• Brahms web 2
    Selig Selig

    Selig

Selig

Selig A Requiem in the spring. It seems odd to sing about grief and death as we watch new life blossom outside the rehearsal room windows. The National ACDA Conference schedule required that we switch our usual March MasterWorks concert with our “Season Finale” spring program on our concert schedule. As our advertisement states, Brahms’ German Requiem is one of the most exquisite choral masterworks ever written. So, we open our scores, listen to Jon play the first strains of music, and count ourselves “selig.” Selig: Blessed. Upon further consideration, a Requiem in the spring is apt for many of us. School years end in the spring. The teachers in the room may be grieving the departure of some of their favorite students. Many Emory student singers are saddened by the ending of their university lives even as they look to the future. Because we never really know what is going on behind the smiling faces of our colleagues, singing Brahms’ Requiem could be cathartic and healing for some of our singers as they work through personal troubles. Concert seasons also end in the spring. All of us hope we are asked back in the fall, but there are some of us who know that the Brahms concert will be our last with Atlanta Master Chorale. I am one of them. This spring, my husband was offered his dream job in our home state of Michigan. After many nights of discussion and weighing the pros and cons, we decided that taking the job would be in the best interest of our family. And so, he left to begin work in Michigan while […]
By |May 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Selig
  • ACDA National Conference-Minneapolis-Orchestra-Hall
    Dreams to be Daring For Dreams to be Daring For

    Dreams to be Daring For

Dreams to be Daring For

An uncharacteristic silence descends upon us as we process silently up the backstage stairs. The bright lights of the 3,500-seat hall illuminate us one by one as we step onto the stage. The presenter introduces us, saying something about community choirs – “for everyone,” “for the love of singing,” I don’t catch all of it. I’m trying to calm my nerves which are racing through my body like unbounded electricity over wire. The stage seems to swallow us. Glancing out, the cavernous space is packed with people. The audience is comprised of our peers, our friends, our teachers, our heroes. This is the American Choral Directors Association National Conference, the most prestigious choral stage of all. Our stated mission is to inspire and enrich the lives of our community through the performance of inspirational choral music, to sing at the highest level of choral artistry, and to be a standard of excellence among performing arts organizations. Can we fulfill our mission today, on this stage? Can we find that ethereal place where music touches spirit in every song, in each note? There really is only way to find out, and the nerves mix with determination as we glance at each other, connecting, listening, even in the silence. Jon plays an A. We turn to Dr. Nelson, awaiting the cue to breathe and sing to the world who we are: “We declare unto all the ages…” March 8th was a crowded day at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Parking lots were completely full and traffic, as usual, was terrible. I was on the flight taken by the majority of […]
By |March 21st, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Dreams to be Daring For
  • time
    You Can’t Relax for a Second You Can’t Relax for a Second

    You Can’t Relax for a Second

You Can’t Relax for a Second

A few nights ago, I was making tacos for dinner and singing in my kitchen. Feeling in need of a distraction, I sang through some of my favorite old standards. “Someone to Watch Over Me” is a tune I adore, and I sang the intro as I stirred the filling on the stove, “There’s a saying old: says that love is blind…” Continuing on, I gave a little push of breath and a change in vowel placement to the higher note “Seek… (and ye shall find”) On the third line in, I took my first intentional breath to give some steam to the ascending scale that ends the introduction. I paused, then began the first verse as I reached for some spices and twirled back to the now-burning pan of filling. “There’s a somebody I’m longing to see…” It sounded nice, I was having fun. I bent down to answer a burning question from a little “somebody” who had scampered into the kitchen. In lieu of a decent breath, I began the next phrase with a big scoop as I stood and grabbed another container out of the fridge. That phrase was -if I’m honest- a hair pitchy because there was no breath behind it and I wasn’t paying much attention to vowels. Distracted again by a request for a snack, I hummed the rest of the song until my little audience had departed, cookie in hand. It was fun, and it was all fine- the kid with the dinner-spoiling cookie was fine, the half-scorched tacos were fine, the song had sounded fine. “Someone to Watch Over Me” wasn’t performance-ready of course, but […]
By |January 27th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on You Can’t Relax for a Second
  • Christmas with Atlanta Master Chorale 2016
    A Gift to Give A Gift to Give

    A Gift to Give

A Gift to Give

Every year in mid-October, each chorister finds a little treat on their chair when they arrive for rehearsal. It isn’t a bite-sized Snickers, or a Reese’s or a lollipop. It isn’t a cute little pumpkin or a decorative gourd. It is the much-anticipated packet of Christmas music. Yes, as the big-box stores are unpacking their trees and tinsel before Halloween even begins, so are we unpacking the magical sounds of the Christmas season. Squeals abound as we turn to our neighbors with “that’s my favorite!” or “that was gorgeous five years ago; imagine what it will sound like with all the new singers” or “whoa – I sang this in college, it’s amazing!” We begin preparing for the Christmas concert when the air still holds the warmth and humidity of a Georgia autumn. It seems early, but in fact, the board and our artistic director have prepared for this concert many months, and in some cases years in advance. I spoke with Jamie Clements, Development Manager and tenor extraordinaire, who told me plans are being made for concerts and collaborations as far ahead as 2020! Some of my gentle readers may be thinking, “this would have been a great post to write in October…” I absolutely agree. However, a working musician’s Christmas season gets underway in October and like many of my colleagues in Atlanta Master Chorale, I simply got swept away by the planning and preparation for my various holiday undertakings. If you have a working musician in your life, you will have given them a big kiss sometime in November, not expecting to see them again until January. If you do not, allow me to give you some insight into what it is like to be a working musician during the holidays: I am a voice teacher, teaching 10 students and […]
  • faure-15
    Lifetime Achievement Lifetime Achievement

    Lifetime Achievement

Lifetime Achievement

I have participated in many, many choirs throughout my career. I have learned something from all of them, and some taught me skills that changed my life. But there is something special about Atlanta Master Chorale. It is without a doubt musically the best choir I’ve ever had the honor to sing with. There is something more, though. Something indefinable is propelling us forward. We all feel it and we are all driven by it. That is perhaps why so much administrative, marketing, and technological work is eagerly taken on by volunteer choristers. It is certainly why so many talented professional Atlanta musicians are committed to the group. And maybe, it’s why it’s just so darn fun. Every single one of us is there for a reason. We are a community of people coming together in a desire and willingness to share our hearts. Every note, every rehearsal, every concert is a love offering: to the music, to our audience, to our community, and in March, to the nation. The American Choral Directors Association. Almost every choral director and aspiring choral director in the country proudly holds membership in this organization. On their website, you will find the following statement: “The mission of the American Choral Directors Association is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition and advocacy.” Professional and student choral directors use their ACDA membership to find mentors, colleagues, jobs, musical and academic resources, networking opportunities and more. As a member, you even get the Choral Journal in the mail every month. The most prominent feature of ACDA however, are the conferences. […]
By |November 1st, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Lifetime Achievement
  • Dreamers of Dreams
    Don’t Cry. Just Breathe. Don’t Cry. Just Breathe.

    Don’t Cry. Just Breathe.

Don’t Cry. Just Breathe.

(Photo: N. Voelker) I wrote these exact words in my music while rehearsing for our Season Premiere concert.  The song was “Come to the Woods” by Jake Runestad.  The part that struck my heart started with Jon Easter lovingly playing the second theme of the piece: the one that rises in hope at the end.  It continued with the men singing, strikingly beautifully, the following invitation: “Come to the woods, for here is rest.”  Listening to Jon and his fellow men perform this small section had me in tears Every. Single. Time. There is a piece (or two, or three, or four…) on each concert that goes straight to the heart of each chorister.  Singers not only bring their professional musical backgrounds to rehearsal, but their lives, loves, passions, and past come along for the ride.  For me, a song that touches on the sacredness of nature speaks to something deep within me.  I grew up visiting the family cottage in Northern Michigan.  We were nestled in the woods, surrounded by birds and animals who greeted us in the morning.  Meals were eaten on the dock over the shimmering pale blue lake.  I have memories of floating down a narrow woodland path on my grandfather’s shoulders as he taught me the names of trees.   My grandmother Mimi would sit and catch dragonflies on her hand, pointing out the delicacy and beauty of their big wings so we wouldn’t be frightened.  When I was in high school, my family moved “Up North.”  Friendships were cemented and the great existential crises of every teenager were wrestled with under a canopy of trees hiking back to the Big Lake.  The man who would become my husband and […]
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    Fizz, Tizz, and Ring Fizz, Tizz, and Ring

    Fizz, Tizz, and Ring

Fizz, Tizz, and Ring

Every voice is its own unique instrument. The sound of each voice has been honed by a mix of vocal coaches, choral directors, and our own musical exploration. In a choir, our vocal instruments have to blend, creating one unified sound, or tone. Atlanta Master Chorale’s tone is gorgeous, warm, filled with light and heart. Not content with mere robotic perfection, we reach for the humanity and emotion that lives within the tone. After all, the instruments we play are not made out of wood or metal. Our instrument, our sound, our tone, is literally who we are. When a singer joins a choir, it is understood that she will adjust her tone to match that which is sought by the director. This is easier said than done, because like all singers, all directors have a different idea of what they would like the sound of their choirs to be. If you are singing in a show choir, your director may ask for a bright tone. English choirs traditionally have a forward, ringing tone. Russian choirs employ dark, rich tones. American choirs tend to gravitate toward warm, open tones. Dr. Nelson likes to say that there are many kinds of virtuosity. One of the most over-looked aspects of virtuosic singing is the ability to create this exquisite tone while keeping the warmth and humanity in the sound. That said, our choristers make up a tapestry of talent. Everyone in the choir has had some form of expensive vocal training, and all solo voices are extremely different in tone. We have operatic baritones, gospel tenors, coloratura sopranos, and dramatic mezzos. We have choral directors, composers, church musicians, and voice teachers (like myself.) Yet we strive to find […]
By |September 26th, 2016|Rehearsal|Comments Off on Fizz, Tizz, and Ring
  • Eric Nelson
    Confessions of a Second Soprano: The Downbeat Confessions of a Second Soprano: The Downbeat

    Confessions of a Second Soprano: The Downbeat

Confessions of a Second Soprano: The Downbeat

The first rehearsal is a bit like the first day of school. The excitement of seeing old friends, the anticipation of the new kids, the gathering of bags, supplies, sharpened pencils. There is the apprehension that your skills are up to par, the hope that your hard work produces success, and the thrill of accomplishment. But unlike the first day of school, being a member of a choir is not about individual success. Every bit of hard work, study, and sharpened pencil is focused on a goal larger than yourself. It is about serving your fellow choristers, serving the artistic decisions of the Director, serving the music, serving the audience. If you do it right, you can serve the world at large through an expression of indefinable beauty. As I walk into the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts to attend the first Atlanta Master Chorale rehearsal of the 2016-2017 season, these thoughts run through my head. My voice is ready because I sang vocal warm-ups in the car, and decided not to belt out the C on “I Dreamed a Dream” when it came on the radio. I stop just before the doorway to take stock of my supplies: my pencil and auxiliary pencil are in my purse, even though I know that there will be a brand new one from our volunteer librarian tucked neatly into my music packet. When Dr. Nelson gives marks to my section, I don’t want to be notating them in my score with sweet Georgia air, or worse, a pen. My phone is not only on silent, but turned all the way off. I would be mortified if it bumped against something in my purse and the strains of […]