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, January 31, 2021

YRCC Zooms into February: Monday, February 1st, 2021 Choir for us- no stress

Today, I participated in a workshop offered by Choirs Ontario about Online Rehearsals. The presenter was Antonio Llaca from Carleton University in Ottawa. There were participants from all over Canada and all over the world, about 150 of us. 

It was cool. I think we should consider joining Choirs Ontario.

The presenter is a university professor who has had to learn to teach choral singing online. He reviewed with us some techniques for rehearsals, the role of conductor (I'm not obsolete!) and some of the new technologies.

For now, choirs can only meet online, but we talked about a hybrid approach being the most probable next step, as we gradually get back to real choir. 

We might always have some kind of blended choir experience, alternating between online and in person meeting, and the virtual component could have synchronous and asynchronous elements. 

We could use technology to meet at the same time (synchronous) and we could use technology independently to learn and rehearse on our own (asynchronous). We at the YRCC have been doing that already, so don't be nervous about that. With our recordings on the website, we have always had the capability for asynchronous rehearsing. So, we've already been using technology for years! We now can rehearse online on our own and we can meet together using Zoom. Hopefully soon, we will be able to get together in person. Especially if all 60 of us can't meet at the same time, we could complement our in-person meetings with online activities.

It is quite likely that new technologies developed during this time of virtual meetings and virtual performances will always be useful. So, it's best not to stand on the sidelines today, waiting for things to go back to where we were a year ago. Please join us as we continue to be a choir online!

There was a lot of talk about latency- the delay between broadcast and receipt of data electronically. 
There's that and there's also the different hardware that people use, what kind of equipment people have. 

The professor was not comfortable with questions about what headphones or microphones might be best. His approach was that online choir should be accessible to everyone, and that there shouldn't be requirements for the 'best' equipment. I loved that! 

We can use earbuds with built in microphones, or the very best external mic. We can use built-in cameras or external devices, as long as we have something so that we can see each other and feel connected. He did say that the conductor or instructor should have a good, reliable wifi connection and recommended using an ethernet cable for a steady feed.  

He also said that he asks his students to always have 2 devices, and the second one could be their phone (they always have that on during class anyway-hee hee). 

We use 2 devices so that we can always see all the other people on one and we can look at music on the other. Some of us have a laptop and a phone, others have a desktop and an ipad, any two things are good.

While the presenter's perspective and focus is on students and learning, with choral technique and theory being important elements as well as evaluation and feedback from the professor, there was a lot of good advice for me in the presentation. 

Some of the other participants were also community choir leaders, and they mentioned the difficulty with adult choristers not wanting to participate online. "It makes them cry" is what I saw. It's "very stressful and provokes unexpected emotions." Our presenter said that it was normal, even among his students. 

There is vulnerability in not being in a group. You're on camera, so you feel singled out. 

Some of us love choir because we can hide in the group. We can perform and take part in this musical experience without having a spotlight on us and without evaluation, judgment. 

Online, it might feel like people are watching you, but with us, it's not like that! There are over a dozen of us all at the same time so we're not watching one person. I'm doing my usual gesturing and people are looking at their music, as always. Occasionally, we look up and are comforted that we're all there together. And, we chat together in between songs. As usual, some people chat a lot and others listen more. 

When we sing, nobody is singled out. As usual. So far, we've been singing along with concert recordings. And, we're all on mute! Nobody is listening to you, except the people in your home, maybe. 

We are not planning to make one of those performance recordings where individuals record themselves and the videos and sound recordings are painstakingly synchronized and put together to create a work of art. That's not what we do. 

Please consider joining us if you've been staying away, waiting for things to get back to normal. This is normal now and it will be for a while yet. We're having fun every Monday, singing our choir songs and seeing our choir friends. Join us!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Support Renate: Coldest Night of the Year- Fundraising Walk 20FEB2021

I'm doing the CNOY walk again!

It won't be the fun community event with hundreds of people starting together with speeches and prizes and inspiring music and ending with a community chili dinner. 

COVID. No gathering, no speeches or warm-up-dancing with hundreds of people. Walkers will walk with their families or alone. 

I will take advantage of this year's walking "alone" to invite my dog Dexter (not allowed in the group walk) and Harry and Soraya, who would normally have to register or raise funds in order to join.

I will make my own chili to eat at the end. I will have yummy buns, and I'll have sweets for after, just like we usually have at the community centre. 

Please donate and it's easy to do if you click on that link to go to my fundraising page. There's an easy form and you can use a credit card. 


it's cold out there.

The Coldest Night of the Year is a covid-safe, family-friendly walk to raise money for charities serving people experiencing homelessness, hurt, and hunger. Walk virtually or in-person on Feb. 20, 2021 – there’s a place for everyone!

Funds Support

Services offered by Inn From the Cold

Inn From the Cold provides emergency shelter and support services for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. IFTC offers a range of helpful services year round that are designed to assist with finding housing, employment, volunteer opportunities, mental health and addiction support and other necessities such as hot meals, clothing, laundry, internet, voicemail, showers and personal care items. A continuum of services from basic needs to securing housing assists our clients on their journey to wellness and self-sufficiency.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Singing and YRCC Zoom choir help beat the blues

 These dark days of winter, after all of Christmas has all been packed away, can be depressing. And, with COVID restrictions dragging on for Heaven knows how long (can we hope to meet for Christmas?), it’s getting pretty hard to stay positive. 

I’m so grateful for Zoom and my happy Mondays! 

Meeting and singing on Mondays, YRCC Zoom Choir makes me happy. We know that singing is good for you and friends are good for you, and laughter is more important these days than ever, always the best medicine.

Well, my big thing, the biggest soapbox topic for me, is how important it is for everyone to sing together and to have the opportunity to sing in community (one reason that COVID is hitting me hard, despite all my blessings). All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir, all of us.

And now, there’s a very, very, cool trend in music that I absolutely love and which underscores all of my thoughts on this. 

The Sea Shanty has made a comeback! Songs designed for singing in community, with something for everyone, drumming and clapping for those who prefer movement and rhythm, la-las and repetition, and stories and themes that are timeless and human are made for times like these! We can join in, learn the chorus quickly and commiserate or celebrate together. 

There’s a recent story of a young man, 26, who started posting sea shanties on social media, TikTok, last year. One he posted last month, the Wellerman, went viral and people interacted with it in wonderful ways, including Andrew Lloydd Webber! He got a record deal, and is quitting his job as a letter carrier to make music his career. Here, listen to Nathan Evens from Scotland, in his now published version of this ancient song:

Another thought on the popularity of sea shanties: maybe it’s that we’re doing that kids’ dream of pirate life where we don’t have to shower and look good, don’t have to brush our hair or our teeth every day. We’re not at sea, but we’re living the pirate life. Hahaha. Arrrgggh!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Next YRCC Zoom Choir 18-Jan-2021

 Our first Zoom choir of the year was wonderful! We had some sad moments and a few tears but also lots of laughs and lots of fun singing!

We ended the evening singing with our 2012 video of the Mamma Mia Medley! It was not the best but it was fun and we discovered that we need to replace that sheet music. (We’re making lots of cool discoveries like that.)

One extra-fun thing about that particular piece was that it featured Heather Vickers and she was with us from way over there at home in British Columbia! Another cool thing was that Enid was singing in the front row so we got to see a lot of our dear friend who will live forever in our hearts and on YouTube. 

We now have an obituary link So click there and you can read Enid’s obituary and you’ll see that the funeral has been put on hold until we can be together. So, maybe we’ll have a chance to sing for her after all. She had a list prepared of the songs she wanted. I don’t have it so if you do, or if you remember what she said, please let me know. I remember On Eagle’s Wings and You’ll Never Walk Alone, but I know there was more. We sang On Eagle’s Wings. 

I have missed Enid in the choir and in our audience. She was impressive in her knowledge and experience and even intimidating sometimes but always kind and always fun too. I treasure my copy of her book Wind-Free with her special inscription.

We’re going to sing On Eagle’s Wings again on the 18th, with some review of parts because it was pretty hard. If you have a chance, take a look at that. The parts are recorded, and you’ll find them on the page with all the recordings when you click on Previous Seasons. 

While you’re there, take a look and let me know what you’d like to sing. This season is Just For Us, so we can sing what we want and not what we need to work on to prepare for a concert. Yay! 

If you haven’t tried it yet, please do try to join us. It’s never too late. Sometimes people come just for a short time at the beginning to say hello to everyone. Or, come a few minutes early to see who’s there and chat.Some of us bring a drink so we can say “cheers!”

Saturday, January 9, 2021

HAPPY NEW YEAR YRCC! 11-JAN-21 FIRST ZOOM-Another Season Just for Us


Happy New Year!

The York Region Community Choir survived a year without a concert. 

We had to cancel our Spring 2020 Concert, and there was no question of having a Winter 2020 Concert in the middle of a pandemic either. Although we stopped rehearsing in March 2020, we decided to restart in September. The plan had been to use masks and plastic face shields and to stand at a safe distance from one another, but even that plan went out the window. Zoom was the answer. We could not give up, would not give in to the loneliness of the pandemic. 

I was not excited about the Zoom plan. The problems with unreliable wifi, "network latency" and everyone having different systems meant that we couldn't sing together without a horrible cacophony. We did try, and it's crazy, and we end up laughing, but it did feel good. We did it a couple times. 

We're not professionals, so we don't have recording equipment and I didn't want us to create a recording. That's not what we do; we only perform live. We decided to have a season just for ourselves- A Season Just for Us. We decided that our meetings would not be rehearsals but an opportunity to see one another and to sing together as best we could. Turned out we could do okay! It's been fun! And, more importantly, we're reading music together, we're working on pieces in our repertoire that we want to sing again, and we're working as a team, having team fun and team jokes, and even team drinks!

So, I'm looking forward to our Zoom Choir in 2021! 

We sing together, we do! It's not nearly the same as meeting in person, but it's so much better than not meeting at all! Please do try to join us this year. Maybe we'll be able to meet in person in the fall, and we won't be strangers to one another and we will have a good number of people who are ready to sing our songs.

Please go to the YRCC Google Calendar. There are links here on my blog and on the YRCC Website.

The Zoom link will be there every week, and there will be attachments (you might have to look for Attachments with an extra click or two). I attach PDF scans of our sheet music there. No need for a binder. Some people like to print out the music and put it in their own binder, but I like to have the sheet music on one device and the Zoom meeting on another, so I can see the choir and the music at the same time. We don't have a concert to rehearse for, so we can sing anything that we have a concert recording of. We sing with our best selves, our concert recordings. 

You see, we do have recordings of ourselves, just for us. We can't share them for legal reasons, but we sure do use them for our own learning and enjoyment! 

I hope and pray that we can meet in person later in 2021 and wish for a Winter 2021 Concert. We'll see. For now, we have another season Just For Us.