Friday, November 21, 2014

Fun Friday - Flash Mob @ the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

What an appropriate place to have a musical flash mob.  Notice how the crowd doesn't just keep on but actually pays attention.  Such talented people. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - Mary, Did You Know? - Pentatonix

Last year, we were asked to consider singing this beautiful song.  You will remember we posted Mark Lowry singing his song in two different styles.  Here the group Pentatonix use their unique harmonies to interpret Mary Did You Know in a little different way.  Perhaps, we will get a recording of the Embro Thistle Singers singing this song at our gigs this season. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Musical Monday - How to Handle Negative Comments

As much as it pains us to admit, we do get negative comments from time to time.  How we handle those can set a tone for our choirs.  Getting upset or defensive can create a combative climate.  Bowing to each negative and trying to change according can create conflict and confusion.  So just what do we do as choir leaders & as choir members to handle those sometimes dreaded comments.

1.  See the good - First of all, know that someone is going to disagree.  It is the nature of people to have an opinion and even more often in the art world.  If someone is offering an opinion, (and remember that it is just that - THEIR OPINION - more on that later) then they have heard something that hit them where they live and want to comment on it.  That is good.  If no one says anything, then perhaps some re-evaluation is needed.  Something not worth talking about didn't make much of an impact.  So even seemingly negative comments are good.

2. Let the audience own it - One of the things I learned during my own children's teen years was that they were NOT going to like something.  Similarly, some people cannot find the good in anything.  They have to pick things apart.  some people are just simply having a bad day and you happen to be the target.
     When someone comes up and says, "I don't know why you would have chosen that song or interpretation or arrangement or whatever."  Your usual response is go into defensive mode with something like, "Our choir liked it.  Or we are too big/small for another arrangement. Or ---   S T O P !!!!!!!
DO NOT DEFEND!  Let the person talking own the comments.  You must respond with something like, "I am sorry you feel that way." or "What an interesting idea."  or "Perhaps, you will enjoy our other choices."  You see, the person with the comment owns it.  You take ownership when you try to defend.  Whatever you do, smile nod and when in doubt you smile, nod and say, "That's great!  Thanks for your feedback."  And then walk away baby, smiling all the way!

3. When the choir disagrees -  Depending on the constitution of your choir, you may have a committee that chooses music or you ask for suggestions.  In that case, it puts paid to criticizing choices.  However, their can be differences of opinion on interpretation or learning methods etc.  Our choir is always encouraged to share their opinions.  Some do it quietly, and some not.  We have no one who dissents just to be obtuse, thankfully, but you may have.
I believe that respect is earned.  I love to get opinions and ideas.  Some of them are really astute.  Other eyes and ears helping are great.  However, they know that in the end, I get to choose.  Earn that respect by first respecting the rights of others to hold and share opposing opinions.
The best solution is to be open to ideas and as often as practical, try them.  If however, you have a Negative Nelly or Ned you may have to do some quiet, private intervention and point it out.  Often they don't even realize they are being so negative.

Welcome the comments.  Do not defend to outsiders but take on their comments to see if improvements can be made.  All comments, negative and positive are signs of interest.  And that's a good thing - right?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fun Friday - Baby It's Cold Outside

Brrr.  What happened to our fall temperatures.  This song is really ringing true today!  Here is a jazz choir having a great time & really nailing the timing and harmonies.  P.S. Chris you will be happy to see they wear NO uniforms!


Now here is a contrast.  Switching the parts and some of the words.  Which do you like better?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - A Timely Video for Remembrance Day in Canada

The services to honour our men & women in uniform were well attended Tuesday this week.  Even the tiny ones seemed to know the gravity of remembrance.  Let's take that "pittance of time" from Remembrance Day and each day & think of how we can make life happier and fuller for others.  More people acting in peaceful ways will create and wave of peace.  In our own corners, may we share our music & our love for each other!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Do Christmas Songs Have to be "Christmas-y"?

Now, let's start off by saying, we at the Embro Thistle Singers do CHRISTMAS.  We don't say "holiday" concert.  We don't avoid the Christian story nor do we skirt around Santa.  That suits most of the people who ask us to sing.

We did sing a concert for an "Appreciation Dinner" at Christmas time for an international group that doesn't allow any reference to Christmas at all.  They wanted to be inclusive so no Christmas.  Because they work throughout the world, they don't want to be seen to support any religion or belief system in particular.  Interesting.

So how do you chose Christmas music.  There are secular songs like White Christmas and Christian songs like Mary Did You Know and everything in between.  So how do you choose.

1. Audience - Obviously, you have to know what they want.  It is most important to honour your listeners.  If what the people asking you to sing is unpalatable to you, then just don't accept that gig.  If you sell tickets, then you choose music you know your audience will come to hear.  Every year at Royal Albert Hall in London, England, there is a Christmas concert with various big name musicians. One of the enduring features is the sing along with the carols.  It is a staple and much anticipated by the crowd that comes.  Why would they change that?  It works and brings in the audiences year after year.

2.  Choir abilities - Be very certain that the difficulty level of your music suits the members of your group.  It is lovely to take on the Hallelujah Chorus if you are a large group with experienced singers.  Young, untrained or small groups will not do justice to such a piece.  There are pieces of music we have started and put aside.  We didn't have enough time to bring it to a concert worthy level.  If in doubt, throw it out.

3. What you like - We are singing Baby It's Cold Outside, Angels Among Us, and Mary Did You Know and Calypso Carol which are new to us this year.  What a mix.  Baby is just about a couple on a date in the winter.  Angels Among Us is a story of kindness and Mary & Calypso tell parts of the Christmas Story.  We have sung You Raise Me Up, When a Child is Born, Because We Believe, Wonderful World, Over the Rainbow as well as many great Christmas pieces.  We did the 12 Days After Christmas which gave us many laughs too.

So in answer to the question in the title, no Christmas music can be whatever moves you.  Our audiences appreciate our eclectic lineup of songs and we enjoy all the songs we sing.  We want to sing music that tells stories of hope, caring, love, humour and friendship.  Some music is just for fun.  Whatever we sing, it must be musically satisfying, appropriate to our skills with a chance to stretch and learn.  Sing, just sing and make it count.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fun Friday - Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better - Annie Get Your Gun

When I was in grade 13, I got to play Annie.  I loved singing this song & this pair does a great job.  I light of our post on Tonal Tuesday, you can see that sopranos & basses could do a great job singing this to one another.  Tee, hee.