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!

Saturday, February 18, 2023

YRCC 2023 Rehearsal Review Valentine's Day February 14th

It was so good to have a long break with treats, and most importantly, time to chat with our choir friends, old and new! Many thanks to all who set up and contributed to the treats. 

We always start with a warm-up. We begin with stretches to release tension in our bodies, our necks, our shoulders, and anywhere tension is lurking, even our hands. We loosen up and also bring blood flow to the areas we're going to use. We open our chests and breathe with our whole bodies. I want your whole body to support your singing. 

1. You Raise Me Up: Inspiring and touching, this sone is one of our favourites and our fans love it too. Do you know that we started singing this after Bill sang it in a concert of ours as a solo? We loved it so much that we all wanted to sing it. I think our audiences now do too, so we're going to ask them to sing the chorus with us. 

2. Walking on Sunshine: I thought it sounded pretty good last time we sang it, but this time I noticed that a lot of you have not sung this before and were pretty lost. So, we started at the beginning and learned parts. Please take some time to sing along with your part in the recordings on the YRCC website, yorkregioncommunitychoir.org. You'll need to log in with your name and email address and your password. You can reset the password if you forgot it. Open the pdf of the music or use your binder, then sing with the recording of your part. Here's a link to the baritone part. 

3. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: We talked about how this is often played at weddings because it is so romantic. The original German lyrics are a much more personal and passionate song about Jesus. So, it's not just the contemporary Christian songs that are weirdly romantic songs about a personal relationship with Jesus. "He is my life's strength, my eye's desire and sun, my soul's love and joy". We went ahead and learned parts almost to the end! It's so cool, and beautiful, and satisfying to sing! We don't have parts recordings, but we have the accompaniment that you can practise with. 

4.You'll Never Walk Alone: When you make friends with the people at choir, you might find yourself going for walks together, or going to a bar, or chatting on the phone, and you will never have to be alone. We have walked through storms together holding our heads up high. Singing this is so rewarding that we can always hold our heads up proudly after this. It's a super strong version of this very famous song. See if you can catch a Liverpool soccer match to hear the whole stadium singing it. 

Here's us in 2014 singing it:

Next week: Tuesday, February 21st 


(Churches need their spaces for Pancake Tuesday dinners. Lent starts on Wednesday, so Tuesday is Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, and the tradition of having pancakes for dinner at church is pretty great.)

See you all on Tuesday, February 28th

6:30 Bill: Because We Believe

  • Happy Together
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  • Top of the World
  • Viva!
  • Walking on Sunshine

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

2023 YRCC Next Small Group: Mozart

 Mad About Mozart is our next small group.

It's a fun piece using Mozart melodies to tell the story of Mozarts life and works. 

You get to sing more Mozart and it's English and it's interesting!

I'm going to set up an Event on our Website.

Here's a link to that video.

Here's a link to the sheet music and a sound sample too. 

I'll add the sheetmusic to the website so you can have a look there too.

This small group will start in March. 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

YRCC 2023 Rehearsal Review February 7th

Before I review the rehearsal, here's the poster for the dance I'm inviting you to. All of our friends and family are invited to this dance at church. It's a disco dance and there will be wine and pizza and snacks for sale, but you don't have to buy anything or pay anything. The idea is just to dance and have fun, share the love of disco :-)

You can RSVP to me, or just show up. You'll find me dancing.  

my choir family is invited

Together Wherever We Go met again and they're so good!

Warm-ups were not nearly as cool as the videos I sent. 

1. Top of the World: was supposed to be a warm-up, but we discovered that there were a few of us who missed a bunch of the learning on that one. We rreviewed the baritone parts, mostly. We're still not 100% sure, but it looks like basses are singing the baritone part an octave down instead of soprano two octaves down. Having basses is so good!

2. Viva!: We got all the way to the end! We've now learned the whole thing, but we'll be working on it for some time. Don't worry. Remember you can go to the website and there's a link to your part being played so you can sing along with it. 

3. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring! It's a joy to sing this. We just got started, with the first two pages. We'll take it slow and we'll review and repeat a lot. Remember your homework: look at the phrasing and pencil in the words that don't quite sit where they should for your part. The notes in a slur, or phrase mark, all go with one word. 

4. Walking on Sunshine: This is a fun and fast song and it's easy to get lost. Keep an eye on the Segno at 44, the chorus. Mark the coda, the beginning of the end. Always be careful with repeats. Watch me for when to come in and when to stop in that funny section which builds in parts like the thing in I Can See Clearly. See the snip below. You can rehearse with a recording of your part. It's on the website. 

For inspiration, watch the music video! 

5. Hallelujah: Always wonderful! Singing this makes me happy. I love our version best of all the gazillions of versions out there. 

I'm going to announce the small groups and solos in another post. 

We're not having a small group or solo meet for the next two weeks. Next week is Valentine's Day and the following week we don't have our room. We are hoping to get space to rehearse in St. Andrew's Presbyterian just up the street at Victoria and Mosley. I've put the location in the YRCC Calendar and updated the small group/solo time slots too. 

Next week: Tuesday, February 14th. Have a nice dinner with your home loves and then come and sing with your choir loves!

We're going to sing:

  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  • Viva!
  • Walking on Sunshine
  • You Raise Me Up
  • You'll Never Walk Alone

Friday, February 3, 2023

Choir Warm-ups and Strained Voices

 If you find yourself hoarse at the end of the night on Tuesdays after choir rehearsals, you could have used a better warm-up. Or, maybe you just drank too much coffee. Or, you couldn't shake off your work day. Maybe the music wasn't your style, not your groove. It's not always from singing too high or too loud. 

Just like muscle strain in your shoulders or legs, your vocal muscles can get hurt because of tension and doing something new, or unusual. So, you need to sing all week long and you need to do a warm-up, just like you do with sports or other exercise, to avoid vocal strain on choir nights. 

General relaxation and good health and practice are key to avoidinig strain. 

Try not drinking coffee on choir day, and stay hydrated. Many of you remember diligently to bring a water bottle, but maybe you should consider a soothing herbal tea instead. 

Whenever you sing, at choir or at home, get the kinks out of your neck and shoulders before you start, and take some good mindful breaths at the very least. A yawn is a good gentle warm-up exercise. A general physical stretch-and-relax practice is recommended, so we always do that on choir nights. And, some people massage the outside of the neck and face, or the inside of the mouth with the tongue. 

Humming is excellent. Look it up. Studies have shown lots of benefits. Hum whenever you think of it, and hum some warm-up drills before you sing. 

Sirens (or rollercoasters) are good and can be done on lip trills (raspberries) or tongue trills (rrrr) or on the sound "ng"(like at the end of the word sing-we need to try this one). If you can't do the trills, you need to relax more. Tension is a big part of the problem. There are videos which might help you to learn to do lip trills. 

There are all kinds of videos and articles online on the topic of vocal warm-ups, vocal strain, choral warm-ups, and singing in general. They don't all apply to what we're doing. You're not a professional singer and you're not a professional speaker. You just want to use your voice to sing for fun, and you don't want it to hurt. 

Here are some different kinds of videos on YouTube. Find one you like and do some working out regularly so you're not getting that "weekend warrior" pain. 

I love that last one! Sparkle every day, people! 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

YRCC Rehearsal Review January 31st

The small group singing Together Wherever We Go met early. They have learned the song and the next step is to make it visually adorable. 

We warmed up our instruments and made sure we were allowing lots of air to come out of our mouths with exercises to open our throats and stretch the upper and lower limits of our range of sounds (not necessarily 'singing' sounds). We did a few vocal exercises too, with short syllables and long vowels resonating in our sinuses. 

1. Blue Skies: "nothing but blue skies from now own" fits our theme perfectly. We have snaps and jazz hands and two short 'scat' solos. The sopranos start with snaps (two bars before Donna comes in) and alto tenor and bass start with melody. The bar before the sopranos start, they stop snapping, 13 (its not easy to snap and sing; too much pressure). The bar before the solos start, everyone snaps, top of page 5, and turns the page so you don't look at the music until page 6. Everyone stops snapping when we start singing again, 53. Easy-peasy. At the end, everyone does jazz hands with their right hands, on the last word "on". Watch how we snap so that you do it the same as everyone else. 

2. I Can See Clearly Now: Nothing but blue, blue skies! We looked at the ending, from the coda 43, coming in at 45, to the end. A good ending is so important! Be sure to observe rests. Look at the top of page 10 and maybe mark those two beats at the end of bar 48 so that you're not holding "way" too long. 

3. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: We are singing the English words and we say "Jay-zoo". We sight-read through the first verse. It's pretty, but difficult. Your homework is to look at your part and see where your notes don't match the words as they are written. Altos and Baritones especially have some really cool parts. Look at the slur lines connecting notes to see where the words move and where they start and stop. For example, look at the words Love and Most, here below from page 3. Sopranos have 3 syllables on love and two on most. Altos have one syllable on love and 4 on most! Baritones have 2 syllables on love and one on most, and the location of the word most is deceiving. If I were singing baritone, I would cross out most and write it over the note on beat 3, where I need to sing it. Also, for the second verse, 'sic' from music falls on beat 3 so I would write that in too, maybe like this: zik. Be sure to make any markings in pencil. If you ever leave the choir, someone else will get your music, and they might sing a different part. Or, the director might ask you to do things differently from year-to-year. 

4. Viva!: Encourage everyone to live life well, especially those dearest to your heart (piu caro in vostro cor). We did the whole next section, from 19 to 32, starting with all the altos and sopranos on that optional solo section. It's so pretty with all of you singing! The most difficult part there is the baritone line in the first system of page 8. If you have a chance to listen to that part, please do. 

5. On Eagle's Wings: We sang the whole thing and noticed that some sopranos forgot to mark that they're not singing at 43, but only come in at "make you to shine" and make it soft and angelic, please. This section is all about the altos: look at their sun. The ending needs work so that we get it tighter. Make sure you are observing those rests on beats 2. 

We talked about small group and solo suggestions. I already have more than enough suggestions so that I won't be able to include all of them; however, if you have a great idea, I'm still all ears, open to suggestions, until next week. I have to decide at least who is going to rehearse next. Do we want an early group on Valentine's Day evening? Maybe that's not a good idea? We need to make some decisions next Tuesday. 

Here's the One Voice trio we were talking about. This version is not the original, but I like it a lot. It fits our theme beautifully: singing together, helping each other to make it through, surrendering to the mystery, singing with love and a will to trust. All of us=one voice. I just saw a video with a choir singing it, and I think we might want to do this next year. Oh, my goodness, it's everything, this song. Tab has agreed to join Melinda and Lauren on this. Thank you! 

Next week, Tuesday, February 7th

6:45 Together Wherever We Go 

  • Hallelujah
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  • Top of the World
  • Viva
  • Walking on Sunshine