Friday, February 27, 2015

The 2015 ACDA Conference--Wednesday

Hello, kiddies. It's Wednesday- the very first day of ACDA in Salt Lick City. The weather is gorgeous- about 50 degrees and that strong sun you get at elevations like this. We Midwesterners and Easterners who have been hit hard by snow and/or epic frigidness are already enjoying being  here.

Caveat- I'm blogging while crazy busy here- if my grammar and syntax isn't perfect, please forgive! Also, as attendees, including myself, become more and more sleep-deprived we sometimes say idiotic things- so you might see this here as well.

So let me say this right out- the Salt Lake Convention Center is HUGE. You have no idea! And thankfully the whole city is on a total grid- so it's hard to get lost.

I started the day off visiting the booths here. Plenty of 'em, also giving away lots of swag. Everybody seems super-energized but-hey, it's Wednesday! And honestly, I have NEVER seen this many people already on site for an ACDA on Wednesday. Tim Sharp, our fearless leader, says that  pre-registration is at a record-setting level. I believe him. I'm also seeing a TON of attendees between 20-30 years old. Yay!

After just milling around and seeing plenty of friends in the booth area I went to the MusicSpoke reading session at noon. MusicSpoke is a new venture by Kurt Knecht and Jennifer Rosenblatt. Pete Eklund from U of Nebraska led the reading session which held works by Andrea Ramsey, Kurt Knecht, myself, and some young up-and-coming composers like Josh Rist and Connor Koppin. The session went very well--and honestly, it was some of the best sightreading I have ever been around at a conference!

After that, I attended the first blue track concert. Here are the groups that sang and their repertoire:

Univ. of South Cali Thornton School of Music Chamber Singers, directed by my friend Mike Scheibe,

Batter my Heart, Three-Personed God, by Richard Nance

The Heart's Reflection, by Daniel Elder

De Circuito Aeterno, by Petr Eben (1929-2007)

Trois Chansons Bettones, by Henk Badings (1907-1987)

Alleluia, by Jake Runestad

Micro-review (the opinions expressed on this blog are mine only, and if you want to disagree, do so, but don't hassle me about my right to express my opinions--thank you very much)
MIRANDA sez "no haters"

A beautiful, deep, rich sound from the USC Chamber Choir, especially on the first two selections. A warm, velvety sound you just want to collapse into, like sinking into a brand-new five thousand dollar leather sofa which has been lubed up with cocoa butter. Bravo, USC.

I was really thrilled to hear the Eben and the Badings (I actually know Badings' music fairly well). We just don't hear this kind of mid-twentieth century repertoire at ACDA conferences, which is unfortunate. So bravo, Mike, for sharing these very rich, full-dimensional pieces with us, and they were pieces which really showed off this choir's strong points. I can't overstate how happy I was to hear some music that has been sort of forgotten about featured in front of a large audience.

BYU Womens Chorus, directed by Jean Applonie

Psalm 100, Rene Clausen

Wie Lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Joey Flat-Nose Rheinberger

Reflections from Yad Vashem, Daniel Hall

Amazing Grace, arr. Michael Hanawalt

Adon Olam, by Eliezer Gerovitsch, arr. David Zabriskie

Micro-review: Jean pulled an amazing variety of dynamics from a choir which, I am guessing, numbered 120 or maybe way more. A gorgeous sound all around- bravo. The harpist on the Rheinberger, Anamae Anderson, was fantastic. This is a very notey harp part, which can be a real challenge (I used to play harp, btw), but Miss Anderson was spot-on throughout. And let me add, Rheinberger has had a resurgence in performances lately, which is a good thing. I love his harmonies and the fact that they exist within a (modest) contrapuntal framework- best of both worlds.

The Metropolitan Chorus of Tokyo, directed by Ko Matsushita

Sacred music in Latin composed by Ko Matshutshita

Japanese folk songs arrgned by Ko Matsushita


You either loved or hated this performance.

Pluses-- the music by Matsushito isn't shy-- it's bold and full of tons of divisi. There was no safety net. Dynamics were extreme, especially on the high end. Kind of like a double IPA or beyond, if ya know your beer talk. Or a big Cab at 14.5%.

Minuses (where I pretty much weigh in- though some people totally disagreed with me and I punched them in the larynx)-- I felt they never tuned any of this often quite dissonant music due to their method of sound production -- all way back in the throat. The murky, turgid hyper-divisi issues just made it even harder to hear intonation and also scope the arc of the pieces. The lack of tuning, to me and a few other friends I polled, was extremely distracting. I also felt that the Latin on the first few pieces was simply bizarre to the ear. It could have been Yiddish and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.

What was very good is that this choir and its composer/conductor challenged us and provoked a bit of discussion. You have to ask- do we want pretty all the time and nothing to argue about? Or something else at times? And do we really always have to agree?

The Evening Program

Kings' Singers and the Real Group

Heavily attended, especially by the young folk, those precious and endearing cute and cuddly millenials (sorry, I'm being very silly)! ACDA is no longer so heavily populated by old folks. We needed this youth movement and in the last 3-4 years it has really happened!

Fearless ACDA leader Tim Sharp gave a state of the organization speech. It was pretty great and I hope to share it with you soon, thanks to Tim. You will like what he had to say abut where we are and where we are going!

Micro-reviews: Hmmm, do I want to diss "institutions"? Nah, not right now.  But I do wish Kings' Singers would add something new to their gig. Something, anything?! I feel Swingle Singers has evolved over the years, so it proves evolution is possible, ja?

Real Group- I am a HUGE fan, especially of the true vocal jazz they become famous for back aways. This night was more about new tunes with a rock beat, I guess you could call it. Many of these songs had great, social  issues lyrics which were not cheesy. So I dug that as did most of the audience.  I just wish that they would have done more of the stuff that absolutely kills me- fer instance something like this:

And this was amusing- they launched into Chili con Carne and every 15 to 30 year old went crazy- and then they only sang 8 bars and morphed into a different one of their hits over the years. It was pretty funny to see them fake out the audience! All in all they were great fun and their love of music and performing shone through.

NEXT: Thursday at ACDA, including an absolutely stunning performance by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir!

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