Welcome to Renate's Baton. This blog is mostly for and about my choir, The York Region Community Choir.

But, While I'm holding the baton, I'm in charge. So, if I want to talk about other parts of my life, I will. :)

The choir itself is a community and I'm discovering that we have a lot in common with one another besides our love of music and singing.

When I go off on a tangent, there is always a crowd coming along. Join us!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hand in your Binder now

Dear YRCC Choristers,

Don't forget that you are responsible for handing in your binder to Trix, our Music Librarian, at the end of each season.

If you want  to have your binder full of music to start the spring season in January, you must hand it in to Trix by next week. Trix has the big job of preparing the binders for our spring season and filing away all the winter season music.

Tomorrow night, after singing, we can all give our binders to Lauren, as Trix will be absent.

If you are not going to be there tomorrow night, you have to drop off your binder at Trix's house in the bin on her front porch.

Please, everyone, help to make this big job a bit easier by ensuring that your binder is handed in as soon as possible.

Thank you for your cooperation,

Last Seniors' Christmas visit---Newmarket Health Centre, Monday 17

Yesterday at the York Region Forest Jingle Walk was really special. It was great singing outdoors surrounded by trees. The crowd of families that came to walk was energetic and seemed to enjoy our performance and singing carols with us. 

Tomorrow is our last "gig" of the season :(

Here's the tentative order for tomorrow's performance at Newmarket Health Centre.
Remember to always be ready for changes when we go out to sing. We'll see who is there and what we can do, so be ready with all of your music. 

Go to the calendar to get a map and other details. 

Newmarket Health Centre                   Monday December 17, at 7:30pm
1              In Our Town in December
2              Let There Be Peace On Earth
3              Carol of the Bells
4              I Will Always Be With You
5              Happy Holiday/White Christmas (group)
6              Do You Hear What I Hear
7              Thankful (Todd's solo)
8              You Raise Me Up
9              We Wish You a Merry Madrigal

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Humming is good for you

Classical 96.3 is my radio station for driving. I also like to listen to it while I'm working, so I use my laptop to listen to the live stream. Today, as I logged on, I noticed a teaser for an article on the website:
"Humming and sinus problems"
It seems that humming helps to keep your sinuses working properly. Interesting.
Here's a link to that short article. It's from Libby Znaimer's Zoomer Report.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Together For the Holidays

 An afternoon of spectacular music & seasonal songs
that remind us of the joy of being with friends and family!

 2 pm, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012
 Trinity Anglican Church
76 Victoria St., Aurora

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Singing in the snow!

We're going to be singing outdoors on December 15th!

The York Region Forest Jingle Bell Walk
is a community event that starts at 1:00 with a guided walk on an accessible trail and ends with hot chocolate and singing!

Here's a link  to the Hollidge Tract Trail page on the York Region Website,  so you can find it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 23 -tomorrow's performance order

Here's the order for tomorrow. We start at 12 noon and sing until 1:00 pm.
Arrive by 11:45. We might be able to meet in our room. 
Casual performance attire: any white top and black bottom with scarf or tie.
  1. You Raise Me Up
  2. Hymn to Freedom
  3. Michael's solo
  4. Heather's solo
  5. In Our Town In December
  6. Do You Hear
  7. Carols with Kevin for 10 minutes or so
  8. Let There Be Peace on Earth
  9. I Will Always Be With You
  10. We Wish You A Merry Madrigal
  11. Carols with Kevin for 10 minutes or so
  12. New Year's Blessing
  13. Go Now in Peace

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Really Big Show!

What an experience that was!

The In Harmony With The Community concert, the 20th annual fundraiser of the York Regional Police Male Chorus was thrilling, again. Stupendous, fantastic, just amazing, the concert was a huge success!

I'm so proud of our choir, the York Region Community Choir, for our excellent contribution to the evening. The OPP choir down from Barrie was also excellent and the kids from Roselawn Public School in Richmond Hill were a super treat again!

Thank you so much, YRPMC, our wonderful neighbours on Monday nights for inviting us again. You are a class act and it is an honour and a joy working with you.

Pat yourselves on the back, YRCC!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's going to be great! Have fun!

If you want to review some pointers on performing, here's the link to a former post of mine.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wow! Excellent rehearsal on November 12th!

Tonight was thrilling! Our YRCC pieces were really fabulous tonight:
Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
Mamma Mia Medley
One Voice

And singing with the York Regional Police Male Chorus was an awesome experience again! What a great sound we have together! It's huge and rich and beautiful.

We sang
I Will Always Be With You
Song for the Unsung Hero
Hymn to Freedom

We didn't sing
Go Now In Peace

Don't forget: We're also going to sing O Canada. Remember to sing the melody only. Do not create a harmony or sing a harmony that you know. The YRPMC have a version that they sing, and we're singing along with the melody.

If you're still not sure what to do and where to go on Saturday, go to the calendar, it's all there.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why Travel Makes Us Happy

Why Travel Makes Us Happy is a great blog post by a woman who writes a blog on happiness. She says she's an advocate for Travel.

Click on that link and you'll read her 6 reasons why travel makes us happy. I love the last one!

I work for a special travel agency, CWT Victor Travel, where people are passionate and knowledgeable about Travel and help to make people happy every day. I often tell Jack that he's a hero and he just shrugs humbly. He makes magic whenever there's a disaster like Hurricane Sandy, or a personal disaster, getting people home safely. Jack and Judy and Lucy and all the folks that I work with have the happy job of helping people to go out and see the world and then come back again to tell their stories. Every day there are hundreds of happy stories.

I'm lucky to have the job of writing about the services and the products of the Travel Agency and Victours, the Tour Operator. So, I'm a travel advocate too.

I guess I'm in the happiness business too, like Britt. This blog about my choir gives me the opportunity to write about the happiness that comes from singing and making music together, and my job helps me to spread the happiness of travel.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Halloween Humour (from an email from Enid)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night............. 

Bob Hill and his new wife Betty were vacationing in Europe....as it happens, near Transylvania. They were driving in a rental car along a rather deserted highway. It was late and raining very hard. Bob could barely see the road in front of the car. Suddenly, the car skids out of control! Bob attempts to control the car, but to no avail! The car swerves and smashes into a tree.

Moments later, Bob shakes his head to clear the fog. Dazed, he looks over at the passenger seat and sees his wife unconscious, with her head bleeding! Despite the rain and unfamiliar countryside, Bob knows he has to get her medical assistance.
Bob carefully picks his wife up and begins trudging down the road. After a short while, he sees a light. He heads towards the light, which is coming from a large, old house. He approaches the door and knocks.
A minute passes. A small, hunched man opens the door. Bob immediately blurts,
"Hello, my name is Bob Hill, and this is my wife Betty. We've been in a terrible accident, and my wife has been seriously hurt. Can I please use your phone?"

"I'm sorry," replied the hunchback, "but we don't have a phone. My master is a doctor; come in, and I will get him!"

Bob brings his wife in.

An older man comes down the stairs. "I'm afraid my assistant may have misled you. I am not a medical doctor; I am a scientist.. However, it is many miles to the nearest clinic, and I have had a basic medical training. I will see what I can do. Igor, bring them down to the laboratory."

With that, Igor picks up Betty and carries her downstairs, with Bob following closely.. Igor places Betty on a table in the lab. Bob collapses from exhaustion and his own injuries, so Igor places Bob on an adjoining table.

After a brief examination, Igor's master looks worried. "Things are serious, Igor. Prepare a transfusion." Igor and his master work feverishly, but to no avail. Bob and Betty Hill are no more.

The Hills' deaths upset Igor's master greatly. Wearily, he climbs the steps to his conservatory, which houses his grand piano. For it is here that he has always found solace. He begins to play, and a stirring, almost haunting melody fills the house.

Meanwhile, Igor is still in the lab tidying up. His eyes catch movement, and he notices the fingers on Betty's hand twitch, keeping time to the haunting piano music. Stunned, he watches as Bob's arm begins to rise, marking the beat! He is further amazed as Betty and Bob both sit up straight!

Unable to contain himself, he dashes up the stairs to the conservatory.

He bursts in and shouts to his master:

"Master, Master!.....The Hills are alive with the sound of music!"

Thank you for sending this to me, Enid!  I don't know where you found this, but it's perfect. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5th

Here's what we did on November 5th:

  • Warm ups included massages.
  •  Hymn to Freedom page 11, the ending
  • We learned all of In Our Town in December. (because of the solos, really only pages 4, 6, and 7)
  • Song for the Unsung Hero: bar 63- the end
  • After break we joined the Police Chorus in their room to rehearse, in show-order,

  1. I Will Always Be With You
  2. Song for the Unsung Hero
  3. Hymn to Freedom
  4. Go Now In Peace

We will meet with them again at 9:00 next Monday. 
Please review for next week:
  • the endings of everything so you can watch (it's good to know that I'm not the only director who changes endings)
  • I Will Always Be With You: sopranos and altos bar 50 (remember it's different)
  • Song for the Unsung Hero: bar 63, ending starting at 80 and dynamics throughout, it really was just loud and louder. Start soft, and we're only medium on page 5. I'll try to conduct better to let you know when to get quieter and louder. 
Next week we'll be doing our stuff for the first half, Mamma Mia, One Voice and Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, and then we have coffee and treats before we head over to the police room.

For the following 2 Mondays, we will start early at 7:00, and we'll focus on our Christmas music. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Early Rehearsals after Police Concert

Hello YRCC Choir Members!

I'd like to have some more time to rehearse for our Holiday Concert, so I'm asking you to come early at 7:00 for the 2 rehearsals before Dec. 2nd:

7:00 Monday, November 19th and 
7:00 Monday, November 26th.

I know there will be some people who absolutely cannot be there before 7:30, and that's alright.

This will affect the small groups. I'm hoping you'll be able to manage a couple of rehearsals on additional days, if you need more time. I hear that the MK extra rehearsal last night was very good. I will come to the small group rehearsals on Monday, November 12th to see how things are coming along.

Yours in harmony,

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm Cancels Choir! Bah!

This was just sent out in an email to all choir members. We're also phoning everybody.

Due to the fast approaching weather system, and out of concern for members on their drive home later on, we feel that it would be in the best interest of the safety of all that we cancel this evening's rehearsal.
Please take some time to review music provided on the website over the next week. 
And as a reminder to those participating in the performance at St. Andrews on Saturday, rehearsal will be at 10 a.m.
Be safe all!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

We want to sing! Storm update.

Hurricane Sandy, AKA Frankenstorm, is coming up to Newmarket tomorrow night, Monday, October 29th.

Right now, they're saying the high winds and heavy rain will be the worst from Monday overnight to Tuesday. But, I've also heard that they're starting Monday afternoon.

We're going to be optimistic and say that we will have our choir rehearsal tomorrow night as planned. 

But, we'll be careful and review the situation at 4:00 pm. If it looks like we will have a scary drive there or back at 9:30, then Heather or Lauren or I will cancel choir. We have a phone tree in place, so everyone will get a phone call if choir is cancelled. I will also post here, and on Facebook, and on our website.

If we don't cancel choir, and you are worried about driving and would rather stay home, spend some time going over your music with the recordings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Solo Assignments Updated

The 3 solo songs at the Holiday concert will be sung by Trix, Michael, and Todd. 

The solos in our choir songs will be as follows:

Carol of the Bells
Soprano9-12 +13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (solo and lead) (MARY ELLEN, Kristen)
Soprano13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (DOLORES, Trix)
Alto: 13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (DEBBIE, Janet)
Alto:13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (CAROL, Lauren)
Tenor: 17-24 +37-44 +37-fine (TODD, Michael)
Bass: 17-24 +37-44 +37-fine (important ending, very low) (BILL, Kevin)

In Our Town in December
 5-12 (intro solo) (BILL, Kevin)
24-31 ( Hanukkah solo) (SOPHIE V., Trix)
32-39 (Christmas duet) (TRACEY and JANE, Heather, Lauren)

Let There Be Peace On Earth
Duet 2 first Sopranos, very strong 9-34 ( Kristen and Mary Ellen Lasota, Anne Marie)

One Voice
Soprano: 6-15+9-22 (HEATHER, Kristen )
Alto: 18-22 (TEIJA, JANET)
Tenor: 15-22 (STANLEY, Michael)

Mamma Mia
Soprano: 23-47 (LOUISA, Heather)
Soprano: 94-106+199-122 (KIT, Sophie)
Alto: 124-132 (DAPHNE, Trix)
Soprano: 200-208 (CATHY, Kristen)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Being a chorister: Some basic choir rules

With all the new folk and with a smallish space for such a large group, we have to be especially conscious of the people around us, and review the rules so that we continue to work well as a team and sing together in harmony.

There is a document on our website in the Members Only section called

Here are some highlights which I think we need to review.

  • Be punctual. Respect the time of the director and other choir members.
  • Attend and participate in warm up.
  • Support and be respectful of other choristers. We are a family, a community, we want rehearsals and performances to be positive experiences for everyone. 
  • When rehearsal begins focus immediately on the conductor and your music. Maximize the use of rehearsal time.
  • Be silent and attentive when the conductor is speaking. 
  • Limit conversation during rehearsal. Talking wastes time and interferes with the conductor.
  • Listen carefully to the questions of others. They may be your questions as well.
  • Watch your music and listen to others practice their parts. Doing so will make you a better musician. Time spent listening may be as valuable as time spent singing.
There's more, and it's all common sense, like this, but people are not always acting sensibly. Sometimes we have so much fun, that we get carried away and it's easy to forget that we're all working together to learn our music so that we can perform it and be proud.

Please be aware of and kind to the people around you, and remember that you are a member of a big team. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Articulation: little marks above notes

This is a theory post for the YRCC about articulation.
Articulation is, like, pronouncing things clearly, right?

In speech, articulation refers the act of giving voice to your thoughts, or to clear enunciation.

In music, it's about giving a note a special effect and those special effects are marked with articulation marks which are often called accents.

My favourite one is the fermata. I call it the mark of power. It looks a bit like an eye. When you see a fermata, think "watch Renate". It kind of rhymes.
The Fermata indicates that the note can be held indefinitely, and I get to decide how long. It's the last one in the example below.

Now let's look at the rest, starting with the first one.
1. The dot is a Staccato mark. The note is shortened to detach it from the next note.
2. The line is a Tenuto mark. The note has its full value.
3. The sideways arrow is an Accent mark. The note is louder and attacked, or accented. Bah!
4. The arrow that points up is the Mercato. The note much louder and very strongly attacked so that it ends up staccato too. Bam!

There are a few more, including the Breath mark ' that we talked about last time, which really shouldn't affect the note much at all, and the Caesura which is called a cut-off to describe what it does or railroad tracks to describe how it looks. The Caesura doesn't go above a note, but after it. Like the fermata, it indicates something that the conductor has power over. When you see the railroad tracks //, stop and watch. I get to decide when we start again.


Look at Carol of the Bells.
Above bar 9, where Mary Ellen starts to sing, it says pp (pianissimo), so it's supposed to be very quiet and detached throughout.

Above the first note there's the tenuto mark and above the next 3, you see staccato marks. We have to pay attention to the fact that the whole thing is detached but make the first note longer than the other 3 notes.

The pattern continues, and then at bar 13 it says pp sempre cres. which means keep getting louder.

Then at bar 14 it says simile. That means they're not going to mark everything, just keep going the same way (long, short, short, short and louder and louder). So, the whole song has that long-short-short-short feel, but we just have to remember it.

Look at all the fermatas at the end! I practically control every note! Wow! That's power. But, with power comes responsibility. I have to figure out not only how I want that to sound, but I also have to figure out how to let everyone know when to sing and play all those notes that come after the fermatas (yup, even Sapphire's piano part is marked with fermatas).

For examples of accents and mercatos, look at Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. Tons.

For examples of breath marks, look at Let There Be Peace on Earth. Tons.

For an example of a caesura, look at the bottom of page 30 of Mamma Mia. We don't actually observe that cut-off, because we have experienced the audience clapping there, so we make sure they understand we're not done by going straight to bar 228. The combination of fermata and cut-off there makes it clear to me that I can do whatever I want, whatever I think is best.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 15th

Here's what we did on October 15th:
1. Warm-ups featured triplets with different consonants
2. We Wish You a Merry Madrigal-done! We did the middle section in 3/4
3. Song for the Unsung Hero: concentrated on p3, reviewed p4- excellent progress. Next time, we'll be looking at the end with the different words. Be sure to have the words written in your music in pencil!
4. One Voice-done! We leaned the parts on the third page where the choir comes in, and needed a bit of review in other parts but, we did the whole thing to the end. Just clean-up to do.
5. In Our Town in December: we looked at where the solos are and where everyone sings. We did p6+7.
I announced that this would be our last new piece. We will now only continue to learn and polish what we have from now on. This means that we will not do Welcome, Welcome Christmas this year. I was really looking forward to that song, but we'll have to do it next year. We'll hand them back to Trix next week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Our Choir Uniform on Another Choir!

Wow! This choir has the same uniform that we do. Well the ladies do anyway. Our men's uniforms are wayyyy better.
I like their risers and the director's podium. They sound pretty good too.

Friday, October 12, 2012

And-a-one, and-a-two: Counting and swing

Ok, if you're old enough, you might remember Lawrence Welk counting in his orchestra with his trademark "An'-a one, an'- a two" (which was actually often "one an' two an'").

Lots of the music he performed was dance music, and quite a bit of it was swing. When music "swings" the beats are not as even as usual.

Let's look at regular "straight" time first.

Most of our music is in 4/4 time. So, there can be four quarter notes in a bar, and we count 1  2  3  4.
If we have all eighth notes, then it's 1+2+3+4+.
Sixteenths: 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a.
It all divides up evenly so that each bar takes the same amount of time and beat 1 is always in the same place. So, I can conduct all of those buy simply giving you the four quarter note beats.

3/4 time sounds different. Let There Be Peace on Earth is in 3/4.
It sounds like a waltz. 1 2 3 1 2 3.
We also have 1+2+3+,
and 1e+a2e+a3e+a.
It's more dance-like but still straight. Our new song, In Our Town in December also has that waltzy feel.

Sometimes you get a bit of that 123 feel in a song, like in Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.
We sing "Sing the so-o-ng o-f my own na-a-tive land" with triplets.
Triplets are written joined together with a number 3 above them (sometimes there's a bar above or a curved line above). 3 notes take the time for 2.
The counting for that phrase is: 4 a 1+a 2+a 3  4+a1.

Here, we're saying 1+a2+a, but it doesn't sound like Lawrence Welk. What's up with that?

Sometimes people will say that swing is like triplets, but it's not. We can try to write it in straight notation, but  it doesn't quite capture it.

Look at Hymn to Freedom. It's in 4/4 but at the top, it says 'Gospel Style' and then you see this:

It's not exactly like that- that would be bouncier than a swing or gospel swing. The idea is to make you aware that the music moves differently. Swing has a cool, jazzy feel.  When you see that Oscar Peterson wrote Hymn to Freedom, you can start to imagine how he'd play it. The counting is the same as for eighths so you say 1+2+3+4+, but it swings :) That's not easy to describe. You need to feel it. And to feel the sixteenths, you add the a. 1+a2+a --Like Lawrence Welk

Blue Skies swings. When we sing it, we don't even think about it. It's jazzy and we swing it. Don't worry about it too much.

For more on counting, go to my previous blog post on counting. And this cool video post.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thanksgiving Monday rehearsal

Wow! It was great to see so many of you at choir tonight! If you missed it, here's what we did.

We started with the small groups shortly after 6:30.
I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing is coming along very nicely. The accompaniment recording is great!
Happy Holiday/White Christmas had some beautiful moments, and is also moving right along especially now that we have the accompaniment.

Warm-ups included loosening up our knees and bubble bubble gum.
1. Go Now In Peace was beautiful. No need to review anything.
2. I Will Always Be With You: we reviewed p 6-7. The recording was faster than we thought it should be, but it worked out okay in the end.
3. Hymn to Freedom: we did p 6. It was amazing! The recording was slower than we thought this time, but we worked it out and got to the end without too much difficulty. Page 6 is important. If you missed this, please review it. 
4. Song for the Unsung Hero: we did p 4. Another very important part, and it went really well. We sang through the whole piece and discovered that several people had not written in the Canadian words at the end. Please get those words in, from this blog post or from the website, by logging in, going to members only resources and clicking on the sheet music for Song for the Unsung Hero. The Canadian words are in red on the sheet music online.
5. Let There Be Peace on Earth: we reviewed who sings where and sang through it once. Erase the previous markings. Mark your  music so that you know where to sing, when to come in. Everyone starts at the beginning at A, except the descant. The descant starts on the second line. Note that when there are two choir brackets (square brackets mark the choir part, squiggly brackets mark the piano part), the top part is going to be sung as a descant by 2 or 3 sopranos. The choir sings in the middle. On page 5, there's  no more descant. On page 6, the choir part divides up in the second line. We skip the top of page 7 and go to the optional quiet ending. So, on page 6, at the sign at the word "me", we jump down to the bottom half of page 7. Tracey and Heather brought treats and Debbie made excellent decaf coffee, and there was even tea. We had a happy Thanksgiving Monday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October 1st

If you missed October 1st, here's what you missed:

1. The small group rehearsals started with I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing and Happy Holidays/White Christmas. **This means that you will not be able to go into the room until 7:20. If you need to go in and sit, you'll have to be silent.

2. Warm-ups included shaking off our day, and funny hands and waving.
3. Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves was beautiful. We looked at the unusual phrase marks that mean that you can't take a breath where it seems natural, according to the words.
4. We learned all of New Year's Blessing! The whole thing.
5. We learned all of Carol of the Bells! Really. Most people only sing for one section, and the soloists will work on their parts independently.
6. We worked on Hymn to Freedom, pp 4-6 and sang through the whole thing. We realized that most of us forgot how the ahs went. So, Sapphire and I recorded them for you! Go to the website, to the resources page and download your ahs.
7. We sang We Wish You a Merry Madrigal. We just fudged the middle section, but the rest was excellent!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Small Groups: next steps

For those of you who are not in small groups, please be patient while they use our space to rehearse before choir every Monday. 
  • If you want to use the time before choir to socialize use the foyer. 
  • If you need to sit down in the room, be silent. 

For members of small groups, review the Small Group Guidelines. (Click there or access by logging in on the website and  clicking on "Members-only content." ) Here are some key points: 

Once the list of participants has been agreed upon by the Director, each small group needs to:
  •          Decide on a Group Leader, perhaps someone who could direct, or lead a practice,
  •          Establish a phone tree to call each other if there is a change in practice information,
  •          Find out who would be willing to host a practice or two at a convenient location,
  •         Find out who has (portable) equipment to assist with the practice, such as a keyboard, CD player, etc.

Here are just a few tips to help ensure your experience is a pleasant and successful one:
  • Watch your director!
  • Prepare for practice by reviewing the written score as often as possible.                                                     
  • Try to memorize the words so you can really focus on listening.
  • Listen often to the music on our website or CD or YouTube.
  • Listen to yourself and gauge your volume so you don’t drown out others, or fade in to the background.
  • Listen for the timing. Are others speeding up or slowing down? Keep up with the group’s tempo.
  • Breathe, and Enjoy Yourself!  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Small Groups- lists

**Please note that these groups have changed somewhat since sign-up time.


Part l Mona, Kay, Lynne F, Pat, Eithne, Galina
Part ll Stanley, Gerry, Michael, Robin, Jennifer, Sharon, Debbie


Sopranos- Louisa, Mary Ellen L, Darlene, Trix
Altos- Janet, Holly
Tenor/Bass - Todd, Kevin, Bill


First Sopranos: Tracey, Lori
Second Sopranos: Jean, Kit, Michele
Altos: Carol, Lauren
Tenor/Bass: Dorothy, Gerry, Kevin

The groups for Happy Holiday and Mele Kalikimaka are closed, because there is a limit of 10 for those, but we can have a few more for I'd Like to Teach. It can be a bigger group. So, if you feel that you missed your chance to be in a small group, we can probably fit you in there. Let me know, and Trix too, so you'll have music. / R

Song for the Unsung Hero- Alternate lyrics

Song for the Unsung Hero :  Alternate Lyrics for page 8-end
From  East to Western sea, our True North strong and free, of thee we sing.
May order, peace abide. ‘Cross prairies far and wide, o’er snow capped mountainside, let our voices ring.
Sing a song for unsung heroes. Sing from sea to shining sea, Our Canada.

For the descant (Kristen, Mary-Ellen, and one other high soprano, tbd Anne Marie?):
O Canada, land of the maple leaf, of thee we sing. O Canada! Sing O Canada. Sing it from every mountainside. Let our voices ring. 

Sept. 24

If you missed Sept. 24, here's what you missed:

1. warm-ups included clapping and stomping rhythms together
2. We learned more of One Voice. We sang from page 5 to the end!
3. We sang Mamma Mia with 3/4 of the new soloists.
4. We sight-read through Song For the Unsung Hero. There are alternate lyrics, to make it Canadian instead of American. They are on the sheet music scan on the website, but I will publish them here too. Write the words in on your music in pencil.
5. We learned a hard part in Hymn to Freedom, pages 7&8. Review that with the recording.
6. We talked about small groups, which start next week at 6:30 and 6:50. There will be posts and emails.
7. People who would like to do a solo song are letting me know, and suggesting their songs. I've got some really good ones already. It'll be so hard to choose.

Breathing and Phrases in singing

Because we have so much music to learn and want to spend our time together singing as much as possible, the music reading and music theory lessons will have to be limited to quick mentions as needed and posts here on my blog.

Today, I am starting at the very beginning, and it's not Do Re Mi. Before we can sing notes, we need to be able to breathe.

You might be thinking I'm a nut because everyone just breathes naturally. It's just there, breathing. You're alive; you're breathing. You're not breathing; well, you're not.

Singers, like athletes, cannot take their breathing for granted. 

We need to breathe consciously and deliberately. Breathing properly gives us good sound and helps our body to sing so that it doesn't hurt our vocal apparatus. We have to be aware of our breathing and understand what a breath can do for us, how far it will take us. Then, we need to be in control of our breathing.

Fist of all, you have to be sure to breathe with your belly and not with your chest. We do that in our warm-ups most Mondays. Here's a cool video of a guy with a shoe on his chest and a shoe on his belly to show you what it looks like when you're breathing using your belly (and most people focus on the diaphragm, but it's more complicated). The shoe on his chest stays still while the one on his belly moves.
There are lots of videos on how to breathe properly, posted for people who do Yoga, and run and do other sports, and specifically for singers.

If you're not accustomed to breathing consciously, you might feel a bit dizzy when your start. Lying down like the guy with the shoes is a good thing. And, don't exaggerate. It's more about paying attention to what your body is doing than making it do what you want. Don't fill your body up like a balloon about to burst. Allow it to fill up.

There are all kinds of articles on how we breathe and which muscles are used, and they'll basically tell you not to breathe too far down in your abdomen and not too far up in your chest, and to be aware of all the muscles that are used, not just the diaphragm. I won't go into detail, since most of you are not interesting in singing like an opera singer, or like Madonna (both of whom have strict daily physical work-outs and tons of exercises that focus on breathing) and if you do, you'll want to get a good vocal teacher who will go into detail.

In a choir, you have to breathe as a team.

We take breaths together sometimes and at other times we deliberately breathe at different times like a relay team: first me, then my neighbour, then another singer. Most of the time, we breathe together and the music tells us when to breathe and when not to breathe.

You need to pay attention to your body and to the music. There are lots of signs in the music that tell us when to breathe.

The most obvious musical breath is the apostrophe above the music.
Some music has breaths written in with an apostropheWhen you see that, take a breath. Easy. (Go Now In Peace has one on page 5, and Let There Be Peace On Earth has lots.)

A lot of rests are there for you to take a breath. We had an example in our music yesterday: In One Voice, at the top of page 7, Sopranos need to hold ring for 7 beats and there's a big quarter note rest before shout it out and then a little eighth note rest before and let it ring. Use them to take breaths.

In fact, mark all the rests in your music. Make sure you take a breath there and then you won't be holding a note longer than your neighbours, and you won't run out of air.

For a review of rests and how long to hold them, click here.

Rests are about half-way down. Pay as much attention to the rests as you do to the notes! Silence is important, not just for giving you time to breathe, but to give another part prominence, to create contrast, provide drama, and more. The rest is as important as the note.

Generally speaking, you breathe before and after a phrase, but not in the middle of one. The phrase could be a sentence. Look at the words, and see where there's punctuation. Breathe if there's a period. Take a breath if there's a comma or another natural pause as in speech.

There's also a musical way of marking a phrase. When a phrase is marked with a curved line above it, you need to take your breath at the beginning of the phrase, because you  must not breathe in the middle of a phrase.

Last night, we learned our ahs in Hymn to Freedom in phrases. Curved lines divided the ahs into sections, phrases. We had an example of an unusual phrase in Chorus of The Hebrew Slaves, on page 5 at F, and again at the top of page 9. Here you have thronging, oh my homeland joined by a phrase mark, so you can't take that natural breath at the comma but must wait until after Oh. People often swoop there (another topic for another time). Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves has a few examples of phrase marks to show you not to take a breath at a comma in the words. Check it out. You see a comma in the words, but in the music there's a curved line above or below the notes. You must pay attention to the musical phrases.

If you find yourself short of air from time to time, unable to hold a note as long as you're supposed to- like most of us- then mark more breaths on your music. Put in apostrophes above the rests that you want to remember to use, and put them in at the beginnings of sentences and phrases. If you come across a note that you always have trouble holding, work your way back from it to a place where you can take a breath, and mark it in your music.

If there is a place in the music where everyone has trouble holding a note, or keeping the sound going through a long phrase, then we do what is called staggered breathing. Singers singing the same part take turns taking a breath during the long note or phrase so that there is no obvious break, so that the sound continues. You sneak a breath where nobody else is sneaking theirs. You have to mark these breaths on your music and do it consistently so the team can count on you.

Soloists: rehearse with deliberate breaths, mark them in and observe them every time. Don't breathe randomly, or you will find yourself nervous and unable to hold a breath properly when you perform. Likewise, don't stretch yourself in rehearsal, or else you put yourself in danger of running out of air in a performance because you didn't anticipate your ex being in the audience.

The conductor can also help you with when to take a breath. When I'm conducting, I often breathe with you. You'll see me open my mouth and I'll exaggerate a deep breath along with the arm movements when I'm leading you in. When I sing a hard bit for you, I often exaggerate a breath so that you notice where to breathe, to make sure you observe the rest, and to emphasize the role of the rest in the rhythm.

When you do breathing exercises, you want to increase your ability to take a good amount of air in with a breath and then to use it evenly throughout a phrase, or while holding a note. Evenly. You want to have the same quality of tone at the beginning of the note and at the end. You don't want your sound to peter out, even if you're supposed to get quieter.

There's a breathing exercise that we do where we go ts-ts-ts-ts... as we let out air. This is to train us to let it out gradually and evenly.

The best thing you can do to help you with singing and breathing is to keep your body in good shape. If your lungs and heart and all the other muscles that you need to sing are in good shape, your voice will have all the support it needs. Don't smoke. Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption. Keep hydrated. Take care of yourself. And, singing will help to take care of you too. It's a good cycle.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Solo Assignments- will be updated

I'm posting this but it is a work in progress. I'll let you know when it's final.

Carol of the Bells
Soprano9-12 +13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (solo and lead) (Mary Ellen)
Soprano13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (Dolores)
Alto: 13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (DEBBIE)
Alto:13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (CAROL)
Tenor: 17-24 +37-44 +37-fine (Todd)
Bass: 17-24 +37-44 +37-fine (important ending, very low) (BILL)

In Our Town in December
 5-12 (intro solo) (Bill)
24-31 ( Hanukkah solo) (SOPHIE V., back-up)
32-39 (Christmas duet) (TRACEY and JANE, back-ups)

Let There Be Peace On Earth
Duet 2 first Sopranos, very strong 9-34 ( Kristen and Mary Ellen Lasota, Anne Marie as back-up)

One Voice
Soprano: 6-15+9-22 (Heather, need backup)
Alto: 18-22 (Teija, Janet)
Tenor: 15-22 (Stanley, need a back-up)

Mamma Mia
Soprano: 23-47 (LOUISA Heather will be back-up)
Soprano: 94-106+199-122 (KIT Sophie will be back-up)
Alto: 124-132 (DAPHNE Trix will be back-up)
Soprano: 200-208 (CATHY Kristen will be back-up)

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Love Lucy/Friendship

Groovy song from Cole Porter's Anything Goes done by Lucy and Ethel.
We'll do this as a small group in the spring. We have a fun choral arrangement.

Mele Kalikimaka

Ok. I won't ask anyone to sing and dance, but maybe a lei, or sunglasses would be fun? What do you think?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meal Ministry- great ideas to share

Hey Everyone,

One thing I love about Facebook is that people share all kinds of interesting things, and you don't have to agree, or worry about making a face that shows you don't.

I don't want to start Pinning- that Pinterest thing where you share interests by Pinning, which is kind of like Liking on FB. But, I like seeing what other people pin. Is that weird? Maybe just lazy?

So, one of the things that a friend Pinned yesterday is a blog post called "Top 13 Meal Ministry Meals" which gives ideas for meals to take to people or to take to a potluck or church thing. It's from a really cool blog that I think a number of you will like. It's called TakeThemAMeal.com Blog. It's from a website called TakeThemAMeal.com.

The whole thing started when a friend needed help and there were a ton of people who wanted to contribute meals for a family over a period of time and there was a need to coordinate all these people, schedule it in a central place. A website grew and now they also have the blog which shares all kinds of great ideas for helping people, and even just plain practical advice: How to Support a Person Through Loss and Transition, 19 Ways to Help During Crisis, From Your Freezer to Your Family, etc.

I'm looking forward to reading more of those posts and I hope that you might find it interesting. And, if you don't. Don't worry about it. I can't see your face.

Yours in harmony,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sept. 17 Fantastic rehearsal!

Wow!!! Tonight was Fantastic! Amazing! Spectacular!
I had so much fun!!!
The YRCC has never sounded better. We are hot, hot, hot :)

Here's what we did:
1. Warm-up included different kinds of voice-stretching, range-expanding techniques.
2. I Will Always Be With You, pp6-9. We are just about done. Sang to the end!
3. Do You Hear What I Hear, section D. And, sang from the beginning to the end of that section.
4. One Voice, p 5 to the top of 6.
5. Hymn to Freedom, sight read through and it was really good!

It was great and we sounded fabulous, but I have to teach faster. I had planned to sight-read through 2 more songs :) But, I was enjoying the amazing sound we had. "Let's do that again!" I really did get the chills several times. Our harmonies were perfect and full and just wow!

Please do work with the recordings if you can find some time! We really have a lot to do, and it's all such great music that we want to do all of it and not have to drop anything because we didn't have enough time. We can do it!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What you missed on Sept. 10

Here's what you missed if you didn't make to choir on Sept. 10:
If you can, have a look at the parts in red to catch up.
  1. Warm-up (massage, etc)
  2. Mamma Mia with past soloists, ending at Dancing Queen
  3. Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, run-through
  4. I Will Always Be With You, sight read through, **parts: pp1-5
  5. We Wish You a Merry Madrigal, sight read through, **parts: pp2&3
  6. Do You Hear What I Hear, sight read through
  7. You Raise Me up, run-through

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Solos in our Songs

Here's a list of all the various solos that are available. Look at them to see what range is required. They are marked SATB, but you can sing anything that's within your range. If you're a Bass, and you want a Tenor solo, that's fine. Same for Alto and Soprano. It's not usually important where you stand. Please let me know if you are interested in doing one in particular or any one of them. I will need back-up soloists too. I will assign solos as soon as possible.

Carol of the Bells
Soprano: 9-12 +13-24 +37-44 +37-fine (solo and lead)
Soprano13-24 +37-44 +37-fine
Alto:13-24 +37-44 +37-fine
Alto:13-24 +37-44 +37-fine
Tenor: 17-24 +37-44 +37-fine
Bass: 17-24 +37-44 +37-fine (important ending, very low)

In Our Town in December
Anybody(SATB): 5-12 (intro solo)
Anybody(SATB):24-31 (Hanukkah solo)
Duet (SA or TB): 32-39 (Christmas duet)

Let There Be Peace On Earth
Duet 2 first Sopranos, very strong 9-34 (I'm thinking, Kristen and Mary Ellen Lasota, but willing to hear your input)

One Voice
Soprano: 6-15+9-22 (Heather, need backup)
Alto: 18-22 (Teija, need backup)
Tenor: 15-22 (Stanley has been assigned, need a back-up)

Mamma Mia
Soprano: 23-47 (Heather will be back-up)
Soprano: 94-106+199-122 (Sophie will be back-up)
Alto: 124-132 (Trix will be back-up)
Soprano: 200-208 (Kristen will be back-up)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Register before Monday

Hello YRCC Choristers!

It's almost time! Monday is only around the corner. I'm super-excited. We've got amazing music planned and   it's going to be so good to see all of you again!

Please come a bit early to pay your registration fees. You don't have to register on Monday, just pay. Because, you can pre-register online!!!

Please register online instead of waiting until Monday, if you have the chance to. In fact, stop reading this and go to the website now and do it. It will only take a few seconds! Click here. Do it.

All you need to do is log in with your email address (the one you've given us before) and make up a password for yourself. The log-in box is near the top on the left.

Once you're logged in, most if  not all of your information will show up. Update it and save it and you're done!

It'll say that you still need to pay. You will do that on Monday. You'll receive an email to let you know that you're registered but you have to pay-a kind of invoice will be sent to you. And, when you log in next time there will be a reminder in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen that you owe $60, until Monday.

Spend some time clicking around while you're there. There's a bunch of cool stuff already online, and more coming! Super-exciting!

Here's a link to the website again: click here.

See you Monday!!!

Yours in harmony,

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Soprano? Alto? What am I? Examples and discussion: Soprano, mezzo-soprano, a...

I am reposting this repost because it's so good.
There are sample clips of singers that fall into each category.
This is one way to try to figure out which part suits you best.
In our choir, we have Sopranos, Altos, Tenors and Basses. Sometimes Tenors and Basses sing a Baritone part together. Our music is SAB or SATB, and sometimes it's only in 2 parts.

City of Dunedin Choir: Examples and discussion: Soprano, mezzo-soprano, a...: The following is a cross-post from my blog The Chorister . I have copied it to here, because I thought members of City Choir might find it i...

Saturday, September 1, 2012


The YRCC Website is now up and running!

It's still under construction, but already has tons of useful stuff on it. 

For the public, you'll see how to contact us and what events we have coming up and some general information about us. There's a link to this blog, and to our YouTube page where you can see and hear samples of our performances.

For members there's lots more!

YRCC choristers, when you go to the website, you'll see on the left side a white box for your email address and a white box for a login password. Use the email address that you use for the choir and make up a password. Trix has input all of our data, so you'll find your address, phone number etc already there. Thanks, Trix!

Review your information and update it, filling in any missing bits, and then you're registered. All you have to do on Sept. 10 is pay your membership fee of $60. 

Once you've logged in, you'll have access to the members only section. Go to links to resources. Treasures! There's all of our music! You can download the accompaniments and your part to the songs we're doing this season. (all the parts are not up yet, but will be soon) You can make yourself a CD of all the accompaniments and your parts to all of the songs, or you can use them on your computer or iPod, or anywhere you can download WAV files. There's also pdf downloads of the sheet music to preview- but you'll get purchased copies in your binders, so you won't need these after Sept. 10, unless you prefer to read them on your iPad, or computer. 

You'll be able to sign up for performances through the events page. And, I'll be able to see everyone that's signed up, so I'll know which soloists I can use, etc. 

Where it says links for members, you'll find our calendar. Click on the calendar to find details about our events, including maps. And, there's also a link to this blog, because I've always got the Nota Bene box which has reminders and the Schedule box with upcoming dates to remember that will help keep you on track. 

Also on this blog, you'll find the box in which I've got links to the blog posts about music theory that are very useful and another box with links to the blog posts that are videos of us. 

So, hopefully you'll never wonder what day our Christmas concert is or what time we have to be somewhere or where you need to be, and have to wait for Monday to find out. All the information you need will be at your fingertips!

Keep checking in for more features as the website keeps growing. 

No space for new choristers?

Is it possible? 

The York Region Community Choir has been happily growing for the past 6 years or so, after a period of uncertainty and renewal.

And now, we're at a point where we have to have a waiting list! 

We are very close to the maximum number of people that fit in our rehearsal space, and have already had to limit the number of members going out to seniors' homes because of lack of space. All summer, we've been trying to get a bigger rehearsal space with no success. There are very few options available to us, none of them satisfactory.

We're still going to be very happy to have men join, because our tenor and bass sections are still under-represented. But, we will have to stop accepting new sopranos and altos. Shocking.

We discussed how a waiting list would work at our last executive meeting- very reluctantly. We are very uncomfortable with having to say no to people who want to join our choir. 

We love our choir and would love for everyone in York Region to have the experience we are having. The idea has been that anyone in York Region who wants to have the experience of singing in a choir should be able to. Our fees are low and negotiable, and no previous experience is required. The Region supports us by providing our wonderful free rehearsal space, and we've been very proud to represent York Region at community events and at the seniors homes that we love visiting. We've been very proud and happy to accept new members and to share this great thing we have. But, we are approaching the point where we will have to say no.

We will be posting the details of how our waiting list will work soon. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sleeping In: messing with circadian rhythm

Circadian rhythm is not a fancy jazz term.

It refers to something in our biological clock that is a daily cycle, like sleeping and eating patterns. We're influenced by daylight, dark/light cycles, but, the 24-hour cycle is built in to us. Like lots of other things in nature, we have daily patterns of behaviour. Our daily sleep pattern is a big deal.

Jet lag and shift work mess with your sleep patterns. So do weekends, and summer holidays. 

You can read about studies that show that keeping a regular sleep pattern is good for your health, performance at school and work, everything. And, the reverse is also true. Not being in rhythm is bad for your health, performance, etc. Still, many of us sleep in when we can, especially on weekends, and end up suffering on Mondays and whenever we need to get back to our routines. 

School starts next week and I'll be happy to have the regular rhythm of the school week back. Harry and I both have irregular hours, so the girls' school days set the rhythm. Without the structure of a regular day, things get messy. This has been the case for the whole summer. Our sleep patterns haven't had a regular pattern. 

I don't think it's a horrible thing that our circadian rhythms are irregular in the summer. Music doesn't keep the same rhythm throughout a song. That would be boring. A change in pattern is interesting and necessary. Even in Mozart's music (think Mozart Effect)  there are necessary changes in rhythm and tempo. Our summers are more jazzy, with lots of improv. 

So, I'll let my family sleep in. But, maybe just a bit less, so that it's closer to the rhythm of the school year which is just around the corner. After all this free jazz, classical could be a shock to the system.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Exciting Project- New Recreation and Event Centre in Aurora

Our good friend and fellow chorister Bill Reid is involved in an exciting project in Aurora. The plan is to build a new Recreation and Event Centre in Fleury Park that can be used by a variety of sports clubs (in particular the Aurora Tennis Club) and community groups, and will include an amphitheatre where people can come and hear us sing! We loved our experience singing in Newmarket's Fairy Lake Park Amphitheatre and look forward to performing at this proposed new park!
Check out this newspaper article: click here
And keep up-to-date with the progress of the project on the Facebook page: click here
Here's the picture from the newspaper article that shows Bill with the model of the building. Check out all the playing surfaces inside.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Support for Singing in a Choir

Through Facebook, I read another good article about the benefits of singing in a choir. 

Here's a link to the article called "The Choral Cure": click here

Like I said on FB, we just do it because it feels great. You don't have to convince us. 

 Indeed, in the article it says "Singing is the best free drug going."

Here's the best part: 
"Like walking, singing has always been taken for granted – it's just something people have always done," says lead author Professor Stephen Clift. "But just as walking is now prescribed, the benefits of singing for health are slowly being rediscovered by health practitioners."

Like walking, singing is something that everyone should be doing. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another Olympic Success!

Another group of YRCC Olympians made us proud. The York Region Community Choir participated in the Olympic Finale Event at the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket yesterday, Saturday, August 11th, 2012. 

This time, our choir was asked to sing more, because they loved us so much the first time. What an honour! 

We were told that our O Canada "gave the community a feeling of patriotism", which we all felt when the crowd cheered at the end of our beautiful a cappella version of our national anthem. What a thrill! 

I'm so proud to be part of this wonderful group of people, the York Region Community Choir. 

Here's the picture of the group that performed at the Olympic Opening Event