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!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Voice Types and Vocal Ranges in the YRCC

We sing a lot of SAB, and a fair bit of SATB music in the York Region Community Choir.

Our singers are divided into Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, and Basses. Sometimes we have to divide the Sopranos into first and second Sopranos, so they sit separately, and occasionally we also have to divide Altos into first and second Altos.

In our choir, Sopranos sing the top part of all the music, the top line of the treble clef, the highest notes. But, that doesn't mean they all can sing the highest notes. The soprano part always has the most melody, so the reason for being in that section might be to be able to sing melody. Another thing that makes it attractive is that the top notes are easiest to find and follow. We divide into first and second sopranos for some pieces. The first sopranos are on top, and it's usually the melody, but sometimes it's a descant part. Even though the first sopranos should be able to sing the highest, that's not always the case in our choir, but don't worry. There are enough first sopranos who can sing very high that the team always sounds good.

Our Alto section has some of our best musicians, and they often can sing higher than many of the Sopranos. Their part is more difficult to read and more difficult to sing, but in a more comfortable range for most women. It's the second line of the treble clef.

Our Sopranos and Altos are all women, but our Tenors and Basses are not all men. Tenors sing the top line and Basses sing the bottom line of the bass clef. We have some women in the Tenor section. And, our music doesn't always have Tenor and Bass, but only Baritone. Like all community choirs, and church choirs that I know, we don't have enough men. But, the ones we have are wonderful. And, the addition of the women in the section means we have more power in the section than you can see. The effect is very good. Also, women are more likely to speak up if there's a question or a problem (Like most men, male choristers don't usually ask for directions.). It works out really well.

So, the ranges in our choir are varied and not quite what you'll see defined elsewhere. It works for us.

Here's what Wikipedia says are the ranges:

I also found this YouTube video of the ranges. Cool, because it plays the notes for you so you can sing along.

In our choir, you sit where you think you feel comfortable. And, you'll get a good feel for it soon. If you'd like to try another part, then you move. It's that easy. There are some choristers who sing different parts in small groups because they can. So, we'll have an alto singing tenor or soprano, and a soprano singing alto for  fun. There's more about how our choir works in this blog post. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monday, January 28

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sapphire was unable to come, so we had to rehearse with recordings, and Heather did a great job playing parts for us. We were unable to start the new songs, but made good progress anyway.

1. Warm-ups included massages which we needed, considering the challenging day we had with snow, freezing rain, cancellations and other stresses.
2. We sang Blue Skies with the sopranos holding their Blue Skies and Blue Days. It sounded great. The snaps are looking and sounding good too.
3. We learned the tricky "echo" parts at 81, 73, and 57 of I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.
4. We sang Song for the Unsung Hero. What a powerful song!
5. One Voice was a treat as always.
6. I Will Always Be With You was beautiful. We paid closer attention to dynamics.
7. Monday, Monday was also better because we got the ba-das quieter and lighter.

Next week, we'll do:

Flying Free
Greatest Love
Wild Mountain Thyme
You'll Never Walk Alone

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Job opening: Choir police

I saw this on tumblr and had to share! Who's going to enforce this? Heather, do you know anyone?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 21st: We can snap! And, look at rests to know how long to hold the notes.

Yup. We can snap. Like Elvis.
We grooved. 

(Heads-up: there's a theory/ reading music lesson coming toward the end of this post about rests and holding notes)

1.For our warm-up, we warmed up our bodies by standing up and sitting down on command :)
We discovered that most of the people who have done solos and/or participated in small groups feel nervous    when they perform. It doesn't stop us; it helps us. Adrenalin. Good nervous. I'm sure Elvis got nervous.
We warmed up our voices with exercises that included snapping and triplets (ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba,...).

2. Our first song was One Small Step. It was great! We're going to have soloists at the beginning and the end. The end will be so special! We got to hear Teija's beautiful voice on its own. Gerry and Todd tried the second one together and managed quite well, despite not knowing the song :)

3. Get Happy was next and it was crazy! We did it super-fast and managed, but the entries by the sopranos were almost impossible. Then we looked at those entries and slowed it down. It was much better, but still needs some work. You've to to think: 1-2-3and4and1and. The words on 'and4and1and' are forget your troubles/the sun is shining.

4.Hallelujah ate into our break time, but we didn't mind because we love it. Gerry sang the first solo and it was awesome. We might just keep him on it. And, Tracey did a great job on the second one. Again, it was a treat to hear some new voices. We reviewed those tricky parts but still have trouble with them. When Sapphire and I do the recording next month, we'll record those for you :).

5. After break was when we got our white shoes on and snapped with Blue Skies. It was fun and looks and sounds really groovy!

6. Before we started I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, we looked at rests and holding notes in Blue Skies, and then at Teach the World, because they both have that back-and-forth between the sections thing. Most of the time, when the other section is singing, you're not done, but have to hold your note. How long do you hold it? You can count the beats in the note you're holding, or you can look at the rests before the next note you sing.  If there are no rests, then you hold it right up to the next word. Look at the top of page 5 of Teach the World. When the Altos and Basses (part ll) are singing 'hand' they have to  hold it all the way to 'for'. You can say they have to hold it for 7 beats, but it's probably easier to just look and think 'no rest'. On the next line, they have a bunch of rests before 'That's the song I sing' Don't worry about adding them up. Just look up and see that you're silent while the other section sings and then you do just what they did. 
You can review your rests, so that you know how long you wait, but just looking at them will give you a good idea. The bars are all the same size and the beats are lined up the same in the top and bottom. So you can compare your rest to what the others are singing (or to the piano accompaniment below if everyone is singing the same thing). The longer rests are blocks and the shorter ones are squiggles, The little one that's light and looks like a fancy 7 is only half a beat, so just time for a quick breath. There are lots of these in Teach the World. 

Review my post on counting, and you'll see the chart with rests. 

Next week: 
  • Blue Skies
  • Flying Free
  • Teach the World
  • One  Voice
  • Wild Mountain Thyme
  • You'll Never Walk alone

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14th review and looking ahead

If you missed choir today, here's what you missed:

1. Our warm-ups included making funny faces and strange sounds.
2. We sang I Will Always Be With You. It's beautiful. We had to review pages 6 and 7.
3. Monday, Monday was great!
4. Hallelujah: we reviewed "the baffled king composing Hallelujah", "the holy or the broken Hallelujah" and "with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah". The first one is different for everyone. The second and third are the same but in a different key, so just a bit higher. I'm considering changing soloists. Let me know if you're interested in singing one.
5. We sang I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing. It was really good! We're going to start with solos first a soprano or alto and then a tenor or bass. Everyone starts at 25. Soprano and Tenor are on Part l and Alto and Bass are Part ll.
6. Wonderful World was beautiful.

Looking ahead to Next week:
Blue Skies
Get Happy
I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing
One Small Step

If you like to work on stuff at home, here's the harder stuff you'll want to look at:
From a Distance
You'll Never Walk Alone
On Eagle's Wings

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Solos and small groups for Spring 2013

As soon as you get your music, have a look at the solos we need this season. I've listed them all here. Find them in the music and see if you like the range and the song.  If you would like to be considered for a solo in the choir music, let me know. The deadline will likely be end of the month. 

Also think about solo pieces. We can have 3 or 4 solos and duets. Last season we had 3 solos and a duet. I've already heard from a few duets but no soloists yet. We'll have to limit it to 4 total. Please come forward and let me know if you are considering a solo song or a duet. Your deadline will likely be later in February or March. Remember our theme is Friendship and Community. 

Small groups: Sign up will be soon. We have a men's a cappella small group piece, Sam Hall, and a mixed group song called Friendship. There is room for another piece with piano accompaniment, and we're hoping for 2 Janet and the Kevins small group pieces again. We have a few suggestions for music, pieces we have in our files, but if you have a song you'd like to do as a small group, please let me know. Remember that small groups do most of their preparation on their own. We count on members of small groups to learn their music at home and to organize rehearsal time independently. You need to book your time with Heather and Anne Marie or Janet and the Kevins and be available to meet before choir and possibly on other days. 

Spring Music Solos

Blue Skies (or keep Trix and Janet?)
Soprano at 37
Alto,Tenor or Bass at 45

From a Distance
Alto: at 6 and 26
Soprano: joins the alto for a duet at pick-up to 10 and 30

Hallelujah (new soloists)
Tenor: beginning
Soprano/Alto: at 16

I’d like to Teach the World to Sing
Soprano/Alto: at 9
Tenor/Bass: at 17

Soprano/Alto: at 5

One Small Step
Soprano/Alto: at 5 and 75
Tenor/Bass: at 10

One Voice
Keeping soloists from last season (Heather, Stanley, Janet/Teija)

Wild Mountain Thyme
Soprano/Alto: at 5, first verse
Tenor/Bass: at 5, second verse

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shut-up-and-do-as-you're-told politics here and now

Don't like conflict. Avoid it.
So, politics are obviously not my thing.
But, sometimes I see something that demands my attention.

Tomorrow's events both have the same kind of aura of unfairness to them and I think it's because they both revolve around groups of former second-class citizens and their right to participate in the processes that govern them.

York Region Elementary Teachers, among others, will have a day of protest tomorrow, Friday, January 11th, 2013.

Teachers have lost their rights and there is no uproar from the other unions. Do they feel immune? Do they believe that the teachers are different, don't deserve the same rights?

I'm surprised and disappointed in the public, especially members of all unions, for their lack of support for teachers. It isn't fair.

The Prime Minister is going to meet with some First Nations leaders that have been neglected tomorrow. There will be a prayer vigil at our church, Trinity United Newmarket.

The First Nations want to be heard. I don't agree with much of what they are saying. I don't like the word Sovereignty. I don't like that their solution is to separate themselves from Canada and Canadians. But, they believe they are not included, so they are separate already. If we believe that they should be included then they need to be at the table. We need to be considering their issues. What do we know about this and how much do we care? Excluding First Nations is the problem, not the solution. This is a much more complex issue that we have to become more aware of. Check out the Official Idle No More website. I had no idea.

I'm surprised and disappointed in the continued lack of attention the First Nations get.

If I do nothing else, at least I can reflect on these issues and express my hope for peace in these situations, for the individuals involved and for all of us who are and will be affected.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Spring Season starts Monday

I'm excited to get going with our new season!

Our theme for this Spring Season is Friendship and Community. 

It flows well from our Together for the Holidays theme of gathering with friends, family and community.

We will continue to sing several of our winter season songs and will bring back a bunch of things from last spring as well. There will be a few pieces that I've reached back in our archives for which only a few people will remember. One of them is a beautiful anthem-like song called You'll Never Walk Alone. It's a really cool and jazzy arrangement of a powerful piece of music that I'm sure everyone will enjoy.

As promised, everyone will have the chance to sing I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing.

I'm really looking forward to moving in to our new, bigger space across the hall! 
We were packed in like sardines before, but now we'll have a bit of room to stretch. Look out for more interesting warm-ups ;)

Please note that even though we'll have more space, our numbers are still capped. The room capacity is only 60, and we have decided not to grow any more anyway. The waiting list is still in effect.