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, April 27, 2022

YRCC Rehearsal Review 26-Apr-2022

 Tuesday, April 26th

Small Group: no small group 

Choir Warm-up:

Short physical warm-up included some synchronized movement/rhythm and some stretches while sitting with good posture, and the same three new vocal exercises. We talked about how your sinus cavities and all the stuff in your head help to create the sound of your voice, and your voice is beautiful, like your face, unique and wonderful. Also, I reminded you that the way you sound in your head is different from the way you sound to everyone else, outside of your head, so it’s surprising to hear yourself on a recording. 

1. This Little Light of Mine

Soloists: Lauren/ Melinda (Kit might want to try too.) During the solos, don’t be too loud on your weekday parts, but not too soft either. We’ll crescendo to loud on the word “power”, so a bit earlier than what’s written. We’re going to sing the chorus after the solo softly the first time, a little louder the second time, and then at the key change, we’ll put it in high gear with a very loud F# from the sopranos and we’ll stay loud up to the end. Be aware of rests: there aren’t many. Most of the notes are held until the next one, so don’t cut things short.

2. I Can See Clearly Now 

Reviewed @20 Sopranos and Altos “I’ve been praying fo-o-or”. Also, changing I to we in a couple places. It’s great! Second time through was excellent. We’ve got this. 

3. Wellerman/ Farewell to Nova Scotia/ Sing-alongs

We set up the new projector and screen and tried out some sing-alongs! I’ll work with the projector and screen and the PowerPoint to see if I can get it better, but it’s very good!

4. Walking on Sunshine 

We learned page 11, the fancy part. It was tricky at first, but we got it! The page turning will be something we need to practise! At the bottom of page 10, we have to go back to page 5 to the Segno, and then on page 7 we have to jump to page 11 for the Coda.  I think we can make it 😊

We talked about:

Seniors’ Visits: Everyone needs to be at all the seniors’ home performances, as much as possible. If you know you’re going to be away, please let me know, especially if you’re in a small section (altos, first sopranos, bass) or you’re the only one (tenor). I will not be setting up Events. You don’t have to sign up, just come or let me know you can’t.

HOWEVER, we are not sure they still want us, so we have to confirm every week for the following week’s visit. And, we’ll confirm what they need from us. I’ll keep the YRCC Calendar up-to-date and we’ll communicate in all the usual ways as well. 

Remaining Rehearsals: We have 3 more rehearsals before we perform. Let me know if there’s something you want to review. We have started learning our last song, and the rest of our time is going to be for polishing up what we already know, and looking at the sing-alongs. I’ve dropped: Viva, Sunshine Medley, and Seasons of Love. 

Rehearsal Location TBD: Lauren and Jane are working on finding a space for us for May rehearsals, and possibly for June when performances are cancelled. Our room at Trinity is going to be used by the church for the month of May. 

Next week: Tuesday, May 3rd

Watch for an announcement about where we’re meeting. 

6:45 Small Group: Duet! Carol and Debbie are meeting with Donna to rehearse Tomorrow

  1. Somewhere Out There
  2. Why We Sing
  3. Walking on Sunshine
  4. You Raise Me Up
  5. You’ll Never Walk Alone

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

YRCC Rehearsal Review 19-Apr-2022

 Tuesday, April 19th

Small Group: no small group 

Choir Warm-up:

Short physical warm-up and some breathing while sitting with good posture, the same three new vocal exercises.

1. Blue Skies

Lauren and Melinda, Snaps- all good

2. I Can See Clearly Now 

We did it! I fixed the section @16 by looking at the parts we sing together and changing the words in bars 20/21 so that we’re all together there. There’s enough jazziness without having us sing different words. Sopranos and Altos, please change your lyrics from It’s what I’ve been praying for to: “I’ve been praying fo-o-or”.  Maybe you can just circle the Tenor/Bass words and cross out yours? We reviewed the ending for altos and tenor/bass. We sang through the whole piece and it was good! 

3. Walking on Sunshine 

We will definitely be able to learn this, but it’s the last new piece this season. We will leave Viva! for next season. We started at the beginning (last time we learned the chorus at the Segno @44) and sang through to page 11. The page turning will be something we need to practise! At the bottom of page 10, we have to go back to page 5 to the Segno, and then on page 7 we have to jump to page 11 for the Coda. Yikes. 

4. Wellerman/ Farewell to Nova Scotia

We started with Nova Scotia, because we’ve sung it before with a big small-group led by the Kevins and Janet. We’ll just do the sing-along section (starting on page 2) this season. We’ll start with the chorus. We’ll all sing the melody. Soloists or small sectional groups will do each verse and the rest of us will sing the chorus with the audience. We’ll do the same with the Wellerman Sea Shanty. We’ll start with the chorus. We’ll all sing the melody. Look at the verses to see which one you like and let me know if there’s one you want to do as a solo. We’ll likely just figure it out at each seniors’ home, depending on who’s there. If you feel like harmonizing, just go ahead for the seniors sing-alongs, the same as any of the sing-alongs we do, especially for last notes. 

5. Wonderful World

This is beautiful, and the audiences will love it. I’m going to project the words for them to sing along! I think it’s important for all of us to remember the message of the song, that it really is a wonderful world. This Friday is Earth Day, so it’s a good time to think about how our music spreads messages of goodness and love. We need to love our world harder than ever because it’s hurting. #LoveEarth We need to sing for ourselves, to give ourselves strength and hope, and we need to sing for others too. 

6. Hallelujah

We had some extra time for a bonus song, and Hallelujah hit the spot. Always a feel-good song. Especially good to sing the word “Hallelujah” since Easter was just this past weekend. 

We talked about:

Seniors’ Visits (keep your Tuesdays free for us all through June): Everyone needs to be at all the seniors’ home performances, as much as possible. If you know you’re going to be away, please let me know, especially if you’re in a small section (altos, first sopranos, bass) or you’re the only one (tenor).

Remaining Rehearsals: We have 4 more rehearsals before we perform. Let me know if there’s something you want to review. We have started learning our last song, and the rest of our time is going to be for polishing up what we already know, and maybe looking at the sing-alongs. I’ve dropped: Viva, Sunshine Medley, and Seasons of Love. 

Missing music: There were a few copies of Tomorrow handed out with Good Morning, Starshine. And, I don’t have any now. So, if you have one in your binder, can you please give it to me? We may or may not have a soloist or a duet perform that.

Next week: Tuesday, April 26th

No Small Group Rehearsal

  1. You Raise Me Up
  2. This Little Light of Mine
  3. Walking on Sunshine
  4. I Can See Clearly Now
  5. Sing-alongs (Wellerman, Nova Scotia, yellow book)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Contributing to Earth's Harmony: Earth Days and Choir Days

In an old post of mine, on June 12, 2013, I was inspired by this quote:

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

When I started reading this old post of mine, I thought that my focus would have been on the diversity of the choristers, their various contributions, and it was, mostly. But, an important thing that caught my eye today was this:

I hear the choir singing the song together and the result is more than pleasing: it is electrifying and satisfying because I contributed well.

Because I contributed well, I am electrified and satisfied. My attitude and my role are important. I often joke with my choir, that it's all about me. And, I guess if I'm writing about my experience and my point of view, it is. 

I do feel a huge responsibility, and I work hard for the choir, but my voice isn't heard in the songs. My contribution is not obvious, and it's not the thing that I think about in the moment, listening to the choir. It takes some reflection to consider it. And, when I really pay attention, I find that the biggest thing I contribute is not my teaching or conducting, but my love. My huge love for the choir inspires so much of my activity, my thoughts, my contributions.

There are so many lessons to be learned in a choir! This year, Earth Day is Friday, April 22, 2022. This week, we focus on the Earth, on the environment and climate and nature. I want to think again about our contribution to Earth's harmony, to nature's music. 

Each of us contributes to the beauty and harmony of the Earth, whether it's obvious or not, and whether we think about it or not. Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on what we do and what we can do and what we need to do to keep the Earth beautiful. But, it's important to see the beauty and harmony in the first place. Keep thinking, keep believing, and keep singing: What a Wonderful World! We do this as individuals and collectively as the choir. 

Here's another gem from my blog post: 

They feel their own mistakes as huge distractions from the beauty of the song.

Don't focus on your shortcomings, the plastic things you still use, the recycling that you put in the garbage because you were tired, the light you left on. The gas your car guzzles and all those little things do contribute to the climate crisis, but you love the Earth. The strong voices carry the weak ones, and sometimes you are the strong voice. Love the Earth more and see its beauty. Love the Earth more and you will Invest in Our Planet (this year's Earth Day theme). Invest in Our Planet to protect and preserve it. Start with love and your actions will be powerful. Join with others and we become louder and even more powerful. 

Here's a snippet from earthday.org:

As individuals, we have the simple yet effective power to make our voices heard through our choices, our civic actions, and our personal interactions. What each of us does, and how we do it, has a huge ripple effect on our ecosystems, and on the pace of corporate and government action.


Back to me in 2013: 

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.

I'm looking at some of my old blog posts. I want to start saving and organizing my writing, my blog posts and bits and pieces that I have here and there. This post from June 2013 is a keeper. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

YRCC Rehearsal Review 12-Apr-2022

 Tuesday, April 12th

Small Group:

Good Morning, Starshine: we added Karen to the sopranos, and while we were rehearsing, Pat and Jack punched holes in the music I brought: The Wellerman Shanty and Farewell to Nova Scotia- a couple sing-alongs in a nautical theme.

Choir Warm-up:

We had a short physical warm-up and some breathing and did a couple of new vocal exercises.

1.     You Raise Me Up

Gorgeous! We’re just going to sing it the way it is- no extra verse- and we’ll invite the audience to sing in the chorus. (I added the chorus to our PowerPoint)

2.     I Can See Clearly Now

We did it! We learned the ending, so now we’ve covered all of this song. We’ll need some review, but it’s not bad. If Tabatha has any time, she’ll get the parts recorded for us so you can review at home too.

3.      Walking on Sunshine

This is fun! We learned the chorus at the Segno @44 and sight-read through the whole thing. There’s a tricky bit on page 11 @102 with sections overlapping their own melodies, like in I Can See Clearly. It shouldn’t be too hard.

4.     Sunshine Medley

We continued back-building the Don’t You Worry section, and finished it! We could manage performing this, but I’m going to hold it until we have a bigger come-back concert.

5.     We Rise Again

So beautiful! We reviewed page 5 and the ending. We could perform this today and it will be wonderful, but we’ll keep refining it.

 Have a Happy Easter, Everyone!

Next week: Tuesday, April 19  

No Small Group is scheduled for April 19

  1. Blue Skies
  2. I Can See Clearly Now
  3. Walking on Sunshine
  4. Wellerman/ Nova Scotia
  5. Wonderful World

  • Muppets, Bugs Bunny, and Fun Music

    The amount of classical music I was exposed to by rabbits and other creatures in Muppet or animated form is amazing. What a fun way to influence children's musical taste! 

    Video games and movie soundtracks continue to provide serious music for all ages, wonderful symphonic orchestral works that play on the "classical" radio stations. Sesame Street is still at it (currently in season 52), introducing classical music to children and their parents along with lots of fun.

    When I was teaching English as a Second Language to adults in North York, I had a workshop that I conducted for other teachers called "Serious Fun". I shared games that I used successfully in class to teach and to practise grammar, idioms and other vocabulary, spelling, all kinds of serious things.  The games added much-needed moments of silliness and respite from all of the pressures of being a newcomer to Canada and an adult returning to a classroom. Some of the serious fun included singing. 

    Serious Fun is still my thing. I love to have fun with my choir, making sure to have at least one song in every performance that makes people laugh, something cute, something silly and fun. I pepper my commentary with dashes of silliness. We often deal with big, serious themes, and sing grand, moving pieces of music, so everyone needs these moments of release. 

    When we rehearse, we need to have fun every week. We work hard learning music that's often in 4-part harmony and challenging. It's important for us to be able to laugh at ourselves, and to release the stress of the difficult passages in the music we're learning. Even more important for our weekly rehearsals is the need to release the stresses of the day, the stresses of life. My choir is Serious Fun like my grammar games!

    Serious music, classical music, orchestral works, don't have to be heavy and challenging. Yesterday, Lauren (my friend and YRCC's lovely president) gifted me with an afternoon at the Symphony with her. The TSO (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) presented a concert called Totally 1980s. It was so much fun! We laughed and sang along (Don't worry: the audience was invited to sing and even dance along.) and we were also fascinated and impressed by all the wonderful musicians in the orchestra and the vocalists who performed a super mix of pop, rock, disco, and soundtracks from our youth. What joy; totally my thing!

    I recently posted (on Musical Empathy: renatesmusicalempathy.blogspot.com) about my early memories of serious music, entitled "Sesame Street and Cartoons: Iconic Music Memories". I've spoken about the Muppets quite a bit lately, and because they were such a big influence on me, we're doing a Muppet-like version of Good Morning, Starshine rather than a Hair-like version.

    Another thing I love about Donna, our new accompanist, is that she happily recounts being told by her students that she sounded like Kermit the Frog. I love Kermit and had a Kermit stuffy when I was little. Donna shares my playfulness, and she is seriously trained and seriously talented. I love that she laughs at my silly jokes. I think Serious Fun is Donna's thing too. 

    A moment of conducting and singing joy rehearsing the choir.

    Thursday, April 7, 2022

    YRCC Rehearsal Review Tuesday 5-Apr-2022

     Tuesday, April 5th

    Small Group:

    Good Morning, Starshine was good except we forgot to warm up and we had no altos. Kit has offered to sing the first verse as a solo. Thank you! We’ve established that we’re not crazy about this arrangement so we’re tweaking it in several ways. The aim is for our performance to be cool, adorable, and cheery, a sweet hug. Someone suggested imagining driving in a convertible sports car, and I added “with a Muppet or two in the back seat”.

    The Choir Warm-up this week included raspberries, rollercoasters, and librarian shh!s. We also repeated last week’s new warm-up: Sing an itty-bitty witty-pretty song, song, song.

    1.     This Little Light of Mine

    I’m gonna let my little light shine- we’re going to let our big bright lights shine- we carry sunshine inside us, our eyes, our smiles, our actions let the light out

    Remember the repeat @35 page 6, remember the key change: Sop and Bass carry the key change. We had no takers for the solo here. I sang it and I love to, but it’s not an easy thing in a performance for the conductor to sing in the middle of a song, so it would be best if someone came forward to take this on, and a soprano would be best so that the harmonies stay full.

    I need to figure out how to conduct in 2, showing beats 1 and 3, while encouraging the audience to clap on 2 and 4.

    We were all feeling this fun song, enjoying it, and Donna even added a cool run at one point! Loved it!

    2.     I Can See Clearly Now

    Wow! We learned the tricky part at 38 and reviewed the segno @25! We’re doing great. We are hopeful that we’ll get the parts recordings, but if we’re not perfect, this will still be a good one.

    3.     You’ll Never Walk Alone

    Walk on and on and on through the wind, through the rain, with your head up, dreams tossed and blown, but you're okay because you know you are not alone and the storm will end

    We reviewed the special (neglected) second soprano bits (@31 dreams, and @41 and again @64 the extra note on beat 2) and we all reviewed the section at 57. We sang through twice and it was beautiful. I learned that I really don’t know the alto part. Debbie gets a gold star for being on her own and holding her own.

    4.     Somewhere Out There

    and even though I know how very far apart we are, it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star (same wish, to be together, to hug, to share a meal)

    This is so pretty and not difficult! Something a bit tricky is the repeat and the Coda. Remember the repeat to Segno (@25 too. Timing seems to be an issue here. Gentlemen, don’t be afraid to follow Melinda. She knows where she’s going.) and then jump to the Coda on the last page with that special alto bit nice and loud. Remember special ending--- tru-u-ue, come true.

    5.      On Eagle’s Wings

    I skipped the Sunshine Medley, so we had time to choose a bonus end song and we chose On Eagle’s Wings. Some of us took off our masks and stood physically distanced instead so that we could really enjoy singing out on this beauty.

    We talked about:

    Our seniors’ tour. Every week starting the Tuesday after the Victoria Day weekend, we’ll be out at seniors’ residences. We’ll need to look at numbers, ours and the pandemic’s, as we get closer. You can get the details on the YRCC Calendar. Thank you, Jane, for arranging all of this!

    Our equipment. We don’t have a volunteer yet to take over the keeping and hauling of the equipment. Jack took it this week, but we are looking into the possibility of the church having a spot for it.

    Having men from the police choir join us this season. We can use the early rehearsal time to help them to “catch up” to where they can perform with us if necessary.

    Next week, Tuesday, April 12

    Small Group at 6:45/7:00 again: Good Morning, Starshine

    1.       I Can See Clearly Now
    2.       Sunshine Medley
    3.       Walking on Sunshine
    4.       We Rise Again
    5.       You Raise Me Up

    Music to hand out: Wellerman, Farewell to Nova Scotia

    Wednesday, April 6, 2022

    YRCC Spring 2022-This important Seniors' Tour

    I've decided to copy one of my old posts here. It was from May 2012, written during the seniors' tour, after singing at Doane House Hospice. This year, 2022, we have a big seniors' tour planned. Our focus will be these members of our community who have suffered so much isolation and desolation during the pandemic. Since we're a small group this season, I hope we can all commit to going to every Tuesday performance of this year's tour (number restrictions might mean second sopranos will take turns?).

    I'm listening to the Vancouver Chamber Choir now, one of their Music for Healing albums. It's very pretty, and calming if you can listen to a choir without frowning as you imagine singing (or facilitating) some of those complicated chords, interesting modulations, high notes. Majestic, sublime, heavenly music by Bach, Fauré, Gregorian Chants.

    In May 2012, our theme was Showbiz! Music from Stage and Screen. The music was mostly happy and fun: Blue Skies, Get Happy, Regards to Broadway, Rainbow Connection, Do Re Mi. Remember the small group that did Born This Way by Lady Gaga? That was spring 2012. We also sang Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, Wind Beneath My Wings, Wonderful World. 

    When I think of the healing nature of our music, I remember the senior audiences' laughter ("the best medicine"), and hear their shaky voices singing along, and I see stiff muscles needing to move to a catchy rhythm. When I think of our music as medicinal, I also think of us singing out loud and feeling the freedom of expressing our pride and joy and love with all our hearts and souls. When we sing one of our pieces observing none of the suggested dynamics, just Forte-loud the whole way through because we love it and need to sing out, that's healing something. 

    The first Music for Healing album is called Finding the Still Point, so it's about stillness. I guess what kind of music you need will depend on what kind of healing you need, and how you relate to music, and surely there's some music for any and every ailment and affliction, for every person at any time. 

    Music for Healing (Renatesbaton Tuesday, May 29th, 2012)

    We know that music is magical. It affects our health and well-being. Singing in the York Region Community Choir is a wonderful, healthy activity that we enjoy every Monday evening.
    Lately, our Mondays are even more rewarding.
    We're on our seniors' tour. We're visiting retirement residences and nursing homes in our community. Last week we visited Doane House Hospice in Newmarket.
    When we visit seniors to sing for and with them, we feel great because we're doing what we love to do, and it's good for us, and we can feel great about contributing to the health and well-being of our audience members.
    I just read about The Vancouver Chamber Choir's Music For Healing recordings:
     a series of three discs designed to accompany people facing serious life challenges. It has been funded entirely through generous donations by individuals and organizations who want to be part of an important and ongoing gift to the therapeutic process in their communities.
    The first two discs look amazing and are available on their website. The choir is presently working on the third CD. It's an impressive project. I can totally relate to their desire to connect with the community in this way, and can imagine that it's a very successful and satisfying mission. They say:
    It is our way of saying through our music, “You do not stand alone”. 
    Choral music can do that best. The sound of a community of singers, people's voices joining together in unison and in harmony, is special.
    Check out the sound clips on the website. They are really extraordinary. There are samples of all kinds of music the choir sings.

    This pretty visual can be found here.
    Music Heals supports Music Therapy

    Monday, April 4, 2022

    Don't Forget: Tuesday is now YRCC Choir Night!


    YRCC Tuesday Choir starts Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

    The York Region Community Choir now meets on Tuesday nights. 
    Monday, Monday will be a wonderful memory.