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, March 28, 2012

TV Theme Medley and homework

I don't want to give too much away on this public site, but I've posted a few of the songs in our TV theme medley since not everyone was familiar with all of the shows. When in doubt, Google and YouTube are great resources!

If you have some time in the next few weeks, work ahead on the ABBA medley with your CD, and look at the TV medley too. Even if you don't read music, get those words down -there are some sections that are fast- and that will help. If you do have access to a keyboard and can take a look at your part and learn it, that would help all of us immensely. 

Review that songs that we know well, Wonderful World, etc, with the accompaniment CD so that you feel really comfortable with them.

New folks, we don't spend much time on these so be sure to look at: Wonderful, Hallelujah, Wind, True Colors, Blue Skies, Do Re Mi, People. 

Bonanza Theme Song!--By Ben Cartwright

Our words to this are very different, but the melody is the same. This will help.

Mr. Ed - Intro (Opening Theme)

Ok, this one I didn't know.

Laverne & Shirley Show Opening

I couldn't believe that there were people who didn't know this one! Loved this show!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Keeping time, singing together, counting

Hello Everyone!

This week, I only introduced the topic of counting, and even here I'll just begin to show what's involved. As usual, I'll give you links to stuff online that will help you too.

At choir, I mentioned that in 4/4 time we count quarter notes 1  2  3  4
eighth notes are 1+2+3+4+
and sixteenths are 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a (one- ee- and- ah).

So, that's basically how we name the beats. 

I can name a specific beat to tell you when to come in at the beginning of a song. 

For example, in True Colors you start on the + (and) of 3. So, you wait for beats 1+2+3 then sing +4+1  3  (You with the sad eyes)

Notice the whole bar and half note and quarter note rests at the beginning. You can count those in your head and then sing: 1  2  3  4  1  2  3  You with the.

If you're just looking at the rhythm to learn the song you count the rests too and whatever parts of the previous beats will help you: 1    2    3    4   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Look at the next 2 lines after sad eyes. Count the phrase like this: 
1 + 2 +   + 4 + 1 + 2 
(don't be dis-cour-aged oh I realize)

To make sure you hold discouraged and realize long enough, you can think of it as:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 +

For the next phrase, you come in on the + of 4.  You have just an eighth note rest to take a quick breath and then you come in.  
+ 1 + 2 + 3+
(it's hard to take cour-age)

Then, you have sixteenths: 
 +a1  +a3 + 
(In a world  full of strangers)

Here comes the phrase we had trouble with:
 1 + 2 + 3 +  +a1 +  + 3 + 4 + 1+  + 
(you can lose sight of it and the darkness inside you makes you feel so small)

Notice the eighth note rest on beat 4 of bar 12. The word it is short. 

See how cool counting is! I can tell you exactly where I want you to look on the page. 

There are some good lessons online.

Here is one that reviews the value of notes and rests, and shows the values very clearly in a chart and gives you examples of rhythms to listen to. 

Here is a site with links to worksheets with good explanations. Click on and read the first 4. Very cool. I highly recommend these. 

We'll talk more about counting, and look at different time signatures too. 

Yours in harmony, 

Rhythm Counting

This video is pretty cool. There's the big visual representation and then they show you how it looks in music notation. It gets pretty complex pretty fast but it's really worth a look. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some of a Choir Librarian's Work

Hello Everyone!

Here's a little behind-the-scenes look at the work of a choir. 

The picture above is of a table in the basement of our Music Librarian's house. That's well over a thousand dollars worth of choral music!

This is just a little snapshot of what Trix goes through taking care of our music library. 

Trix picked up the music that Heather ordered- new music and more copies of music that we already had but didn't have enough of- from the music store downtown (St. John's Music) and got it all out of the boxes and started organizing it before I offered to help her out. She created a great system so that we could work together to deal with all the different music. We stamped, numbered, and 3-hole-punched all the music, got it ready for individuals to pick up the various pieces that they're missing, got the new music ready to hand out to everyone, and filed extras. It looked like a huge job that would take all day, but the time flew by and we were done in less than 3 hours.

It was fun working together. We talked and laughed a lot and Trix fed me a delicious lunch when we were done. Working on choir things with choir friends is always accompanied by good food and great conversation.

The choir will be so happy to have all their music, especially the new pieces! 

Thank you, Trix, our hard-working Music Librarian, for making sure we can all sing together!

Yours in harmony,

Monday, March 19, 2012

Repeats. Where do I go? What's a Coda?

Hello Eveyone!

Today's lesson at choir was on bar lines and repeats. 

We started off looking at single and double bar lines and the skinny-and-thick end-of-the-piece double bar lines. If the double bar lines are both skinny, it's just the end of a section. 

Then we looked at what the repeats look like. Here's a good little chart that shows you. 

Repeat signs and volta brackets used in sheet music. 

We looked at first and second endings, when they mark the repeat like that up there. And, we looked at an example of a D. S. al Coda. Where they don't mark the repeat with the special double bars with repeat marks, but write the words with or without symbols. The symbol for that Sign/Segno is cool. Coda just means ending, and it has a cool symbol too. Check out the symbols in the chart below. Fine means the end of the song. Do you get the difference between ending and end? So you go back to the special sign and then skip to the ending when it tells you to (it'll say to Coda or al Coda). Then you sing that special ending part to the end. So it's like you've got 2 verses, and they're almost the same except for the last part which is fancy for the ending. 


There's a really good animation that shows you how it works here. You can follow along while it plays the music and describes what it's doing. Try it!

D. C. al Coda works the same way except you go back to the beginning. C stands for Capo, head in Italian, meaning the beginning. 

When you get a new piece of music, it's always a good idea to look at the whole piece first to see if there are any repeats. I don't recommend making dog ears on your music. Use a sticky note or just make a big circle around the beginning of a repeat with a pencil. That way, when it's time to flip back, you know where you're going. 

We have lots of repeats in our music this season. Look through the pieces you already know and see how much you already know about repeats. Then look at the pieces you don't know or have forgotten and apply your new understanding of repeats to them. 

You're reading music!

Your's in harmony,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Breastplate

Part of this song is from St. Patrick's Breastplate, a hymn 700 years old.

I took that part and jazzed it up, added a rap (also from the original) and hand motions (obvious) and sang it with kids at church! I was inspired by my gospel weekend. And, I like to do songs that link to the lesson at church or to other events. 

What do we know about St. Patrick's Day except that people dress in green, drink beer, and act crazy? The beer and crazy thing is all about the feast day falling in Lent, the sober season of fasting and abstaining. I'm always learning. St. Patrick gave us the clover representing the Trinity, and this really big hymn/prayer called a breastplate because it's a prayer of protection. It's really long. The stuff here is just a small part of it. Google it. It's really cool. 

So, here's what we sang and what we'll sing again tomorrow at church:

Christ above me. (same melody, but punchy, so it sounds like: Christ! Above me.)
Christ beside me.
Christ within me, ever guiding. 
Christ behind me.
Christ before.
Christ, my love, my life, my Lord.

Christ to my right; Christ to my left.
Christ when I stand; Christ when I sit.
Christ when I sleep; Christ when I wake.
Jesus Christ is my breastplate.

Christ above me. 

Christ beside me.
Christ within me, ever guiding. 
Christ behind me.
Christ before.
Christ, my love, my life, my Lord.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Powered Up with the Toronto Mass Choir!

Did you know that there was an annual Gospel Music conference in Toronto?
Did you know that there's a Juno Award for Gospel Music?
The Juno Award for "Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year" has been awarded since 1994.
In 2003, the Toronto Mass Choir won it. They've been around since 1988. 
I had no idea. 

Hollie gave me her hairdresser's business card with information about the TMC and PowerUp, their annual music conference, written on the back. She thought I might be interested. I went to the website. 

Nothing re-ignites the passion for music more than finding out something new about it.  Learn techniques you have never explored before; discover sounds and ideas you’ve never encountered.
It’s time to ignite your passion for Gospel Music! Join Professor Karen Burke and the Juno-Award winning Toronto Mass Choir and experience the joy of singing high energy, dynamic and spirit-lifting music in a gospel choir. Spend time learning great gospel music and meeting people with the same passion.
Everyone who loves to sing is invited to enjoy high-energy, spirit-lifting, hand-clapping, toe-tapping gospel music. Join us on March 2-4 and experience the power!!!

There was a workshop especially for choir directors, and something called "Vocal Boot Camp" that I was really interested in, and the conference was taking place at York University. I hadn't been there since I graduated. I would have the opportunity to learn choir stuff in a classroom! Almost everything I've learned about choir conducting and singing, I've learned informally from fellow choristers. My musical background goes way back to band class in high school, where I did learn quite a bit, including basic conducting, and I did sing in the jazz choir. But, high school was a very long time ago. I signed up. 

The weekend was amazing! I learned so much! And, it was so much fun!!! 

York University looks nothing like it did when I was a student there. It's much more beautiful now. I loved being back in school. 

The workshops were great! I was surprised each time that the description of the workshop was different from what I experienced, but what I experienced was excellent. The workshop leaders were all superb. 

My first workshop was with Professor Karen Burke, the director of the TMC. What luck! She is such an inspiration! Smart, talented, passionate, energetic, and filled with God's light and love, Karen fills a room with her shining presence and has that gift of making you feel like she's speaking to you alone. Each rehearsal was like a continuation of that first class, because Karen explained what she was doing as she conducted. And, it felt like she was doing it just for me. 

The Vocal Boot Camp classes were the most fun. Cassandra Sommers was beautiful and brilliant. We warmed-up and stretched our voices with all kinds of exercises and had a really entertaining group activity where we created and performed fun new versions of well-known melodies using techniques we learned. 

I am still suffering from the effects of my Gospel Dance/Hip-Hop class. I expected to learn some basic steps that I could share with my choir. and maybe get some advice on how to get everybody moving together, how to clap and sing at the same time. I don't really know what I expected. But, I did read in the description that there was no performance for the basic level class. Well, that was true for the Friday class, but I took it on Saturday and we had to perform a dance! I also didn't expect the class to be full of young people. In a class of about 20, I was one of 3 who were over 30, and the oldest by far. I loved it. It helped that the young instructor, JJ Gerber, with his beautiful eyes and encouraging smile was charming, talented, and very patient. Dancing hip-hop and learning a dance routine so quickly was an exciting challenge and I was determined to go through with it. It cost me though. I could hardly walk the next day, and standing up and sitting down still hurt now 3 days later.

The best thing about the classes was meeting the wonderful people, singers and choristers on the journey together, warm and kind. 

The best thing about the weekend was singing in the choir. The rehearsals were excellent. I really learned the most during the rehearsals. The Sunday night concert was thrilling! The TMC performance was slick, high-energy and awe-inspiring, and the York University Gospel Choir was excellent and adorable, as was the Youth Choir. (I think I would have hated it if someone called me adorable when I was in high school and university, but at my age, they look so young. And, I adored them.) I loved the band! I loved singing with a band. Wow! The energy is incredible. Singing in the choir was so joyous, exciting, satisfying, intoxicating that I didn't want the night to end.

The most important lesson that I took home with me was that a choir is a community built on love. Sounds cheesy but it's true. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Teachers and Nurses

Hi there!

You know how I noticed that so many of us choristers like to bake?

I noticed another thing about the people in the choir, and people in other choirs I've met. There seem to be a lot of teachers and nurses, more teachers and nurses than any other professions.

I don't think it's just because there are more women than men, because there are men who teach or have taught in choirs too. And, there aren't many men. Hmmmm. 

I met a really wonderful person at the Power Up conference this weekend, (Lots actually, but this one stood out. I adored her.) and she's a nurse, and a really good dancer and a figure skater and of course a choir member, but I forgot to ask her if she likes to bake. 

I'll have to remember to ask in the future. "So, what do you do when you're not singing? And, do you bake?"

I think that it's just another way that we can see that choir members are people who are creative and caring. 

I love my choir. 

Yours in harmony,

What kind of rest is this?


This is all you get for a review this week because I covered rests in my post from last week. To review last week's lesson click here.

So, what's the value of the rest in this joke? Ok, I'll make it easy and give you suggestions:

  1. eighth note
  2. quarter note
  3. half note
  4. whole note