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My First Singing School

Warning: Music geekery ahead.

I get to teach my very first singing school tomorrow! This semester, University Chorus (a general-admission chorale of about a hundred singers) sang William Billings's "Chester," and, maybe six weeks ago, while they were still in rehearsal, the conductor asked me to consult with her regarding performance practice. This led to a rather lengthy discussion of the history and current practice of Sacred Harp singing, as it's rather different from standard choral practice. In the course of this discussion, the conductor and I thought that it might be fun to hold a real singing school for University Chorus. The conductor likes to do fun things with them, like have them sing non-standard choral music and experiment with styles, so a singing school is right up her alley.

For various reasons, we ended up not having the singing school before their concert last Friday. In retrospect, this was a good decision. Now their season is pretty much over, and they have time to loosen up and devote an entire fifty-minute rehearsal to this singing school, as opposed to the twenty-minute, sandwiched-into-concert-rehearsal-time deal we had originally been considering. So I have fifty minutes to do the whole deal. A history of the art form, teach them to sing scales in shapes, and then really get them singing. I chose four tunes that I want to spotlight: 107 Russia, 128 The Promised Land, 131b Invocation (First), and 501 O'Leary. If we get through all of those, then I have 131t Messiah to extend the singing a little.

Never having led a singing school before, I'm going to be basing mine heavily off the schools that Tim Eriksen leads. I've seen other people teach them, but Tim's approach seems best for a general audience that isn't already at a singing. Twice, I saw him give a sidebar lesson about lining out psalms (the English practice that led singing masters to start writing the new music that would become Harp). One time, he played a recording of an English congregation that still lines out psalms, and once, he taught the class to do it. That might be a cool thing to do.

Yikes, it's late! Gotta get going! Things to do, movies in Hebrew to see, data CDs and software to pick up, a singing school to plan!

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
frenchpony
Apr. 27th, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC)
I think it will be fun. The conductor said that the chorus was excited about singing "Chester," and that they're looking forward to the "special guest" tomorrow.
elliska
Apr. 27th, 2006 04:06 pm (UTC)
That sounds great, FP. Is this the first time you've taught a class or just the first one of this particular type that you've taught? I loved teaching and miss it a great deal, so I hope you have a lot of fun.
frenchpony
Apr. 27th, 2006 04:42 pm (UTC)
It's the first singing school that I've taught. Back at the Fairest College, I taught fencing classes first semester of my senior year, when I was captain.
perelleth
Apr. 27th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
How entertaining! I mean, having a class with which you can experiment and try new things and have fun... singing! Hope you have fun! It must have been a powerful feeling too, to move your hands and have all those people singing at your commands! :-)
frenchpony
Apr. 27th, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
I think the feeling is more powerful if you're a conductor of a standard chorus. With Sacred Harp, everyone who wants to lead gets a chance, so it doesn't really feel god-like or anything. Sometimes it does feel as though you're riding on Shadowfax -- the singing is a much bigger and more powerful creature than you are, and it has consented to allow you to guide it for a little while.
rhobike
Apr. 27th, 2006 09:42 pm (UTC)
I love your metaphor, that's just what it's like!
We will horribly miss you at the Midwest.
frenchpony
Apr. 27th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
Sing something gloomy for me. . .

And then rejoice, for I will be rejoining you for a good many years. And as a student, too, so you'll have that asset, should student clout be necessary to get Ida Noyes or someplace nice like that.
perelleth
Apr. 27th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC)
It must *be*. (head desk. Again.)
saadiira
Apr. 27th, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
NEAT! :D.

You'll do awesome, and it will be all kinds of fun. With your passion for your subjects, I truly envy your students.

HUGS.

-Dira-
frenchpony
Apr. 27th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
I am anticipating a fun session, for all of us. All I have to do is rehearse what I'm going to say and the parts of the tunes, so I don't look like an idiot when I try to teach them. But the conductor says this chorus is good at sight-reading, so it'll probably go real well. This is going to be a blast.
dot_o_choillmor
Apr. 27th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
That sounds like fun! You'll have a blast, and so will the group :-) It must be exciting to be teacher!
frenchpony
Apr. 27th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
I'm really looking forward to it. I was at the music library getting supplies today, planning the lesson, listening to CDs -- got me all pumped up to teach tomorrow. I hope the chorus has as much fun as I'll have.
plorkwort
Apr. 27th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
Sounds like fun! We just did a singing school a couple weeks ago at a rural library in central Indiana, and about half a dozen people had actually sung in shapes in their childhood churches. With a chorus, you won't have to get over the "but I can't sing" objections, too.
frenchpony
Apr. 27th, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
They've already done "Chester" -- with Billing's original words, too: Let tyrants shake their iron rod, eksetra -- so they have something of an ear for how this is supposed to sound. And it's the week after their concert, so they'll be in the mood for fun.

And hopefully, no one will notice just how much I'll be cribbing from Tim.
meggins
Apr. 29th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
Warning: Music geekery ahead.

But, Pony, if it weren't for you, I'd get almost no music geekery at all, and I'd be the poorer for it.
frenchpony
Apr. 30th, 2006 01:05 am (UTC)
I am happy to perform that public service, then.

French Pony: Music Geekery For The Masses.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )