Today was spent at the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College. Following a quick warm up, the choir was escorted onto stage at the LeFrak Concert Hall where they performed four selections from the summer tour repertoire. The rest of the day was spent in workshops with clinicians and listening to other choirs perform. The boys ended the day back in the Times Square area with a little bit of souvenir shopping, dinner at Dallas BBQ, and celebrity spotting at Madame Tousseau's Wax Museum.
Downpour. A much needed morning downpour ended just in time to board the buses, and it brought with it a 15 degree drop in temperature and a cool breeze for most of the day. Light traffic had the choir arriving at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine early enough to enjoy a stroll around the block to Morningside Park and a quick visit to the Peace Fountain, located just beside the church. The choir was given a brief history and tour of the church and some time to explore in small groups. At 10:00am, the choir presented a 30 minute selection of pieces from the tour program. The boys were thrilled to see so many relatives and friends from near and far who had come to see them perform.
Following a quick lunch in small groups around Amsterdam Avenue, the choir boarded the coaches and headed to the September 11th Memorial and the One World Observatory in the Freedom Tower. It was a relatively clear day, and the view was amazing from 102 floors up.
Dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co was followed by the amazing show, Wicked, at the Gershwin Theater on Broadway. There may have been a quiet chorus singing along to "For Good" :-) Whew! Now for some sleep.
One of the traditions of touring with the Chattanooga Boys Choir is the "evening meeting," typically in the lobby of a hotel at the end of the day. The events of the day are recounted, details for the following day discussed, and questions answered. This year there are 53 choristers on tour, a record number, with a typical roster closer to 35 choristers. A group of that size presents numerous challenges from requiring 2 coaches to not being able to cross the streets in NYC at one time. In the "evening meeting" on the first day of tour, chaperones had an opportunity to discuss any concerns they observed over the course of the day. Every single chaperone recounted comments they received or overheard on the bus, in the airport, in restaurants, on the hotel, and on the plane about how kind, thoughtful, and gentlemanly our choristers are. Parents of these young men, you should be so very proud of your sons. Alumni, you should be thrilled to know that your legacy is continuing. Chattanoogans, you should be proud of how these boys are representing your city.
If you are like me, when you come upon a group of teenagers all huddled around a phone, your first thought are rarely good ones...Are they wasting time viewing some viral prank video on YouTube? A questionable social media post? An embarassing SnapChat thread?
Thankfully, the attached picture is of a gathering about as far as anyone can get from any the situations described above. The photo is of our CANTABILE Choir members in rehearsal on Tuesday evening listening to feedback from the composer of one of their pieces. Ron Burrichter, a voice professor and choral director from Florida, gave a glowing review of the group's performance of his arrangement of the American folk hymn "We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace." Following their performance and his assessment, he talked through his compositional process, his inspiration in writing the song, and why he composes in the manner he does. After the nearly 20-minute exchange, the boys exclaimed proudly, "That was SO cool!" and "I can't believe we got to do that!," all the while exchanging smiled and high-fives.
Moments like this remind me of both the special nature and the intense need for programs like the Chattanooga Boys Choir in our community. To engage our singers in special and meaningful ways provides them the opportunity to know their subject matter, their art, and even themselves at a deeper and more significant level. It's one thing to sing a choral composition and quite another to explore it through the eyes and ears of the composer, while learning of its genesis and being a part of bringing the piece to fruition.
Thank you for providing the inspiration and ability to make special opportunities like this possible. These boys will never forget this experience, and I will never forget how wonderful it is to be a part of their journey.
Hemiola [hem-ee-oh-luh],~Greek, n.
a musical figure in which, typically, two groups of three beats are replaced by three groups of two beats, giving the effect of a shift between triple and duple meter.
I sometimes forget just how spoiled I am by the incredible choristers of the Chattanooga Boys Choir. Following an INCREDIBLE collaborative performance with one of the most prestigious collegiate choirs in the country (Florida State University…yes, this Gator just said that!) and a much-needed spring break, the boys returned to work this week as they set their sights on the repertoire that will serve to close the 2016-17 season. Despite egregiously high pollen levels and shaking off the “rust” from spring break, the boys absolutely floored me with their sight reading skills and musicianship.
They began rehearsal by singing a stirring arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner, with which the CBC will open the Chattanooga Lookouts’ season next week at AT&T Field. Listening to them sing our anthem instills a feeling of pride and optimism about our future. The boys then took their first look at Pablo Sosa’s arrangement of the Argentinian song ¡El Cielo Canta Alegria!, which is a rousing and exciting piece filled with all types of rhythmic and dynamic challenges. After just one sing-through of the piece, it was exhilarating to watch the boys high-fiving each other over their successful first attempt!
We then made our way to a marvelous original work entitled My Heart is Steadfast by the choir’s dear friend Ken Berg of the Birmingham Boys Choir. This piece is filled with the aforementioned hemiola figure, whereby the choir constantly shifts the six beats in a 6/8 measure into alternating groupings of two groups of three and three groups of two (think of the opening of “I Want to Live in America” from West Side Story). This is a tricky concept, as it can be difficult for some singers to settle into a comfortable pace of executing this pattern, while others might have difficulty delivering each beat correctly while effectively delivering the alternating emphases. It requires a complicated mix of math, language skills, musicality, and teamwork to do this well and - wouldn’t you know it! – our boys delivered. I should not have been so surprised, but I was somewhat surprised with just how well they did this and how seemingly easy it was for them to do so. I was so proud of our boys through this rehearsal process, and I could not have been more pleased with their initial efforts…I already know that you will be delighted with this and more at their Finale! concert in May.
While I know the concept of performance is the public and outward representation of the hard work and talents of our boys, it is not lost on me just how impressive our daily achievement, our weekly process, and our constant improvement is. As a choir festival adjudicator recently told me, “Choral excellence is an amalgam of incredible individual efforts.” These boys bring their intelligence, their artistry, and their hard work into rehearsal each day, and I benefit greatly from their efforts, the amazing and dedicated work of our staff, and the support of our choir families. It is quite the sight – and sound! – to behold, and I never take it for granted.