Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Celebrating CONCORA!

.Tune in to Hartford-area WJMJ Radio (88.9 Hartford, 93.1 Hamden, and 107.1 New Haven) tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 30, at 10:00 p.m., when Joe Etcheto, host of "Classics by Night" on WJMJ Radio, will feature music of CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists), the all-professional choral ensemble in which I sing.

CONCORA is also featured in the October issue of Connecticut magazine, in a lovely article by Connecticut writer Lary Bloom. The piece is essentially a profile of CONCORA’s Artistic Director Richard Coffey, who founded CONCORA 35 years ago.

Bloom writes eloquently of the important place that CONCORA, and Richard Coffey, hold in Connecticut’s arts community:

“I have…thought about Richard Coffey’s place in our cultural life. We have lost Connecticut Opera and the series that brought the world’s greatest orchestras to The Bushnell [Center for the Performing Arts] in Hartford and masters of classical music to the Shubert [Theater] in New Haven. But after 35 years there is still CONCORA. We can hear it in CDs, or, better yet, live as it celebrates its anniversary with a concert in November. Then together, ensemble and audience, we can offer our own Hallelujah chorus.”
The concert mentioned in the article is CONCORA’s 35th anniversary bash on Sunday, November 22, at 4:00 p.m. at South Church in New Britain. Past and current CONCORA members will offer a wonderful program of choral music from five centuries. Call CONCORA (860-224-7500) or visit http://www.concora.org/ for more information. (I’ll be singing in the concert and preparing the program notes.) It will be a very special evening to celebrate a very special ensemble.

Friday, September 25, 2009

And So It Begins Again

Tomorrow, in what will be my first performance of the 2009-2010 choral year, I’ll be singing in the season-opener for the choirs of Joyful Noise, a wonderful organization that includes the acclaimed children’s choir Chorus Angelicus, Gaudeamus (the adult choir in which I sing) and the junior and training choirs for the youngest singers.

The choirs will combine for this short program, which will start off with “Angel Voices, Ever Singing,” a processional hymn by E.G. Monk (1861) with a new descant by Artistic Director Nicholas White. We’ll also sing arrangements of English folksongs, including “Afton Water,” an arrangement by Sir David Willcocks of the English folksong “Flow Gently Sweet Afton” and Percy Snowdon’s setting of “Dance to Your Daddy.”

The concert, open to the public free of charge, will begin at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 26, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 25 South Street, in Litchfield. More info at http://chorusangelicus.org/.

A walk-a-thon to raise funds for Joyful Noise will precede the performance, stepping off at 2:00 from the church community hall (next to the church).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Minding the Score

On Monday, The Hartford Chorale – some 170 members strong this season! – began rehearsals for our November performances of Ein deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms.

In earlier posts, I’ve written about Maestro Coffey’s practice of providing “master scores” from which the singers are expected to copy into their own scores his instructions for breathing, interpretive dynamics, divisi assignments, etc. These advance markings and annotations, as well as the translations, must be entered into one’s score before the first rehearsal. Really, though, this process must be completed before one can begin any serious personal practice.

At Monday’s Chorale rehearsal, it was painfully obvious that too many singers had not edited their scores; there were too many instances of misplaced cutoffs, wrong dynamics, etc. We had to stop again and again to correct the errors and communicate information which had already been made available. It was a huge waste of time and energy that should have been invested in the music.

Still, it’s less of a problem in The Hartford Chorale now than it was a few years ago. Here’s a terrible piece that I jotted down a few years ago in response to a similar situation.


Chorale rehearsals have begun!
We’re glad to see each other.
We’ve got new scores to learn and love
and share with one another.

But don’t forget this crucial step
in preparing for rehearsal;
it will prevent your own mis-step
and save us from reversal.

Each chorister must mark his score
(each choristress, hers, too);
and yes, this must be done before
we sing them through on “doo.”

It needn’t be a loathsome chore
for you to mark each song.
It needn’t be a tiresome bore!
It won’t take very long!

Just find the “master edit” score
that’s been prepared for you,
in which you may (with joy!) explore,
to learn it through and through.

Where to find it? Look online;
our website has it there.
You’ll find it simple to divine
the What and How and Where.

No PC? No clue? No worry!
We’ve thought of that case, too.
No need for fuss, or fret, or flurry.
Here’s all you need to do:

Just plan to arrive early
at our rehearsal hall.
On the piano, with keys so pearly,
the scores wait there for all.

Feel free to borrow all you need.
Study, read, and construe —
Take all the time you want! Indeed,
the scores are there for you!

Your efforts therein will bring rewards
as you better learn each piece;
You’ll quicker master all the chords
and be ready for each release!

Questions? Comments? Help is here!
Just ask your section leaders.
They’re all friendly and of good cheer
(and really good sight-readers).

So, singer, find the master score
with telling marks set down;
don’t delay, we do implore,
lest you invoke a frown

from those whose scores, already marked,
are ready to rehearse,
and who, if much delayed by you
may chide you with a curse!

But more than this: You’ll be right glad
that you have done this study.
You’ll help our choir sound good, not bad.
You’ll keep us from sounding muddy.

You’ll enjoy the music that much more
when you have learned it well.
And the first step is to mark your score
so that you — and we — may excel.

© 2011 Quodlibet. Dissemination, re-use, or duplication prohibited except by express permission of the author.I pay attention and I will find you if you cite, republish, or use my work without credit or without attribution.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Words I Like

I like words.

I like them for the way they sound, or they way they feel when I say them, or because of their interesting meanings. Here are a few favorites.


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Repeated Refrains of Nature

There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. –Rachel Carson

These words of biologist and writer Rachel Carson (1907-1964) have been on my mind as the fall migration proceeds all around us.

Those of us who watch and love birds can see the changes day by day, starting in late July, as shorebirds, then swallows, then songbirds, hawks, herons and all the rest begin their pilgrimages to warmer climates.

The population of birds in and around my own backyard changes day by day, too.

The neighborhood’s young hawks are growing up. Our young Red-Tailed Hawk was soaring over the area yesterday, and has gained enough confidence and panache that he no longer calls, calls, calls, calls to his parents as he did when he first took flight in July (as I wrote about HERE). A young Sharp-Shinned Hawk strafed the feeders the other day, and I saw the young Cooper’s Hawk over our favorite meadow nearby. I’ll expect to see those last-named two at the feeders all winter.

The orioles and robins are mostly gone, and I haven’t heard the tanager for many weeks. A few phoebes are still around, snapping up flying insects with a sharp snap of their beaks. The catbirds are still mewing from the hedgerow, but the last of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds seems to have departed just two days ago (but I’ll leave the feeder up for a while in case a late straggler passes by).

I’ve been lucky to spot a few migrants as they pass through (or over) the yard, including Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, a Black-and-White Warbler that investigated the suet, and three Broad-Winged Hawks that passed high overhead.

Some of the migrants stay with us for the winter. As fall comes on apace, I’m keeping an eye out for the White-Throated Sparrows and Slate-Colored Juncos which come to our feeders every day between October and May. And each day I look for a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker at our suet feeder; two years ago, a juvenile came pretty often, starting in mid-October, and last year a stunning adult male took up residence and dominated all the other woodpeckers (read about it HERE). Perhaps it was the same bird, and perhaps he’ll come back again. (I have a third suet cage ready so that the other birds can stand a chance!)