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, June 23, 2013

Keep Cool Carefully and other thoughtful tips

(Barrie Waterfront from Ontario Trails Council Website)

Summertime is a good time to think about the environment. You're likely to spend time outdoors in nature, enjoying lakes and forests. Feel the love. Remember to do your part to reduce our impact on climate change (or climate chaos, as I've also seen it called).

Think about some small changes you can make every day to do your part to maintain the beautiful natural places that you love. Here are just a few to think about and to start you thinking about other little things you can do to show your love:

House and Garden:
Use blinds or curtains to keep the sun out of the house to help keep it cooler. If you're just starting your landscaping, plant a big deciduous tree on the south side. And, set your thermostat to 25 or higher. It's summer, right? Open windows in the evening when it’s cool.
Try not to use the stove or oven when it’s hot outside. Cook and eat outside (BBQ) or serve cold dishes. Plan ahead and cook in the morning before it's too hot.
Switch to perennials. Find plants that tolerate our summers. You won’t need to water them.
Container plants need to be watered daily. If you love container gardening, use a rain barrel.
Hang your laundry out to dry. 
Take advantage of the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

At Work:
Wearing a sweater at the office? Speak up. Don’t put up with too much air conditioning.
Make coffee at home. Drink it out of a real mug and sit and talk to your family while eating breakfast. Pack a lunch in reusable containers. Save money and the planet at the same time, and you'll probably eat better too. 
Find out if you can work from home some of the time.
Think twice before printing something. Can you read it and save it electronically instead? 

Holiday Travel:
Don’t forget your reusable water bottle. You really don’t want to have to buy plastic bottles of water. Have coffee in the coffee shop. Stop. Sit. Talk to the locals. Use real cups. Don't idle in the drive-through!
Travel close to home. Our part of Ontario is beautiful. Discover Ontario :) 
Take public transit into Toronto and be a tourist there. 
If you have to fly somewhere for your summer holiday, consider buying carbon offsets (this can be done formally, through a company such as Tree Canada or Carbon Footprint, or informally by making donations to environmental groups of your choice).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Reading: Music stuff

I found an interesting reading list that I'm going to be working on between my more traditional escapist-novels-in-a-lawn-chair reading.

I've shared it on my Musical Empathy blog because the books are all about music, the brain and the soul. Nice, eh?

Here's a link to my blog post with the list.

BTW If you're looking for a good escapist novel, I recommend The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I just finished reading it and it's awesome!

Are you on Goodreads? Find me there, and we can be "friends".

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The choir of life sounds great

"When we pay attention to nature's music, we find that everything on Earth contributes to its harmony."

As the conductor of a choir, I feel this keenly. In the choir, every kind of chorister adds her voice-the sweet, the crabby, the loud, the quiet, perfect pitch and perfect timing and the opposite too- but the whole is not the sum of the parts. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. And, the song is different depending on the perspective of the one who's listening.

What I hear when we perform a song that we've learned is harmony and love. I have put my love into it and it comes back to me multiplied. I don't hear the disappointment of the perfectionist who didn't get every single part right. I don't hear the missing voice when someone chooses not to sing. I don't hear the discord of a sour relationship between 2 sopranos. I hear that I have taught them well, and the strong are carrying the weak. I hear the choir singing the song together and the result is more than pleasing: it is electrifying and satisfying because I contributed well.

I love all the songs. I love the sweet ones and the grand ones, the jazzy ones and the funny ones. The easy ones are great and the difficult ones are great. I love the choristers too.

My choristers don't always understand that a performance went well. They don't have my perspective. They are in the middle of the choir, hearing the wrong notes and wondering about the singers who don't make a sound. They feel their own mistakes as huge distractions from the beauty of the song. I tell them not to worry, to try to relax and have fun. If they're doing their best, then it will turn out fine. Where they are weak, others will be strong. When they listen to a recording of the choir, they are surprised at how wonderful it is.

I see a life lesson in this choir experience.

The better the weather gets, the more I think about being outdoors instead of sitting at my computer. I want to go back to my childhood summer days at the cottage without even a TV, a really simple time spent mostly in the open. There was big open water, dense forest, fields of cows, and gravel roads. There were rocks and there was soft moss and poison ivy. There were storms and there were days when the lake was so calm and silent it was like a sheet of glass. It was wonderful. I am happy that my children also have some memories of that place and that way.

When I was a child, I just lived it and enjoyed it without thinking about it much. When I gave the experience to my children it was with intention and awareness. When I think back on it, I recapture that harmony and it inspires me to try my best and to relax, and to be mindful of my contribution and my perspective.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Origins of the York Region Community Choir

Finally, here is the promised Origins of the York Region Community Choir post. 

The Executive of the YRCC recently did a bit of house-cleaning and found a history of the choir which described the origins of our choir.

“In 1995, after the York Regional Police Male Chorus was formed, Sheryl Mac Phail and Wendy Evenden Loney, female members of the York Regional Police, created the York Regional Choir as a mixed choir which would welcome men and women employed by the York Regional Police as well as members of the surrounding community. By January of 1996, they had a director and an accompanist, and by late spring of that year, the choir performed. At the request of the organizers of the Celebration of the 200th Birthday of Yonge Street, the choir performed an original composition written especially for the occasion by choir member Roy Hamilton at the Holland Landing portion of the celebration.
In 1998 a choir constitution was passed and the choir became known as the York Region Community Choir.  The first executive was lead by Wendy Loney as President, with Marlene Shruiff as Vice-President, Thelma Evenden as Secretary-Treasurer and Roy Hamilton for Public Relations.“

Since then, the choir has undergone several changes as directors and accompanists have come and gone.  At the moment, there are only a few members from those formative years.  The constitution has been updated but we have maintained a focus on singing a variety of music that reflects the variety of people that make up our choir and our community, as a fun musical outlet for our members and to share the choral experience with the community. We have collaborated with the York Regional Police Male Chorus, which rehearses across the hall from us. We participate in community events in addition to giving 2 public performances every year, and each season we set aside time to sing at several seniors’ residences. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My baton, my magic wand

As I said, there were some stressful moments at the rehearsals, culminating in moments of utter frustration for me on Saturday before the concert. Walking around snapping at people, 4-letter-words at the tip of my tongue (in a church!), I felt that it would have been nice if my baton were really the magic wand that it sometimes feels like it is. Zap! It would have been nice. Pfzzzt! Bam! There were moments when I felt like a witch. 

Luckily, all of that negativity vanished when I actually picked up the baton and the choir started singing. It was heavenly, and I was transported as the true magic of the music did its work. Thank God for music! I still like to think that there is some magic in my baton. 

Success! Stressful rehearsals really do produce a good show

Well, we certainly had issues during the last rehearsals, but in the end the show was almost flawless! All the messy bits cleared up and we sounded fabulous!

The great variety of music was a smash! People loved all the different kinds of music we sang and there was very little time wasted with moving around. It went as smoothly as possible.

I think we gave everyone there a very entertaining Saturday night with a very high level of professionalism. Honestly, have you ever heard anything better than Kristen and Todd or Janet and the Kevins? And, I can't wait until you hear the recordings of our choir songs. I know that when you're standing in the choir, you can't hear what I heard. Just wait until you do! You'll be amazed!

The bake sale was fantastic as usual. So much variety there too!

Although I'm exhausted and my arms and neck are achy and I needed a nap today, I'm very happy and satisfied. I'm sitting in front of my big, beautiful bouquet of flowers and feeling blessed. Thank you, YRCC!