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, March 23, 2023

YRCC Rehearsal Review 2023 March 21

 Happy Spring!

Mad About Mozart met early, having encountered and overcome a couple obstacles. 

Lauren started the warmup, since I was talking to Michael, our new Tenor or Bass (squee!). We danced to Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing by Stevie Wonder, but it was the version from the movie Sing! It's sung by the Elephant named Meena (I think I said she was a hippo), the voice is Tori Kelly. We sang along to Let the Sunshine by the 5th Dimension. These are parts of my Sunshine Medley.

Tori Kelly and Meena

Meena gains confidence singing

1. Top of the World: very good. I've started conducting this in 2 instead of 4, and we'll feel more of a dancing and romantic energy. 

2. I Can See Clearly Now: yes! We did very well. This has a very different feel from Top of the World, and even from the popular radio version- it's supposed to feel Caribbean, laid back and groovy. This is a good piece to learn repeats and special instructions like D.S.al Coda, and a good introduction to reading the instructions and notations on sheet music. If you need help, go to the website where you can find recordings of parts. We worked on getting our notes at the coda, at bar 45. 

3. Viva!: Mozart, Italian, but easier than I Can See Clearly: no repeats, nothing confusing. We looked at the section from 38 to the end. We're doing great, and next time we'll look at dynamics, when to sing loud and when to sing soft. 

4. Sunshine Medley: Introduction, although some of us (maybe a dozen people) started learning this last spring. This is a post-pandemic, opening-up song. We think about getting out in the spring after a long winter, worrying about all kinds of things, fears lingering, but with friends by our side we let the sunshine in, feeling more and more confident. At the end, we'll invite the audience to sing along with us on "let the sunshine". There are ba-bas. Everyone gets to sing the do-do part of Here Comes the Sun. The accompaniment is on the website for help. 

5. We Rise Again: We started learning the oohs under the solo, but also reviewed the different sections, A, B, C, etc. We'll keep on working on this, even though it already sounds so good! I hope we get closer to the way it's written, but even if we don't, it's such a powerful piece that our audience will love it. 

We were talking about: the concert date. Saturday, May 6th. We will announce the time and date next week, and we'll start booking our friends and families. 

Next week, Tuesday, March 28th

Mad About Mozart meets at 6:30 again (hopefully the door will open on time)

  • Hallelujah
  • I Can See Clearly
  • Sunshine Medley
  • Viva
  • We Rise Again

Thursday, March 16, 2023

YRCC 2023 Rehearsal Review March 14th

6:30 Small Group: Mad About Mozart is coming along swimmingly! We sang up to bar 46. Melinda and I were thinking we should give the little sections that we've been learning letter names, like in We Rise Again. I'll do that at the end of this review, so that you can start using them next week. One small issue: the doors are supposed to open at 6:30 but it wasn't until about 6:40 that we were able to get in. 

Warm-ups were fun, again. After a brief physical and vocal warm-up, we did a big physical warm-up. We danced to Lady Gaga's Born This Way. Such a fun song, and appropriate for pi π day, or PIE day (where affirming churches are public, intentional, and explicit about their support of the 2SLGBTQI+ community.) People don't expect to hear this song at a choir concert, but they did, in 2012! 

1. On Eagle's Wings: a choral piece that people expect to hear. I love this arrangement, the best I've ever heard of this hymn. We reviewed some alto parts, and all parts on the ending. 

2. We Rise Again: we did section C (see the post about our arrangement and the letter names I gave to sections). Tenors and Basses have a cool special part which I want to hear, so Sopranos and Altos have to be quieter. There's some moving around of parts, so please look at that post. 

3. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: we sang both verses all the way through and it's really very good. 

4. Walking on Sunshine: we did a quick review of the key change, and the tenor/bass part after that. It's very good. 

5. Happy Together: our concert title is Happy (singing) Together, or something like that. This is going to be fun, energetic, and kind of cute. The ba-ba section is super! We had trouble getting the note where we're all together in the last section, the ending. We've got to figure something out- maybe a pause and Donna plays a chord?

Next week: Tuesday, March 21st, the first day of spring, first full day of the Persian New Year, which this year falls on Mon, Mar 20, 2023 at 5:24 PM 

6:30: Mad About Mozart

  • I Can See Clearly
  • Sunshine Medley
  • Top of the World
  • Viva
  • We Rise Again

YRCC Arrangement Review: We Rise Again

I found the old post on our arrangement of We Rise Again with my notes on who sings what that I was talking about. Click on that link, if you like, but I'll redo it here and now.

Our version starts with a solo, which Marlene has agreed to sing for us. I'm looking for a back-up for that solo and for help with the First Soprano part. (Sop1 is a challenging descant part. Preview it if you can).

The Second Sopranos and the Tenors move a bit, from their usual lines- down to the Alto line for the Second Sopranos and down to the Bass line for the Tenors. Make notes and draw arrows or lines where you move down and back up. 

I have assigned letter names to the sections of the song so we can refer to them easily.

Section A: The beginning up to bar 13 is section A. Solo (Marlene) alone

Section B: bars 13-19: Solo on the top line, the solo line. Everyone else sings mm, oo, ah, SATB in the choir bracket, as usual, except Tenors move to sing the top part of the Bass line at bar 16 (nobody will sing the tenor line there-it's boring and useless) and Basses are on the bottom. (Bass is the bottom throughout- easy, also Altos are in their usual home throughout- easy.)

Section C: bars 19-27: No solo. Soloist moves down to the Soprano line with the First Sopranos. This is a descant part. Second Sopranos move down to the Alto line to sing the melody with the Altos. This is a very high Alto part, so I'm not taking away the Alto's special moment, I'm giving them a hand. Tenor and Bass each in your own line. Watch out for bar 22 beat 2 (come in nice and strong before the melody) and we moved the Basses beat 2 of bar 25  to beat 3, so you're together with the Tenors on the word ocean for a strong beat 3. Let the Tenors and Basses shine in this section, and let the melody of the chorus be softest (all sopranos and altos soft). (like Hallelujah, we want to hold back with the melody of the chorus for extra drama, but here we also have the extra drama of the T&B parts)

Section D: bars 28-39: Like Section B, the solo, plus choir oohs (and ahs!) SATB, as usual. The oos change to ahs after "we look to" in bar 33: at the pick-up to 34 for SAT on beat 3 or 4, and in bar 34 for Bass. (so, it's: oooo we look to aaahh)

Section E: bars 39-43: No solo. Like Section C, Soprano 1 is on the Soprano line, Soprano 2 and Alto sing the Alto line. Bass divides here, so Tenor takes the top and Bass the bottom. Nobody sings the tenor line in section E. (I've got pencil scratches completely obliterating the tenor line- I don't like reading the Tenor clef)

Section F: bars 43-51: No solo. This is where Alto, Tenor and Bass have melody! Everyone is in unison, except First Soprano. So, the Tenor line can be scratched out again. Bass clef is easier to read,  right?

Section G: bars 51- end. No solo. Almost exactly like Section F, but higher and louder. Scratch out that Tenor clef line again. There are a couple special Tenor bits but we're not using them. First Sopranos have a special bit in bar 58 (watch-it's lower than you expect), and then there's the ending. Bars 62-65: Second Sopranos move up to the Soprano line where they're supposed to be, the lower part there. Altos are alone on the Alto line, Tenors sing the top of the Bass Line, and Bass sings the bottom of the Bass line. Nobody on the tenor line.

Friday, March 10, 2023

YRCC 2023 Rehearsal Review March 7th

 We danced and sang with Beatles songs as part of our warm-up. Yay!

The Mad About Mozart small group started today. It was fun, but kind of hard. I'm happy that Lauren is going to be leading the small group ;-) We'll see if we can get recordings, and for now,  here's a YouTube video. Maybe this will help. 

1. Happy Together: Done! The ba-ba section is much easier than it looks. We reviewed the parts, and they're also pretty easy. We'll have all tenors and basses on part 2 with the altos for now. Once we're all together, I might ask one or two tenors to sing part 1.

2. Walking on Sunshine: Done! But, we'll keep reminding the tenor/basses about their part after the key change. Something about the key change pulls them to melody. I'm actually starting to like it that way, but maybe if some of you could sing the tenor harmony, it would be better. 

3. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: Done! We sang both verses! It's so good. The second verse needs to be looked at because the words are not as well known and fitting them into the melody is a little different. Pay attention to the phrase/slur marks that show you where the syllables go. We'll need to work on dynamics, but it's really very good as it is. 

4. This Little Light of Mine: Fun! Debbie and Blair sang the solos and they were great! This is an important part of our theme of rising like the sun. We feel the light and blue skies because of love, because of God, because it's our nature to cycle through seasons, but, but we have the power to shine our own lights! We shine! Every day, we must decide to let our lights shine, every day. 

5. We Rise Again: Powerful. Marlene does such a great job on the solo that people won't notice if we're a little messy on the oohs and ahhs. And, the choruses, and the key change work so well that everyone will love this song. All you have to do, really, is feel it and sing with passion. I want you to feel that the rising again is not passive, just something that happens in nature, and we are happily aware of it. But, instead, I want it to feel like something that we do with intention and joy. We rise! We get up, get outside, and like the sun, we let our lights shine, and we rise again and again. Happy Together, because we stepped out of our homes, and got in our cars and drove to choir (or walked to choir- Melinda). 

Next week, Tuesday, March 14th

6:30 Mad About Mozart
  • Happy Together
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  • On Eagle's Wings
  • Walking on Sunshine
  • We Rise Again
Next Tuesday is PIE day: 3.14. Eat pie! I'll probably have a savoury pie for dinner. 
Also, at our church, it's a day to be Public, Intentional, and Explicit (PIE) in our embracing the 2SLGBTQ+ community. I'm on the Affirming Church Team, so I'll be serving pie on Sunday to observe PIE day. So, maybe we'll talk about gender and sexuality at choir?

Next Friday is St. Patrick's Day.  
Make plans to wear green (drink something green?) and have fun! If you have a chance to dance next Friday for St. Patrick's Day, take it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

YRCC 2023 Rehearsal Review February 28th

 Oh what a night! It was fun and it was productive. 

Part of our warm-up was singing to an accompaniment soundtrack of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head by Burt Bacharach who recently passed away (Feb.8, at 94). He also wrote What the World Needs Now, which is in our archives. It's amazing how many of us knew most of the words. Well, not so amazing. Music does that. It stays in our memories wonderfully, even when other memories fade. Music is magical. Part of our warm-up included stretches that we felt more than usual because of having had to shovel snow. 

Bill met with Donna at 6:30 to practise his solo piece. It's so beautiful! You're going to love it. 

1. Top of the World: It's very, very good! We talked again about what the basses could do. I think we ended up deciding that it was easiest if they sang what was written, or an octave down from what's written, and not the melody/soprano part an octave down (except for the entry/solo section which is all melody an octave down, with no harmony). More harmony is good. Something that made me very happy is that it was our first song of the night, and everyone watched me at the end and held the note about three extra bars! I love when I can play with an ending. Thank you for playing with me so nicely!

2. Viva!:  I have a note on my copy of Top of the World that says "not so stiff; loosen up". Viva should have the same energy as Top of the World, uptempo, cut time, very positive but with the opposite note: "tighten up." We worked on tightening up the timing. It's very important to observe the rests, always, and to keep the notes for their written length, always. Mozart's music gets a lot of energy from precise timing, from contrasts between short notes and quick parts and longer notes and grander sections. Our pronuciation needs a little tightening up too. Some folks were saying pwee instead of pyoo for più, "più caro" So, I was yelling out pyoo, pew, Pepe le Pew, church pews, pyoo-pyoo like a cartoon gun. It rhymes with you, cue, and the fancy way that we sometimes say new (or Tuesday) to sound like there's a y in there: not noo shoes, but nyoo shoes. If you catch yourself or someone near you pronouncing a word differently from those around you, let me know. Precision is a Mozart key word. 

3. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: We learned the last section. Tenor and bass divide her to wonderful effect, especially that last note. We did it! And, it sounded great and felt great. Next time, we'll do the second verse. I want us to end on the words: "in the love of joys unknown" (plus a hmm). Can hardly wait. I love this. 

4. Happy Together: Our theme song! Our concert will be called Happy (singing)Together! I am so happy- for real, so happy- that we're singing together again. Not singing together during the pandemic was super hard on me, even with the Zoom choir nights that we had. They were so much better than not singing at all, but real live choir is the very best thing in the world to me. We all know this song pretty well and the arrangement isn't too "special". We had sopranos on Part 1 and everyone else on Part 2. We might put a couple of Tenors on Part 1. In the last section, the ba-ba section, there's also a Descant part for the first Sopranos. We didn't get there yet. We sang from page 7, stopping at bar 55. The eighth notes in the ba-ba section go "ba-da-bop ba" This helps you to observe that little rest and it tightens up that rhythm. When you sing bop, it's short. You close your mouth for a fraction of a second. Very cool. 

5. Walking on Sunshine: We did it pretty slow, and very few people got lost this time. Maybe you've been practising? When it's up to speed, it's going to actually be easier. You'll loosen up and watch me, and we'll be great. I love the energy of this one. Donna's accompaniment is some good rock-n-roll! It makes me want to dance. During that section with the overlapping repeats where each section has their own part, watch me. It's my job to do the counting, to show you when to come in and when to stop, so just come in when I tell you and stop when I tell you. If I add an extra repeat or get your section in  early, at least we'll be together. Donna is awesome at fixing things that I mess up, so have faith and have fun. I'll try my best not to mess up, though. We reviewed the tenor part on the chorus because we need to hear that harmony. It's tempting to sing melody, I know. We also reviewed coming in at the coda. 1-2-1-2 and don't it feel good. 

6. Hallelujah: We had a few extra minutes so we sang this as a bonus. So good!

Next week: Tuesday, March 7th

6:30 Mad about Mozart Small Group! Sign up on the website. There's an Event set up. There's a link to the sheet music there and on the website in the recordings list. 

  • Happy Together
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  • This Little Light of Mine
  • Walking on Sunshine
  • We Rise Again