Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet: An Easy Way to Improve the Sound of Your Choir

Composer Michael John Trotta has prepared a cheat sheet full of vocal warm-ups to help you get your choir back in the swing of things and sounding better than ever.

Download Michael John Trotta’s Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet here:

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Restore Our Song: A Homecoming

Guest post by composers Lee & Susan Dengler introducing Restore Our Song: A Resource for Restarting Your Choir, which includes an opening “kick-off” fellowship and service, devotions on the themes of deliverance and renewal, easy anthem suggestions to get the choir back in shape quickly, service ideas including a hymn sing, recruitment tips, a simple chorus for choir and congregation titled “Restore Our Song,” and more.

Finally, they were on their way!  After years of exile in Babylon, God’s people were returning to Judah.  Though some had decided to remain in Babylon, a contingent, led by the priest and scribe, Ezra, began the journey home.  To them, Babylon was still a land where they simply could not sing the Lord’s song, even when coaxed by their captors.  All they had been able to do was to hang their harps, the instruments that had once accompanied their voices, on the willow trees that stood guard by the river.  The drooping branches of the trees had served as a visual reminder of their own weeping. 

And then, they were home in their beloved native land!  In the second chapter of the book of Ezra, we find the listing of folks who returned to Jerusalem and other Judean towns. There were the priests, the temple servants, the gatekeepers of the temple.  And, there were the singers!

As the foundations of the new temple were laid, the singers began their song, as they praised and gave thanks to the Lord.  For those who listened, there was a mixture of emotions.  While some shouted for joy, others, who had remembered the former temple and all they had endured, wept with a loud voice.  It was hard to distinguish the shouts of joy from the noise of their crying.  Nevertheless, the combined sound of joyous shouts, sorrowful weeping and glorious singing could be heard for miles around.

We have thought about these people many times during the months of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after we learned that singing in groups had the ability to spread the virus more virulently than almost anything else.  How could we sing the Lord’s song in such a land?  But now, it seems that we too are on our way home.  Almost daily, we learn of positive indicators that tell us that choirs can safely return to in-person, close-up, full-choir singing.  Thanks be to God!  This is the news for which we have been waiting over these past, long months!

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Wounded Alleluias

Guest post by Joseph M. Martin, Composer and Director of Sacred Publications for Shawnee Press

The quest to combine ministry with artistry has been a lifelong calling for me.  I have always found my place and purpose in this pursuit.  Composing animates me and breathes into my spirit an inner peace that is deeply sacred.

Reassuring rituals are part of my writing process—simple disciplines made special by repetition, reminding me to be grateful for the labor to which I have been called. With faithful regularity the process unfolds over and over, familiar yet surprising, comfortable yet challenging.

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How to Make Your Own Virtual Choir

Make your own virtual choir performance in just 8 steps. This guide includes tips for planning the project, recording participant tracks, and editing the submissions into a final performance ready to post and send. For related technology and tools, visit Sheet Music Plus.

You’ve seen them everywhere online: grids of iPhone videos of people singing together in chorus. From Broadway stars and professional choral groups to church and community choirs and even ad hoc regional and global networks of singers, the defining group music making moment of the decade so far is…

VIRTUAL CHOIR

Here we’ll walk you through what a virtual choir is and give you a step-by-step guide to creating your own, whether for the choir you regularly sing with or direct, or for a new group of singers you’ve brought together for a specific project.

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StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As our annual Sacred Choral Sale continues, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for spring and Easter.

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, and his special guest, composer Lloyd Larson, for StreamSing, a free virtual reading session.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark and Lloyd tell stories, look ahead to our future opportunities for ministry and community as church singers, and preview new music perfect for distanced, streaming and virtual choirs from Mary McDonald, Lloyd Larson, Tom Fettke and more.

Here are just a few of the titles featured in StreamSing:

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New Pandemic Relief Funding for Your Chorus – Apply Today

Guest post by Jacob Levine, the founder of Chorus Connection and a proud member of the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus. Article reposted with permission from Chorus Connection. See the original post here.

On December 27, 2020, after a tumultuous political rollercoaster, the President signed into law another COVID stimulus package as part of an omnibus spending bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021. The 5,600 page bill contains nearly $1 trillion in pandemic relief, including four funding opportunities for which your chorus may be eligible.

Note: This blog is only relevant for organizations based in the U.S.

What’s Happening Right Now?

Once a bill like this is passed, the next step is that the Small Business Administration (SBA) must issue official guidance — in the form of Interim Final Rules (IFRs) — on exactly how the administration plans to implement the new law. The SBA released two initial IFRs on January 8 about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): general guidance for all PPP loans and specific guidance for second draw loans. Additional information is not yet available for the non-PPP programs mentioned in this blog.

In the meantime, below is a list of the funding opportunities and what you need to know now.

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VOCES8 Premieres Six New Commissions during LIVE From London – Christmas Festival

On December 5, 2020, as part of its LIVE From London – Christmas online festival, British choral ensemble VOCES8 premiered six new pieces by composers Jocelyn Hagen, Taylor Scott Davis, Ken Burton, Roderick Williams, Paul Smith and Melissa Dunphy.

The 6 New Commissions

Now Winter Nights

Roderick Williams
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Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.

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Bright Star: Gareth Malone Gets the Whole School Singing!

In a January 2019 survey, BPI (British Phonographic Industry) found that British state schools had seen a 21% decrease in music provision over the previous five years, with this decrease disproportionately affecting schools serving less affluent communities.

HL00295016 Bright Star G Malone Cvr.inddTo address this situation, TV star and conductor Gareth Malone of BBC Two’s The Choir has joined forces with teacher Catherine de Sybel to create an exciting new music resource for schools, Bright Star: Inclusive Songs for Whole-Group Singing. Catchy, heartfelt, accessible and fun, the book includes a song co-written with Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. Equally suitable for small groups, school choirs or the entire school, these engaging songs cover a wide range of themes including life choices, friendship and community, the environment, bereavement and growing up.

The songs are written to get the whole school singing confidently and are appropriate for all ages, with a particular focus on children aged 8–14, bridging the gap between Key Stages 2 and 3, when children are more likely to give up singing.

 

“We believe that singing has enormous benefits to children’s mental and physical well-being and that it should be an integral part of every child’s school day. The simple act of breathing and singing together can be so valuable in fostering a sense of community and shared values. We hope that the subject matter will resonate with pupils and their teachers and we have included some pointers for discussion in the introduction to each song. We want pupils of all faiths and none to experience the joy of singing and most importantly for every school to be a singing school!”

— Gareth & Catherine

 

Designed to be user-friendly for music teachers and particularly non-specialist teachers, the Bright Star pack includes full scores, demo and backing tracks to download, and photocopiable melody and lyric sheets. Introductory notes on the songs provide support in learning and performing, as well as discussion points for use in the classroom.

About Gareth Malone

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Gareth Malone

Gareth Malone OBE, is well-known around the world as a broadcaster, composer and choral animateur. He has won two BAFTAs for his BBC Two series The Choir, and has been making programs for the BBC for over 14 years. Other achievements include working as an artistic director for a Royal Opera House community opera, and working with orchestra and opera education departments, including the LSO, Philharmonia, Glyndebourne and ENO Baylis.

Gareth has had two number-one singles in the UK, the first in 2011 with the Military Wives Choir, followed by the Gareth Malone All Star Choir for Children in Need three years later. He has also had two number one albums: In My Dreams with the Military Wives, and his latest, Music for Healing, which is currently at the top of the specialist classical charts. His 2014 series The Big Performance 3 won the Royal Television Society award for best children’s television, and Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne won an International Emmy in 2011. In 2012 he was honored with an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for services to music.

Gareth continues to compose with young people and to work with emerging artists. He has recorded with some of the leading performers in the UK and has just released his third album, Music for Healing.

About Catherine de Sybel

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Catherine de Sybel

Catherine de Sybel is a composer, pianist and music educator. She read music at the University of Cambridge and continued with postgraduate studies in composition at the École Normale de Musique in Paris, where she won the prestigious Premier Prix for her work for mezzo-soprano and piano, Imagination.

Her teaching career, spanning over twenty years, has encompassed work in mainstream, private and specialist schools, always driving inclusive music education to the forefront of the curriculum. As Head of Music at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, she facilitated outreach projects with the London Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, as well as high profile performances for Her Majesty the Queen and Michelle Obama.

In addition to her work inside the classroom, she has led music composition workshops for trainee teachers at the University of Cambridge, mentored beginner teachers from the Institute of Education and worked as Schools Projects Manager at the London Symphony Orchestra.

Catherine believes passionately in the power of music to inspire and educate and has dedicated her career to enabling the finest musical opportunities for children from all backgrounds whilst encouraging young voices to be heard from every corner of her school.

Songs of Freedom

In this guest post by Dr. Stan Engebretson and Prof. Volker Hempfling, editors of Carus-Verlag‘s new collection, Hallelujah: Gospels and Spirituals for Mixed Choir, we explore the difference between gospel and spirituals in their development and in musical form.

HallelujahCollectionCarusPowerful voices full of emotion and moving intensity — that’s what comes to mind when we think of gospel music. And “Amazing Grace” is certainly one of the first songs we think of. It’s a song that spread beyond Christian churches to become famous as a protest song against slavery and as a hymn sung by human rights activists. “I once was lost, but now am found.” With the Christian idea of redemption, the song expresses a confident belief in liberation, the central theme of gospel music. But paradoxically, this song, which many people regard as the quintessence of American gospel music, was actually written by the former captain of a slave ship, John Newton. When he escaped from a storm at sea in 1748, he saw his salvation as divine providence and fundamentally transformed his life in the following years, after a while giving up his trade completely, becoming a clergyman, and even campaigning against slavery. His song, “Amazing Grace,” became extremely successful and was later adopted by the African-American spiritual and gospel community, performed by such artists as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and the Harlem Gospel Choir.

But what makes a song a gospel song, and how does it differ from a spiritual? more “Songs of Freedom”

Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven

Guest post by Jan Schumacher

Beethoven is not primarily thought of as a vocal composer, but why not? The choral collection compiled by Jan Schumacher, which contains both well-known and unknown choral works by Beethoven and original transcriptions of Beethoven’s works by other composers, reveals a great deal of extremely attractive repertoire.

Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven

The widely-held prejudice that “he could not write for voice” sticks to few composers as much as it does to Ludwig van Beethoven. This may be due to the fact that his place in music history is primarily as a revolutionary symphonist and creator of incomparable chamber music like the string quartets and piano sonatas. To take this to mean that he had no understanding of the human voice or did not know how to write for chorus, however, is to draw the wrong conclusion. Beethoven, like nearly every other composer of his age and indeed until the first half of the 20th century (with a few notable exceptions such as Chopin and Paganini), was equally used to composing for voice and instruments.

It is when we try to label Beethoven that we develop what can be misleading expectations. more “Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven”