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!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Cyber Conductor

Not as funny as Bugs Bunny, but really cute. I love hearing how much English is in the German, "volume control" for example, and "dinner parties". Hee hee!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reading music: weekly lessons started. How many beats?

Here's a chart of note values to help you remember what we learned in Heather's music reading lesson before choir this week.

 Remember that the value of a note depends on the time signature: 
Different time signatures.
4/4 means there are 4 quarter notes in a bar. This is called Common Time, used for marches in particular, and common for most music. So, a whole note gets 4 beats. 
We  count 123412341234...

2/2 means there are 2 half notes in a bar. You're thinking that in 4/4 we can have 2 half notes in a bar. Right. But,  2/2 is faster. A half note gets 1 beat.  We count 121212121212...

3/4 means 3 quarter notes. This is used to give a dancing feel. So, a whole note gets 3 beats.
 We count 123123123...

2/4 means there are 2 quarter notes in a bar. And, it ends up sounding like cut time
We count 1212121212...

6/8 means 6 eighth notes (Lots of music is 6/8). A whole note gets 6 beats. 
We count 123456123456123456... 
Or, we can count 121212... 
Or, sometimes, 123123123123...
We can divide the bars in half depending on the tempo. 

Each note has a corresponding rest. Here's a chart of rest values.
Different musical rest lengths.

Heather also taught us about dotted notes and then we had several examples in our music. Remember that a dot makes the note longer by 50%. (A second dot, which not very common, adds half of that, so another 25%.) Here's a chart to help you with dotted notes.

A dotted half note, and a dotted quarter note.

Often, the use of dotted notes gives a swingy feel to the music, bum ba-dum. 

There's a lot of stuff about music theory on the Internet. Much of it is for learning to play piano. I found this article on About.com clear and thorough. I like Brandy Kraemer's charts. 

I'm looking forward to hearing more of Heather's music lessons. Can't wait to see what she teaches us next week. I'll follow up with a review here after each lesson. 

Yours in harmony,

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Hi Everyone!

Is there a connection between baking and singing? 

It seems to me there must be. So many of us in the choir enjoy baking and are pretty good at it too. 

We just had a sweet executive meeting. Sandra, who hosted, baked several yummy things and a couple of others contributed as well. It's always like that. And, our coffee nights at choir always have scrumptious home made sweets as treats. Then, there's the bake sale at our concerts. Wow! You've never seen such an amazing selection of home made treats! We always have Donna's famous butter tarts, Heather's famous short bread, Sylvia's famous squares (I'm waiting for their return), and there's always something new that people want the recipe for. 

I think it might be a general inclination towards creative expression. But, why is it that we choose to express ourselves with cookies and choir, muffins and music? Are we doing other creative things too, or is this enough?

Are there painters, poets, scrapbookers, knitters and sewers among us as well? And, in such great numbers? 

What do you think?

Yours in harmony, 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Hi Everyone!
I'm really lucky being the conductor. Since I do the talking, people come and talk to me.
Whenever we go out performing, I get all kinds of wonderful positive feedback. It feels great. I'm already high from the performance, and then people come up to me all excited and grateful and full of kind praise. Heavenly. 
When we meet next, I tell the rest of the choir. But, it's not the same. In the moment it's thrilling.
Now, whenever I go to see someone perform, if I have the opportunity, I tell them that I enjoyed the show and try to give them some specific piece of praise too. I know how good it feels. 
We had some very nice feedback about the show we did for Probus on Thursday. They were a great audience, weren't they? We did do a great job :) 
Thanks to everyone for coming out on a weekday morning. I know that several of you had to take the morning off of work. What a great team effort!
I love my choir!
Yours in harmony,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Warming Up

Hi Everyone!

I recently joined a group on Linked In: Choral Enthusiasts. There are some really good discussions going on and the one I'm most interested in is the one on warm-ups. 

I know they're important, and I like to explain why we do what we do as we're doing it, but I do feel that some people might think we're wasting our time. When people consistently arrive after warm-ups, it bothers me a bit. I try to think positively and assume that they're late because of a long trip home after work, traffic, or something like that :)

There's a really good blog about warm-ups that you should read. (just click on that highlighted part) The writer compares warm-ups to breakfast. We all know that we shouldn't skip breakfast, but it happens. And, lots of people continue to skip breakfast by choice. 

One thing that she mentions is that it sets the tone of the rehearsal, even establishes the choir's identity and goes so far as to say that "To miss the warm-up is to withhold your full participation in the choir’s moral order."

I like that. We do establish that we want to have fun and relax, get the kinks of the day out, and that we're serious about our music too by the exercises we choose and how we do them and by laughing heartily. 

I'm going to spend some time looking at that blog. It's called Helping you harmonise. 

See you next Monday!

Yours in harmony,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winterfest was fun!

It was great to be on the new outdoor stage at the new park in downtown Newmarket. The skating rink was right there and it was magical having people skating to our music, and even nicer when they stopped skating to listen to us. We did have to wait for the zamboni to finish before we started singing. That was a first for us! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Newmarket Winterfest

Here's what we're singing:

  1. What a Wonderful World
  2. You Raise Me Up
  3. True Colors
  4. Hallelujah
Wear dark coats and pants and your scarf on top. 
Meet near the stage.