Sunday, March 18, 2018

Musical Monday - "Forever Country": Legends Gather for All-Star Music Video

One of the biggest lessons I learned as a new teacher was to be much more open to ALL genres of music.  Once I began to understand the musicality of various styles, I had a whole new appreciation.  One of the words we never used in music classes was "like".  You only liked or disliked something if you were purchasing recordings for your personal use.  Otherwise, we simple appreciated it all.  
In this video, many stars have brought their various talents to make this a really interesting "mash-up".  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Musical Monday - Fun Explanation of the SATB Choir

Image result for clip art choir Kay from our choir passed on this anonymously written fun explanation of the 4 basic choir sections as seen by a young person.  I am shortening it up somewhat for our busy readers.  Have a wee giggle but realize that those of us privileged enough to conduct a choir, know secrets not shared here.  This has been requested a number of times and so here it is again

The four parts of the choir can be easily distinguished and here is how.

SOPRANOS - are the ones who sing the highest, and because of this they think they rule the world. They have longer hair, fancier jewelry, and swishier skirts than anyone else, and they consider themselves insulted if they are not allowed to go at least to a high F in every movement of any given piece. 
Image result for clip art soprano

ALTOS - are the salt of the earth - in their opinion, at least. Altos are unassuming people, who would wear jeans to concerts if they were allowed to. Altos are in a unique position in the chorus in that they are unable to complain about having to sing either very high or very low. They know that while the sopranos are screeching away on a high A, they are being forced to sing elaborate passages full of sharps and flats and tricks of rhythm, and nobody is noticing because the sopranos are singing too loud (and the basses usually are too). Altos get a deep, secret pleasure out of conspiring together to tune the sopranos flat. Altos have an innate distrust of tenors, because the tenors sing in almost the same range and think they sound better.

TENORS - are spoiled. That's all there is to it. For one thing, there are never enough of them, and choir directors would rather sell their souls than let a halfway decent tenor quit. And then, for some reason, the few tenors there are, are always really good - it's one of those annoying facts of life.. So it's no wonder that tenors always get swollen heads - after all, who else can make sopranos swoon? It is a little-known fact that tenors move their eyebrows more than anyone else while singing.

Image result for clip art tenorsBASSES - sing the lowest of anybody. This basically explains everything. They are stolid, dependable people, and have more facial hair than anybody else. The basses feel perpetually unappreciated, but they have a deep conviction that they are actually the most important part (a view endorsed by musicologists, but certainly not by sopranos or tenors), despite the fact that they have the most boring part of anybody and often sing the same note (or in endless fifths) for an entire page. They compensate for this by singing as loudly as they can get away with - most basses are tuba players at heart.
As for the sopranos, they are simply in an alternate universe which the basses don't understand at all. They can't imagine why anybody would ever want to sing that high. When a bass makes a mistake, the other three parts will cover him, and he can continue on his merry way, knowing that sometime, somehow, he will end up at the root of the chord.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Musical Monday - Singers with Colds Do's & Don'ts

With colds and flu attacking many this time of year,here is a great article from Voice Council on Singing with Colds.  There are some links in the article for additional help. 
Image result for clip art coldsYou feel the irritating tickle in your throat, the slight pressure in your sinuses and you notice that funny taste in your mouth. There’s no mistaking it.
You are coming down with a cold.
What’s worse, you’ve got a performance in three days.
Ready to do anything to save your show, you rush to the pharmacy. There you find rows and rows of sprays, lozenges and pills for every symptom imaginable.
Which ones work? Which ones are good for singers? Which ones are bad for singers?
VoiceCouncil asked Dr Tom Harris, retired ENT surgeon, and one of London’s most highly respected voice experts, what singers should and shouldn’t take when dealing with the range-shrinking, tone-wrecking evils of the common cold.
The common cold is caused by over 100 different constantly mutating virus strains

DO – Embrace Your Mucus

“There is nothing you can do to cure a cold,” says Harris, which is something no singer likes to hear.
But there is hope.
“The one thing you can do,” says Harris, “is keep your mucus membranes* warm and wet.”
Why? Because it will reduce irritation and help your body move the mucus out of your system. Keep in mind that your main goal is to get all that mucus out.
Ah, mucus. What a lovely topic, and one about which Dr Harris has a lot to say.
Did you know mucus is only gross when you are sick?
Normally, you don’t even notice the 1 liter of mucus per day that your body generates to remove germs and debris from your body.
You and your mucus exist in perfect harmony.
When you get a cold, however, that mucus becomes dry, sticky and generally nasty.
Your best plan of attack is to keep that mucus as thin and watery as possible.
Some things, such as drinking lots of water, help thin the mucus, while other things dry it out, making it thick and sticky.

DON’T – Dry & Suppress

Despite the temporary relief provided by decongestants** and antihistamines***, Dr Harris recommends against taking these because of their drying effect.
Dried out mucus membranes not only hinder your ability to sound good when you sing, but singing when the mucosa lining is dry makes it more likely that you will further irritate the vocal folds.
The drying effect makes your mucus sticky and slows down the body’s ability to expel it. Drying out already inflamed mucus membranes hinders your ability to fight off a cold.
Dr Harris notes that when the problem is due to allergic reactions or asthma, however, antihistamines are helpful but singers must use them with careful awareness of the drying effect.
Got a cough? Another no-no is a cough suppressant****. Harris explains that coughing (when it’s wet and phlegm-y) is how you get mucus out (which helps you get better).
You could risk a lung infection if you let that mucus and all the germs it harbors sit there in your lungs.
For the sake of your long-term health, you really don’t want to suppress a productive cough.
Suppressing a productive cough will only trap the virus in your lungs and risk infection
Can’t sleep? If the cough keeps you up at night, try getting out of bed, making a hot cup of tea and be sure to inhale the steam as you sip it.
A dry cough is another matter – it does not move mucus, and you should talk to your doctor if it persists (in this case, a cough suppressant may be desirable).

DO – Soothe Your Symptoms

There isn’t anything that cures colds, but among the masses of products on the pharmacy shelf, there are a couple that can help.
“First Defence nasal spray is an example of a product that may help you feel better,” says Harris, who says it is safe for singers.
If you check the ingredients, you’ll see the first is water. No problem there. Then it contains things like Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, which coats your irritated mucus membrane trapping virus particles.
It is slightly alkaline and has Phenethyl alcohol which is moderately virucidal and so reduces the chance of the virus attacking you with a second wave of awfulness.
Finally, it contains menthol, which makes the mucus membranes feel cooler, which your brain interprets as an open airway. First Defence is most useful if taken in the early stages of a cold.
While First Defence is widely available in the UK, it is not sold in the U.S.A. You can order it on if you don’t mind paying a couple of dollars for shipping.

DO – Steam

Any or all of the mucus membranes lining your airways become irritated and inflamed when you have a cold virus (your vocal folds are covered by this mucus membrane, which means the sound of your voice is usually affected too).
Regular steam inhalation is generally safer and more effective,” says Harris, “than self-treating with over-the-counter remedies
Inhaling steam immediately relieves this swelling. “Regular steam inhalation is generally safer and more effective,” says Harris, “than self-treating with over-the-counter remedies.”
Dr Harris has found that it is best to inhale steam at least twice a day to relieve an irritated voice.
“The physical methods like steam are the most effective, and come without side effects,” says Dr Harris, “All drugs have potential side effects.”
An electric steamer is essentially a kettle with a long face mask. The advantage of these is that they make the best sort of steam – the water droplet is the ideal size.
If you don’t have one of these, you can settle for a bowl of boiling water and a towel over your head.
There are ultra-sonic steam generators on the market, but they come with a potential risk.
Since the water droplet produced in the vapor is smaller than that of steam and when inhaled right down into the chest a higher proportion of the vapor is absorbed by the lungs.
Overindulgence in ultrasonic vapor is not going to help the cold.

Do, Do, Do!

Are you coming down with a cold right now? Yes? Then your mission is to get that mucus out.
That’s right.
Go and blow your nose gently (one side at a time). Drink water to help keep that mucus thin and wet.
Keep it moving by avoiding cough suppressants, decongestants and antihistamines.
Pamper your mucus membranes with steam, saline nasal spray or another safe nasal spray like First Defence to reduce the swelling and irritation.
Rest and keep yourself warm (hot drinks are great for this) so your body can function as well as possible to rid itself of that nasty stuff that is holding your voice hostage.

–By Kathy Alexander with Dr. Harris

Consultant ENT Surgeon at The Blackheath Hospital, London and recently retired from the NHS. Dr Harris opened one of the first Multidisciplinary Voice Clinics in Britain at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford in 1982. Until recently, he ran the Sidcup and University Hospital Lewisham Voice Clinics with Sara Harris, (Speech Therapist) Jacob Lieberman (Osteopath and Psychotherapist) and Dinah Harris (Voice Coach).

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Musical Monday - Only In Sleep with the Sofia Vokalensemble

This is a beautiful piece that our Harold would really like us to try.  It is SSAATTBB so we would really be challenged to sing almost individually.  Tell us what you think.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Musical Monday - New Evolution of Dance

These young people have worked very hard on this choreography.  What fun they are having interpretting these very recognizable songs.  They have found the secret to any great performance, when you enjoy what you are doing on stage, your audience has a great time.  Have fun!!!!!  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Musical Monday - Bohemian Rhapsody - UC Men's Octet - 1/21/11

These young men are terrific.  The young tenor is quite outstanding.  I just love the choreography.  Makes you wonder where these guys are now!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Musical Monday - John Rutter: The Importance of Choir

Here is a short but really interesting talk by our beloved John Rutter about why choir is important.  Those of us who belong to a choir or two, all ready know this.  Having it said out loud by someone who writes great pieces for choir is really super.  Do you agree?