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!

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.