Posts Tagged 'choral'

How To Make Your Choir Inclusive for Trans, GNC and Queer Singers

by Caite Debevec

I failed my first transgender student.

I was in grad school and had never had a trans singer in my choir before. I was rooted in what I knew regarding voice types. I was sure that my priority would be vocal health above all else and I was determined to give the singer the best choral experience I could.

Did you catch my mistake?

Rather than centering my student in their experience, it was all about me. What could I give them? How could I improve their voice? Did I know warmups and exercises to address all their vocal struggles?

In the years since, I have curated a list of reminders for myself and other choral directors who strive to create safe spaces for transgender (trans), gender non-conforming (GNC), and queer singers.

First and foremost: It’s not about you.

This is something I tell myself before every rehearsal. While I may have the degrees and the knowledge, the tricks and tips, my primary responsibility is to serve my singers in the way they need me. This doesn’t mean I bend over backward to acquiesce their every request, but my goals for singers are secondary to the goals and aspirations they have for themselves. Allow your singer to be the captain of their choral experience.

Our students don’t owe us their story.

Your trans, GNC, and queer singers have no obligation to tell you anything about themselves. Accept the information that they provide willingly, and only ask questions if they create the space for you to do so. If they don’t share, you don’t need to know.

Trans and GNC singers reserve the right to enter a choral classroom without divulging their complete medical history.

Singers determine the quality of their own musical experiences.

Choral directors often focus on vocal health, but our concept of health should encompass a singer’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

You may have a transmasculine person who wants to sing in the tenor section, and they can only hit half the notes. Is there a chance they could hurt their vocal mechanism? Yes. Is forcing them to sit in the alto section – which is often predominantly singers who identify as female – the solution? No.

A singer’s mental and social well-being are just as important. While that trans singer may only be able to sing half of the notes, to them it may be the quality musical experience that they are looking for.

And always remember: Every singer’s quality experience will look different. One transfeminine person may want to sing alto, while another wants to sing bass. I find the best way of handling this is to say, “Feel free to join whichever section you feel most comfortable in, switch sections at any time, and let me know if you’d like some support!” This gives singers the opportunity to ask for guidance, but the freedom to explore their voices by themselves.

Accommodations for one singer often benefit the entire ensemble.

A few accommodations that have secret benefits:

  1. A good portion of my alto section is trans women who are singing the alto part an octave lower than written. Not only does that expand the repertoire I can program, but our intonation is greatly influenced by the bolstered low notes.
  2. Exercises that are specifically designed for trans and GNC voices are great warmups for the entire ensemble.
  3. When one section is learning their notes, have the entire ensemble sing along in octaves. Members who are singing an octave higher or lower than written can learn their notes without feeling like they are exposed. This also builds musicianship skills for the ensemble.

Most importantly: Trans and GNC singers are singers.

For many of my singers, their transness is a major part of their identity, but it isn’t the reason they joined my ensemble. While we make accommodations for our trans, GNC, and queer singers, be aware of “othering” them, or unconsciously setting them apart from your cis/het singers. Remember: We are all singers who want a community that makes music together.

For continued reading regarding transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer choral experiences, I recommend The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices by Liz Jackson Hearns and Brian Kremer, and A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice by Jules Balèn.

If you would like further reading on vocal health, HRT, and the trans/GNC singing experience, I recommend One Weird Trick: A Users Guide to Transgender Voice by Liz Jackson Hearns, and Voice and Communication Therapy for the Transgender/Gender Diverse Client by Richard K. Adler, Sandy Hirsch, and Jack Pickering.

Caite Debevec is a conductor, composer and educator living and working in Baltimore City. She is currently the music director for the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, the founding music director of the Baltimore Women’s Chorale, Manager of Early Childhood Education at the Maryland Science Center, and an independent voice instructor working with trans, non-binary, and GNC singers. www.caitedebevec.com IG: @baltimoremenschorus@bmorewomen

StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As our Annual Choral Sale continues, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas .

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, as special guest Mary McDonald shares thoughts on her featured pieces plus the upcoming fall/Christmas singing season.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark previews new music from Jubilate Music Group for Thanksgiving, Advent & Christmas from Mary McDonald, Lloyd Larson, Mark Hayes, Hal Hopson, and more.

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

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!

Continue reading ‘Restore Our Song: A Homecoming’

Lorenz: Keeping Worship Fresh with New Music

LorenzLogo2020Publishing over 1,000 new works every year, Lorenz offers an extensive catalog of choral, keyboard, and instrumental music to support the ministry of churches large and small. From traditional and liturgical to blended and contemporary, music for many styles of worship can be found across its imprints: Lorenz Publishing Company, Medallion Music, and The Sacred Music Press. Having been at the forefront of new church music for over a century, Lorenz is home to best-selling titles written by the most prominent names in church music today, and is committed to supporting the creative work of future generations of composers and arrangers.

O sing to the Lord a new song; for he has done marvelous things. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the Earth. (Psalm 98:1, 4 NRSV)

BryanSharpeLorenzThe Psalms tell us to sing new songs to the Lord. This biblical mandate inspires how we use our gifts. We compose, arrange, edit, and publish new music so that churches and individuals have the resources they need to praise the Lord with instruments and voices. As times change and fads come and go, and as one generation passes to the next, we will always need new music to keep our worship current and relevant.

Bryan Sharpe
Director of Church Choral Publications, Lorenz

Continue reading ‘Lorenz: Keeping Worship Fresh with New Music’

Revisiting Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor

Mozart-NepomukDellaCroce

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C minor (K. 427) stands alongside the Requiem (K. 626) as his most remarkable church composition. Today it enjoys almost cult status, first because of its monumentality, which is unique in Mozart’s sacred vocal music, and second because, like the Requiem, it partakes of the aura of the unfinished and mysterious. The exact circumstances that gave rise to it as a votive mass have eluded explanation to the present day. The same applies to the reasons why it was left unfinished and to many details of its first performance, which, as far as we know, took place at St. Peter’s Church, Salzburg, on October 26, 1783. Finally, the transmission of the original sources also raises many questions. Indeed, it is astonishing that the Mass, although left as a torso, was performed at all during Mozart’s final visit to Salzburg. Continue reading ‘Revisiting Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor’

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? Continue reading ‘Songs of Freedom’

Dark Is the New Bright

Guest post by Mark Cabaniss

Just 30 or 40 years ago, the Tenebrae service was foreign to many a church, despite the service’s ancient roots. The Roman Catholic Church embraced it early, but it has only become popular and more regularly practiced in Mainline Protestant churches (and even some traditional evangelical churches) in recent decades.

These “services of darkness,” as they are often called, have become a “bright spot,” one could say, for churches around the world that are looking for fresh and creative ways to impart the Holy Week journey.

Sacred music publishers have responded to the heightened awareness of Tenebrae with a variety of publications that are ready to prepare and present as complete Tenebrae services with appropriate music and narration.

Tenebrae is a special service for Holy Week that can be conducted on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, or any day of Holy Week when a church has a regular or additional special service.

The name “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin for “shadows” or “darkness,” and denotes a service of shadows. The Tenebrae service makes use of gradually diminishing light as candles are extinguished one-by-one to guide the congregation through the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’s burial. Continue reading ‘Dark Is the New Bright’

New Lent and Easter Cantatas and Anthems for 2017

Discover new and poignant choral cantatas and anthems appropriate for the Lent and Easter seasons from Beckenhorst Press, Brookfield Press, Hope, Lorenz, Shawnee Press and SoundForth.

Cantatas

Come to the Cross and Remember by Pepper Choplin

Iconic imagery of the Easter story is paired with a beautiful melodic figure that weaves throughout the entire work to help present and guide the audience through this work. The music by Pepper Choplin, accompanied by Michael Lawrence’s stunning orchestration, powerfully represents the high and low moments of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Additional choruses and hymns illumine the journey, including the haunting “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” the spine-tingling “Judas,” the mournful “Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs,” the transportive “You Will Be with Me in Paradise,” and the majestically triumphant “Every Knee Should Bow.”

Continue reading ‘New Lent and Easter Cantatas and Anthems for 2017’

Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!

This spring, Sheet Music Plus held a school choral program contest, in which choir directors at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels were encouraged to submit the repertoire list for their schools’ spring choral concerts. The choral programs were judged based on originality, thematic content and age appropriateness. The winners received a $200 gift certificate to Sheet Music Plus. They shared the inspiration behind their creative programming with us. Congratulations, winners!

Elementary Winner
DeLeigh
Iron Forge Elementary School
Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania
Theme: “The Iron Forge Construction . . . Through Music of Course!”

“I was working down the hall one day last spring when I heard a very loud “bang, bang” Continue reading ‘Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!’


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