SCVA Newsletter (on-line version) – November 2004
Message from the President – Grace Sheldon-Williams, President
No Griping Allowed!
One of the many fun things about ECCO (California ACDA’s Summer Conference at the Episcopal Conference Center, Oakhurst) are the open forum discussion groups on the first evening. This year our leader began by saying, “No griping. We’re going to share good things only.” “Darn!” I thought, “the griping is the best part!” Just when you think you have the job with the worst problems (e.g., difficult band director, no band director, YOU are the band director!), invariably there are other people who have it worse than you. Finding out about those other situations is uplifting somehow.
But as I said, we weren’t allowed to gripe. In a round-about way, though, people managed to get in a few digs, like, “After 15 years with the world’s worst principal, we finally got a decent one.” You get the picture.
And speaking of griping...today my school had a staff development day. Yeah, I know. I often go into SD days with, shall we say, a less-than-good attitude, mainly because I’ve been to enough bad ones and I usually find myself wishing I were doing something more productive with my time, like...teaching! This day, however, was pretty good. Let me tell you about it, and maybe you’ll get some ideas about how you can make these days more palatable at your school. Incidentally, the very best one we ever had was the day we took a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance. Sadly, our district has become intolerant of that.
Today was set up just like a regular school day, bells and all. Period 1 was a large group meeting in the auditorium where we got an overview of the day and took care of other details. At this point, we divided into four groups in order to rotate through the four different sessions. I stuck with my instrumental music pal Amy (no gripes about her!). Period 2 our group went to the computer lab to complete a state-mandated on-line technology survey. Done early, no sweat! Next was snack. So far, so good. I wasn’t sure about Period 3, which was a session on portfolios. It turned out to be excellent! I got a lot of useful information should I ever decide to have my students do a choir portfolio—not a bad idea. They could include programs and written reflections from their own performances and other performances they are required to attend plus all their other written work. My concern is...when would I have time to grade these? Hmmm. Another thing I was reminded of in this session was that a lot of what we teach our kids about being on time, responsible, committed, etc., is hammered into them all day long by their other teachers. WE ARE NOT ALONE! And it never hurts to be reminded that we CAN and SHOULD uphold high standards with our students. Other teachers do.
Next was a session on Keeping Students Engaged led by one of our co-principals. Amy said to me, “Our kids are always engaged, don’t you think?” Following this profound observation, we proceeded to nod off. No, really, we took copious notes and were fully engaged the entire time. This session did give us some good Q&A strategies, several of which I plan to use with my choirs.
After lunch, we went to another computer lab to learn how to set up our own web page. My enthusiasm was ebbing at this point, but this session turned out to be the most fun and useful of all. I was able to set up my own web page (very basic) and got some great ideas for how I can make it interesting and informative for my students and parents. Finally, the day ended with department meetings to de-brief and take care of other business. Whew!
So even though there weren’t any sessions specifically related to choral music and although we lost a day of instruction, I don’t feel the need to gripe at all. I sure wish they’d let us take another field trip to the Museum of Tolerance, though.
Junior High Honor Choir – Debbie Montpas, VP Junior High Honor Choir
It’s time to prepare your best singers and musicians to audition for the Junior High Honor Choir! We are honored to have DR. CHARLENE ARCHIBEQUE, Director of Choral Activities at San Jose State University, as our guest conductor this year. Dr. Archibeque is a fabulous clinician and your students (and you!) will learn so much about the choral art from her. This is going to be an exceptional experience for your students and I hope that you’ll encourage them to audition. Honor Choir weekend is May 14-15.
The Honor Choir is open to all 7, 8, and 9th graders as well as 6th graders if they are in a middle school choral program. High school BOYS in 9th grade are especially encouraged to audition so we have a solid bass/baritone section. Boys with unchanged voices are also encouraged to audition. There is a $45 participation fee for students accepted into the choir. Singers will again have a rehearsal CD to help them learn and memorize their music.
Teach your students the following for a few minutes every day between now and January. They will become more confident musicians and will do well at the audition. They must be able to sing the following:
(“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”) a
Major scale (solfege or “ah” with accuracy)
Major and minor triad
Tonal memory patterns
Rhythmic sight reading (clap, tap, or ta-ti the correct rhythms)
Melodic sightreading (solfege or any syllable)
It is extremely important that directors understand that your signature on a student’s application indicates your confidence that the student will be a responsible and dedicated member of the Honor Choir. Rehearsal dates are MANDATORY and are NOT negotiable. Students who have a conflict with any of the dates on the application should NOT apply or audition! (Directors with school conflicts must contact me right away.) Students who quit or who are dismissed from the Honor Choir will be ineligible to participate in ANY SCVA Honor Choir for one year. Please understand that these rules were made with the good of the choir in mind. Someone who misses 25% or more of the scheduled rehearsals can’t be considered a valuable member if they’re not there. This is an HONOR Choir and the students selected to be in it must be honorable and responsible.
There are a lot of details in making a successful Honor Choir experience. I am in need of ADJUDICATORS FOR THE AUDITIONS, REHEARSAL ASSISTANTS, PEOPLE TO CHECK-IN THE STUDENTS AT REHEARSALS, etc. Please contact me if you can help out with this year’s Honor Choir. Your help will be GREATLY appreciated!
2004 VOCAL SOLO COMPETITION – Colleen Kennedy, VP Vocal Solo Competition
Participation is open to both junior high/middle school and high school students, though the two levels do not compete against each other. The application fee remains at $20. This fee is non-refundable. Applications must be accompanied by a school check or money order payable to SCVA. You can also pay online by visiting www.scvachoral.org and selecting e-Payments. Please, no purchase orders, personal checks or cash. Each applicant should include a self-addressed envelope with their application for notification. Participants must be active members in a choral ensemble. Church, temple and community groups meet this requirement. The application must be signed by the choral director. If the choral director is not a member of SCVA, then the application must be signed by both the choral director and the private voice teacher. Directors and/or teachers must be current members of SCVA, having paid their 2004-05 dues, in order for their students to participate. If your membership isn’t current, please contact Shawn Taylor, complete the membership application included in the SCVA newsletter, or visit www.scvachoral.org to register via PayPal.
Each participant will sing one selection of a classical nature (art song or aria). Selections should be appropriate to the singer’s level of experience. Participants will be given a total of 8 minutes to perform and work with the adjudicator. Keep in mind that a longer song means less time to work with the adjudicator. Singers must provide their own skilled accompanist for the preliminary and final rounds. (Keep costs down by sharing an accompanist.) An accompanist will only be provided for the final concert performance. The preliminary and semi-final rounds are in master-class format, lasting approximately 3 to 4 hours, including breaks. Participants are expected to check in before the master class starts and remain until the end to receive their certificates and adjudication forms. Please remind participants to make sure that they are available for all dates and times before completing the application. Also, please help our participants by not scheduling a gig for your choir on the same day that any of your students is scheduled to sing in the competition, or excuse those students from the gig. Singers arriving and leaving throughout the class can be distracting.
Up to five semi-finalists may be selected from each preliminary site at the high school level, along with one junior high/middle school semi-finalist. Singers selected to continue to the semi-final round may either perform their selection from the preliminary round or prepare another. At the semi-final round, the judges will select six high school finalists and one junior high/middle school finalist. The high school finalists will consist of the two best female singers, the two best male singers and the next two best singers at the judges’ discretion. Final placement of the high school finalists will be announced at the Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir Concert.
Dates to Remember
- Applications postmarked no later than Saturday December 11, 2004
- Preliminary rounds (various sites): 9am - 1:30pm, Saturday January 15, 2005
- Semi-final round (site TBD): 9am - 2:30pm, Saturday March 5, 2005
- Scholarships awarded after final performances at the Junior High Honor Choir concert, Sunday May 15, 2005 (time TBD)
- Mail applications to: Colleen Kennedy, Vocal Solo Competition, 3425 Jasmine Ave #1, Los Angeles, CA 90034
Young Men’s Harmony Festival – Mark Freedkin, Barbershop Harmony
We are pleased to announce another unique opportunity for your young male singers which we hope will provide a positive boost for choral music at your school and throughout Southern California. To build on our successful choral programs during the past six years, the local chapters of the Barbershop Harmony Society (SPEBSQSA) and the Southern California Vocal Association (SCVA) are organizing a Young Men’s Harmony Festival starting at 10:00am on Saturday, February 19, 2005 at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. The daylong event will consist of a morning and afternoon clinic and rehearsal, followed by a public performance in the evening with the Masters of Harmony, five-time International Barbershop Chorus Champions. In addition to providing an outstanding musical experience for your singers, all of the proceeds from this event will go to support choral music education programs in our schools.
About four weeks prior to the event, we will provide sheet music and voice-dominant practice tapes for several songs arranged in the Barbershop style.
The cost is only $20 per singer for early registration. Local Barbershop sponsors will cover the remaining costs for all sheet music, practice tapes, rehearsal facilities, guest clinicians, and performance costumes. A commemorative T-shirt will be provided to each singer. We will also provide lunch and dinner for the singers, as well as a catered dinner for any music educators who attend the rehearsal and clinic. We also request that you or a parent accompany your singers at the event to help maintain discipline during the long day.
To qualify for the early registration fee, complete the enclosed application and parental consent/medical form for each singer and send payment by cash, check or money order payable to “Masters of Harmony” to the address below NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 20, 2004. Thereafter, the registration fee will be $25 per singer. Any male student who is currently enrolled in a school choral music program is eligible to participate. There is no limit to the number of students you can nominate from your choral program. We request that you select your better singers to represent your school. We can accommodate a maximum of 200 singers, so don’t delay!
The Barbershop Harmony Society is dedicated to preserving and encouraging vocal music of all kinds in our schools and our communities, through financial support and by being strong advocates for the arts. In partnership with the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) and other organizations, the Society is actively involved in the effort to help revitalize music education and to “Get America Singing...Again”. Support from local Barbershop harmony programs has earned the enthusiastic endorsement of the SCVA.
We look forward to receiving your applications. Please contact me if you have any questions about the Young Men’s Harmony Festival or any of our Young Men In Harmony programs.
Southern California Young Men In Harmony Coordinator
3 Muir, Irvine, CA 92620-3374
Home: (949) 559-9821 Work: (949) 856-7794
Introduction to Barbershop Harmony
The Barbershop style of four-part a cappella singing is a uniquely American musical art form. It had its beginnings during the late 1800’s, and remained popular through Vaudeville until the mid-1920’s. It originated prior to the advent of radio and television, a time in which people found ways of entertaining themselves by singing. The popular songs of that era were also written to be sung by the common person, rather than by the experienced musician. Barbershop melody lines are simple, and lyrics are “down to earth” and easy to understand and appreciate.
Barbershop music is sung by four voice parts. The Lead (equivalent to the 2nd Tenor) sings the melody line. The Tenor (equivalent to the 1st Tenor) sings a harmony part that is consistently higher than the melody (often a parallel third above). The Bass sings a harmony part that is consistently lower than the melody and provides the foundation for most chords by singing either the root or the fifth of the chord. The Baritone sings a harmony part comprised of whatever note remains to fill-out the chord. When sung out of context, the baritone part sounds very unusual, but it gives the Barbershop style its unique sound.
To maximize the effect of the natural overtone series, the roots and fifths of all chords are sung a little louder than the thirds and sevenths. In all cases, the melody is tuned to the tonal center, and the harmony parts are tuned to the melody part. Use of similar word sounds in good quality and balanced volume relationships by each of the voice parts reinforces the natural harmonic series (overtones) to produce the unique “ringing” sound characteristic of Barbershop harmony.
Structure and Notation
The Barbershop style primarily uses major chords, minor chords, dominant seventh chords, minor seventh chords, half-diminished seventh chords and fully-diminished seventh chords. A good Barbershop arrangement should use the "Barbershop seventh" (a dominant-quality seventh chord that occurs on any degree of the scale) for at least one-third of its chords. The chord progressions used in the Barbershop style rely on the classical "circle-of-fifths", with a few interesting embellishments thrown in along the way. Songs which suggest that type of harmonic variation easily lend themselves to the Barbershop style.
The written form of Barbershop style uses much of the same notation as other forms of music. A grand staff comprised of two staves is used to notate the music. The Tenor and Lead parts are notated on the treble staff. The notes are written one octave higher than they actually sound. The Baritone and Bass parts are notated on the bass staff.
Benefits of Barbershop Singing
Barbershop music is easy to learn and fun to sing. Singing in a Barbershop quartet can help your singers develop and refine their tuning and performance skills, self-confidence and a sense of teamwork. Barbershop singing can be used to achieve a “quick success” for your singers. It can also be used to teach good vocal production techniques. In addition to singing in a quartet, a chorus of many singers on the same voice part can be used to produce a very satisfying Barbershop sound, while providing a highly supportive environment for weaker singers.
For More Information
Headquarters office for the Barbershop Harmony Society (SPEBSQSA) in Kenosha, Wisconsin: (800) 876-SING, http://www.spebsqsa.org
Headquarters office for Sweet Adelines International in Tulsa, Oklahoma: (800) 992-SING, http://www.sweetadelineintl.org
2005 Show Choir Spectacular – Erin Terreri, VP Show Choir
The date is set for the SCVA Show Choir Competition. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 23, 2005 at Long Beach Poly High School. I hope this works for all those who are interested in coming. The format will be the same as it has been, starting with the Jr. high/middle schools. Then the high school choirs will compete in three divisions: novice, intermediate, and advanced respectively. The competition is open to women’s, men’s, and mixed choirs. Pacifica High School will be the host group. My kids have had two years of experience running this event and really have a fabulous time. The application and final details will be in the first newsletter after the holidays. If you need to schedule busses earlier than that, you may call or e-mail me for a general time frame. Of course the scheduling all depends on how many groups attend.
In the next newsletter, I will give all of the guidelines for the competition. One thing that will be included that was not included last year, is a score sheet with all of the results for each choir in your division. I find it helpful to be able to see how other choirs scored against mine. If you have any other suggestions for the day, please let me know. I welcome them!
New Teachers! For those of you who are just getting started with the show choir gig, www.showchoirs.com is a great resource for information. It gives a calendar of all the local festivals in Southern California and nation wide! It also gives links to other show choir websites, so you can find someone close to you and pick their brain for ideas. I like looking at the repertoire that choirs have done in the past. Of course you can always call me, “The Queen of All That is Sequins” for anything else. My favorite quote from the website is:
“Show Choir - where sequins are a way of life”
Words we should live by. Ciao!