedly my personal take and experience, I don't try to be all-encompassing and so on. And this particular conference was a bit weird for me- I came nowhere near to hearing all the choirs since I chose some other activities to try out, plus I had a number of formal and informal meetings with publishers, conductors and so on. I also missed all of Saturday (as mentioned above) and thus my posts will be incomplete, although I think I may have a guest blogger covering events from Saturday.

On Tuesday after checking in at the Sheraton (a nice hotel) I walked west about a mile to the Sixth Floor Museum, the infamous Texas school book depository where Lee Harvey occupied the 6th floor in order to assassinate JFK. The museum was very busy and the audio/headphone guide plus all the wall placards and video displays were excellent. Even now I can't quite find the adjectives to describe how it felt to be there on the sixth floor, seeing the corner where Oswald shot from (it is plexiglassed off) and looking out the windows to see where JFK's car was when this all happened. I was also surprised to see that the grassy knoll is a tiny area, and it is obvious that this was, unfortunately, a perfect killing zone. My belief is that there was a second shooter, that Oswald was a shooter too, but that he was set up. Anyway, to stand either in the building or be outside right there by the street where Kennedy was shot felt eery, sad, burdening, oppressive, and who knows what other adjectives other people would add. If you ever are in Dallas I do believe you owe it to JFK and your sense of belonging to our shared American history to visit the Sixth Floor Museum.


After this experience I walked back east toward the fancy hotels and the arts district, met up with my Washington State roomie and pal Reg Unterseher, and grabbed a light dinner. We then attended the Tuesday evening performance by the Pan-Asian Youth Chorale. They were led by four conductors, including my South Korean friend Hak-won Yoon. The concert went very well, and I must say that Hak-won, who led them in their last set, really unified their sound and tuning, brought drama and a wider dynamic range to their singing, and had gotten them to the point of memorization on two of the four songs he led (none of the other conductors had gotten this far in developing and polishing the pieces they led). So I was proud to be there to hear Hak-won lead these excellent young singers from all over Asia. The event was sponsored by a number of organizations from the Asian business community in Dallas plus support from ICFM. It was wonderful to see the pride among all the participants both during and after the concert. I saw Hak-won and Mrs. Yoon after the concert (and also during the other days of the conference) plus got to chat with Ryan Goessl, a fine young conductor who studied at Luther and USC and currently conducts excellent choirs in South Korea. 

Me with one of the greatest living conductors, Hak-won Yoon
 
That was it for Tuesday for me- I knew I could use a good night's sleep since the next day, Wednesday, would provide opportunity to hear and talk about choral music for 16 hours straight if you would choose to do so!

COMING UP: WEDNESDAY AT DALLAS ACDA


































After this experience I walked back east toward the fancy hotels and the arts district, met up with my Washington State roomie and pal Reg Unterseher, and grabbed a light dinner. We then attended the Tuesday evening performance by the Pan-Asian Youth Chorale. They were led by four conductors, including my South Korean friend Hak-won Yoon. The concert went very well, and I must say that Hak-won, who led them in their last set, really unified their sound and tuning, brought drama and a wider dynamic range to their singing, and had gotten them to the point of memorization on two of the four songs he led (none of the other conductors had gotten this far in developing and polishing the pieces they led). So I was proud to be there to hear Hak-won lead these excellent young singers from all over Asia. The event was sponsored by a number of organizations from the Asian business community in Dallas plus support from IFCM. It was wonderful to see the pride among all the participants both during and after the concert. I saw Hak-won and Mrs. Yoon after the concert (and also during the other days of the conference) plus got to chat with Ryan Goessl, a fine young conductor who studied at Luther and USC and currently conducts excellent choirs in South Korea. 

 

That was it for Tuesday for me- I knew I could use a good night's sleep since the next day, Wednesday, would provide opportunity to hear and talk about choral music for 16 hours straight if you would choose to do so!

COMING UP: WEDNESDAY AT DALLAS ACDA