Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Decatur All-City

I'm doing the Decatur All-City Music Festival tomorrow, Thursday, March 31. I'm happy to be able to work with choirs from Decatur High School and Austin High School. Carl and I have known each other for nearly 20 years; we attended Ole Miss together and I even accompanied some of his voice lessons.

Carl is the director at Decatur High School and you can see the website for his Decatur choirs here:

Music to be rehearsed and performed:

Island Songs (Stephen Leek):
about stephen leek,
More about stephen Leek;
Quote about Island Songs: I have on occasions though, tried to find ways of bringing peoples together in music, and this can be most effectively seen in Island Songs which are based on popular songs from northern Australia. Direct link to recording.
Can be heard on

Children of the Heavenly Father
words by Carolina Snadell Berg (history, another translation,

I'm Gonna Sing 'til the Spirit Moves (Moses Hogan)


Full Text of the Hymn Children of the Heavenly Father:
Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge ne’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Lo, their very hairs He numbers,
And no daily care encumbers
Them that share His ev’ry blessing
And His help in woes distressing.

Praise the LORD in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
Rest secure in your Defender
At His will all foes surrender.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Proud father shares easter pics

Aren't they beautiful?

Not Yet v. 2

Leigh and I learned something Saturday:

It's not time to take the triplets to a restaurant yet. At least not without another pair of hands.

It was easy enough in our minds--
1. Go to J. Alexander's early, before the lunch crowd.
2. Order Hamburger and drink.
3. Enjoy a wonderful moment with the family, laughing, a little playing.
4. Feed girls and Self
5. Leave fulfilled and happy.

Instead it happened this way:
1. Go to J. Alexander's early, before the lunch crowd.
2. Order Hamburger.
3. Chase girls under table.
4. Chase girls over the table.
5. Leave.
6. Get food to go.
7. Hurry home.
8. Resolve not to try that again for another year.

Monday, March 28, 2005

God sure gets blamed

Some of you may find this interesting: a music instructor's struggles with people of faith at a Christian school somewhere in America:

Jesus loves me, so I shouldn't have self-doubt.

What's up with THAT? God sure gets blamed for a lot of decisions that humans make. My conservative Christian students seem to think that if they experience any human-like emotions (fear, doubt, envy, or sadness), then they are somehow ignoring God's Will For Their Lives. Yet even Christ went through periods of grief and agony. Why should we mere humans expect to somehow be better than Christ? Fear and doubt are stepping stones to answers in life. Somehow my students believe that Good Christians Are Never Unhappy. But I don't remember God promising us unending happiness in this life. The Psalms, with a full spectrum of human emotions, seem a fitting guide for life. Somehow my students have confused the 'Christian Life' with the Land of Oz."

Not Yet

Leigh and I learned something Saturday:

It's not time to take the girls to a restaurant yet. At least not without another pair of hands. It was easy enough in our minds--
1. Go to J. Alexander's early, before the lunch crowd.
2. Order Hamburger and drink.
3. Enjoy a wonderful moment with the family, laughing, a little playing.
4. Feed girls and Self
5. Leave fulfilled and happy.

Instead it happened this way:
1. Go to J. Alexander's early, before the lunch crowd.
2. Order Hamburger.
3. Chase girls under table.
4. Chase girls over the table.
5. Leave.
6. Get food to go.
7. Hurry home.
8. Resolve not to try that again for another year.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Oh My: Pet Pillows

How to honor your pet when they are gone:

A Pet Pillow! I found it here.

Who says you have to wait until they pass on?

Choir was fabulous today, by the way.

der tanz and radiosfer text now available

They're here!

Der Tanz with space MP3
(thanks to Dr. Mathes)

Radiosfer MP3 (without space) (thanks to Genevieve Blaudeau) UPDATED. thanks to Sarah for the name spelling correction

Volume enhanced version:
Der Tanz with space MP3
Radiosfer MP3

Monday, March 21, 2005

Top Techs I Want to Explore

Tablet PC

I was surprised to find out that Sarah and Erin had not heard of the Tablet PC. I've been exploring them lately in the hopes of winning a grant to purchase one. I didn't get the grant, but I'm still following them pretty closely. If I were a student, I'd purchase one in a heartbeat. Check this site out for more information, ye students of mine: Student Tablet PC

By the way, the other thing that I wish that I had had when I was a student was MindManager. It is an incredible tool. Freeware version of mindmapping software can be found here.


I doubt I'll get into actually doing a podcast, but I'm interested enough in exploring what they are like. It does sound interesting and could be an educational venture for the choral director. We'll see.

Creating a Wiki

I see a real need for these in choral music. Especially a choral literature wiki.

Looks interesting but I haven't figured it out yet. It looks like a place to store categories of links to places on the web.

There are a few others to mention but I've run out of time. Perhaps another entry later.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

How to Preach a Lousy Sermon and Lead a Lousy Service

I found this page today when I came home from church.

How to Preach a Lousy Sermon

My first google search was "preachers that preach too long." That didn't pull up anything interesting, but a google on "sermon too long" pulled up this beauty.

The final point in this essay is particularly strong:

I’m not going to tell you how long a sermon should be in minutes. Some sermons are too long before they even start. Others are so engrossing and so inspired, you regret when they end. Sometimes a sermon has to be short, because the service that day is long and involved. You don’t need to put your watch on the pulpit to see if your sermon is too long—just watch the congregation. How many people are looking at their watches? How many are staring out the window? How many are passing notes? How many are fidgeting and restless? If you’ve lost your audience, you might as well cut your losses, close up shop, and try again next week. You won’t recover by talking more.

I searched a little more on the website and found this:

How to Lead a Lousy Service

And again, the best point is in the final section:

You can really make worship lousy by cramming too many things into it. For example, in a single service, you could receive new members, recognize the Sunday School leaders, christen or baptize new babies, consecrate new lay leaders, acknowledge your scout troops, and—huff, puff—have a lengthy report from a group that just returned from a project. If you also include an elaborate Eucharist and move directly into a congregational meeting afterwards, you can make everyone feel trapped!

It’s wonderful that your church is so vibrant, but no one is impressed by anything that happens while they are in bladder distress. So if you don’t want a lousy worship service, spread the special events out and keep worship a reasonable length.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Savoring Victory and Enjoying Defeat

UAB played the spoiler again in the world of basketball by defeating LSU 82-68 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I really enjoy college basketball this time of the year and I'm glad to see UAB doing well again. Success in one area of our university's life benefits us all.

I didn't see the game, I was on a plane to Orlando (where I sit now in 56 degree weather). I was impressed to see that "UAB's lead swelled in the second half to as many as 26." Pretty impressive to dominate the SEC West co-champion LSU with a performance like that!

What made it even better was to see the much-heralded UAT go down in flames to #12 seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Maybe I'm being petty.

Part of my possible pettiness comes from an accumulation of negative comments directed towards UAB from the Paul Finebaum Show, a sports program I listen to while driving home each day. I like listening to Paul, even though he isn't a UAB fan (or even much of a basketball fan for that matter).

You (I) get tired of listening to all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding UAT and wonder when the former glories of the past will finally turn into muted acceptance of the continual frustration of the present.

OK, enough pettiness.

More choir talk later. This adventure into college sports is now over.

Well, almost over: I'm pulling for all the underdogs at the NCAA tournament.

As of this writing, Louisiana-Lafayett is behind Rick Pitinio's Louisville team 55-56 with 3 minutes left. And #13 seed Vermont just took #4 Syracuse into overtime.

UDATE UPSET: Vermont defeats Syracuse, 60-57. Awesome.

And no choir sang to change the world

Perhaps it was the coffee,
Perhaps it was the chocolate fudge covered donut . . .

But one choir sang a phrase from Joseph Martin's "The Awakening" and it really grabbed me. Up until then, my primary critique of the choir was that they sang with no energy, no facial expression, no joy, no passion, and no message.

So, when they voiced the profound “And no choir sang to change the world” it really spoke to me, because they were singing about themselves.

There they were, dressed in their performance best and singing great music with good technique and I was utterly unmoved.

One can learn much from watching others.

Today, for the benefit of my UAB choir, I learned (again) how important the visual aspect of performing is for musicians.

Expressive choir faces are the exception, not the norm. Excitement is sorely lacking in our art form and it grieves me.

The UAB choir must not be, in the words of my teacher John Dickson, “another boring choir.” We can be a choir that changes the world with our song, one person at a time.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Messiah 2005


I'm excited to announce that we will be joining the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Concert Chorale in presenting Handel's Messiah next December.

Calendar details:

Monday, Dec. 12 Combined piano rehearsal w/William Fred Scott
Briarwood Pres. Choir Room
Tuesday, Dec. 13 Rehearsal w/ASO - Jemison Concert Hall
Thursday, Dec. 15 Rehearsal w/ASO - Jemison Concert Hall
Friday, Dec. 16 Performance: 8:00 Jemison Concert Hall

Don't say I didn't tell you early enough.

Note: UAB Final exams end on Wednesday, December 14. Our last rehearsal and performance are obviously after final exams but before grades are available on ACCESS, according to the calendar. So, make your December 2005 plans accordingly!

For SHPC gang, I'll aim to have our big Christmas event on Sunday, December 18 and then release you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Academic Definition of BLOG

Uses of Blogs | Snurblog: "Defined as the reverse-chronological posting of individually authored entries, that include the capacity to reproduce hypertext links, and that often allow comment-based responses from readers, blogs have evolved from personally maintained “what’s new?” sections of 20th century web sites. The word 'blog' is an abbreviation of 'weblog' and came from a 1999 essay, ‘The Anatomy of a Weblog’, by Cameron Barrett, maintainer of the site, Camworld.

Well, there you have it! Blog defined.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

beautiful choir on foreign soil story

Music that could thaw the iciness of nations | "When the concert ended, the audience lingered in the hard wooden pews, reluctant to return to the real world. We, too, hesitated, no longer thinking of a caffe latte, no longer aware of the damp air in the marble church.

To my surprise, I felt a transfixing sense of patriotism. For the first time in many years, I was proud to be an American, proud to have come from the same country as these angels of peace, who had done more to remove the iciness between nations than any politician could hope to do."

Myers Briggs Mania--Opera Concludes Triumphantly

We have two new editions:

Katie Fussell, formerly known as "Fussell" is INTJ. The NT makes her strong.
And Holly: ISFJ. My opposite. Maybe that's why I have so much respect for Holly and why I think she is so responsible!

And the opera: great job everyone. Thanks for my wonderful gift. Quite a classy gift; I will always treasure it. I will also highly value the wonderful notes I got from some of you. Very special and I appreciate it all very much.

Note to Chris: don't miss important things because of church meetings. In my experience, most church meetings are a complete waste of time.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Katie joins the elite, Clay is almost perfect

ENTP - "Inventor". Enthusiastic interest in everything and always sensitive to possibilities. Non-conformist and innovative. 3.2% of the total population.
Free Jung Word Test (similar to Myers-Briggs)
personality tests by

Saw Katie's Myers-Briggs, decided to take mine again. Still ENTP, have been for years. I think I am close to INTP but the E is still there for now. Clay, nearly elite, is an ENFP. I recommend massage therapy for you, Clay. For Katie, Advertising.

Jen, nearly the anti-personality of Katie and me (INFJ), who knows? Playwright?

This was my breakdown in the word test:

Extroverted (E) 53.85% Introverted (I) 46.15%
Intuitive (N) 57.58% Sensing (S) 42.42%
Thinking (T) 67.65% Feeling (F) 32.35%
Perceiving (P) 61.76% Judging (J) 38.24%

Opera was fantastic. Congrats to all who worked so hard. I'm honored to be a part of it.

Friday, March 11, 2005

ACDA Southern Division: Charleston 2006

ACDA Southern Division: Charleston 2006: "Feb. 22-25, 2006 in Charleston, West Virginia"

It's a goal of mine to sing at the ACDA Southern Division in 2006. I've had it on my long-term set of goals for quite a while and our chance will arrive soon. To get there, we have to submit a recording by April 20, 2005. I'll submit recordings from the past three years, including one from this year's choir. (A conductor is required to be at a place for three years before applying)

The only problem is, we haven't recorded anything that I'd want to submit just yet.

Put it on your list of things that we will do in the coming weeks: a recording session or two (or three). It is also a great way of "practicing like we perform" so that we can "perform the way we practice."

Opera tonight!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Light Posting--opera production week

Blogging slow down this week--I'm conducting the UAB Opera's production of Mozart's Marraige of Figaro and it occupies most thoughts and time slots.

Blessings to all. And thanks to Mozart.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Opera Week and Tech follow up

For the benefit of all, I'll answer Sarah's questions in the blog:

Question 1: so is any of this cool stuff free? All of it. Except for what I said cost money.

Question 2: oh, and are we having choir this week? Every day.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Blogging Tools I Use

For Sarah and a couple of other recent questions:

I use several common tools to monitor my site.

One is sitemeter. It tells me things like this: who visited my blog, how long they stayed, how many pages they viewed. You can view it yourself by clicking here.

Many blogs use this free service, you just have to post a little code in your blog template.

I just tried out another one: mybloglog. It tells me what link people clicked on as they left my blog. It is a 14-day trial. Interesting, but not earth-shattering. I don’t think I’ll subscribe to it.

Another common resource that I use is “Bloglines.” It is an RSS reader—a tool that lets me monitor the blogs that I am interested in. It checks them on a routine basis and lets me know if a blog has been updated (or not, as is the case with most of the choir blogs lately). That’s how I read the choir blogs so fast . . . I just pay attention to the ones that are updated—not because I check them hourly!

Bloglines is great. I use their service to "clip" interesting things I find on the web, usually blogs, that I want to remember for later. Although they have a "clipping" service, I haven't figured it out yet, so I started a "clip blog" . . . mostly for myself. You can see it here, but I don't use it to "address my public." There isn't much on it, but I think I will use it more in the future. I found a "bloglines toolkit" for Firefox (the browser i use) that helps me add content to that blog easily.

(i just realized that many of you may not know about firefox and you are still struggling with internet explorer. once you've found tabbed browsing, you won't go back . . . )

One great RSS reader that you have to purchase is FEEDDEMON.

I really like it but I haven’t paid money for it. Probably won’t but I enjoyed the free trial period. (Am I cheap?)

Screenshots are here.

That's it! Blogging lesson over for today.

Coming up: Incredible blog i found today. So many great ideas and thoughts!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Someone Read My Entire Blog. Almost. 1 sitting.

Check this out:

The picture is from my sitemeter--a little program that allows me to see information about how many people visit my blog, how long they stay, and how many pages they viewed. I found it interesting that someone visited and stayed nearly two hours! That is alot of UAB choir info they just took in!

One wonders:

1. what must they think of what we are doing?
2. why would someone want to read this thing for two hours? wasn't something good on TV last night?

But hey, I guess blogs are meant to be read, eh?

Comments from Lambuth good for UAB


There is a student from Lambuth who made some great comments on their blog that I want you to see. It highlights some recent conversations we've had lately. I made some slight adjustments to the wording, but the thoughts are his. You can find the total post here.

how we should exit and enter . . .

It's all part of the show people. Audiences get their first impression on how the choir or performers enter the stage. In fact, it should be performance time as soon as we arrive to the destination. It shows great professionalism and discipline also.

The visual aspect (faces!)
Another reason I think the folders hold us from being top notch is that they keep us from being expressive. Visuals always help the audience enjoy what they are watching. You really can't do it if your face is burried in your folder. I've heard all types of choirs and one thing that some of us don't understand is how much are you willing to sell what you are singing/telling the audience. You have to make the audience experience any emotion that you are singing. When you are able to do that, then you form a connection to them and in turn you connect with each other on stage and it can be magical. Yes, I said magical! I've experienced it before. I would like to experience it again.

Well said, don't you think?

Of course, the visual part I'm addressing in class has nothing to do with folders, it has everything to do with how you look on stage. Or . . . how you don't look.

I especially like the part about making the connection with the audience and each other. Leave your inihibitions behind and FEEL what we are singing. Our repertoire is diverse and enlightening. Immerse yourself in it and live what we sing.

A special word of thanks to Stephen A. from Lambuth. You inspired me.

And to everyone else . . . Word to your mother.

(i also read that on a Lambuth post)
(Eric Whitacre would be proud--word up. peace out. word out. peace up. wordpeace. worldpeace. up out. out up.)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Megan contributes Spleen translation

What a great group of students we have in our choir. Top notch.

Best. Students. Anywhere.

Megan has contributed this website that contains a translation of our Spleen piece.

Here is the translation. The part in grey is the part of the poem the composer left out of his setting of the text.

Let me breathe in for a long, long time the scent of your hair, let me plunge my entire face into it, like a thirsty man into the water of a spring, and let me wave it in my hand like a scented handkerchief, to shake memories into the air.

If you could only know all that I see! All that I feel! All that I hear in your hair! My soul voyages upon perfume just as the souls of other men voyage upon music.

Your hair contains a dream in its entirety, filled with sails and masts; it contains great seas whose monsoons carry me toward charming climes, where space is bluer and deeper, where the atmosphere is perfumed by leaves and by human skin.

In the ocean of your hair, I glimpse a port swarming with melancholy songs, with vigorous men of all nations, and with ships of all shapes silhouetting their refined and complicated architecture against an immense sky in which eternal warmth saunters.

UPDATED: I didn't realize that this one was omitted also. I regret not getting to sing this verse.
In the caresses of your hair, I find again the languors of long hours passed upon a divan, in the cabin of a beautiful ship, rocked by the imperceptible rolling of the port, between pots of flowers and refreshing jugs.

In the ardent hearth of your hair, I breathe the odor of tobacco mixed with opium and sugar; in the night of your hair, I see the infinity of tropical azur resplendent; on the downy shores of your hair I get drunk on the combined odors of tar, of musk, and of coconut oil.

Let me bite into your heavy black tresses for a long time. When I nibble at your elastic hair, it seems to me that I am eating memories.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Patrick contributes German pronunciation analysis

Many thanks to Patrick for the following analysis of OUR German pronunciation and the German choir he heard on an online recording from our UAB library:

Patrick's observations:

As far as the German pronunciation discrepancies I had noticed, most of them involve the "e" vowel. I also heard most of them on the CD you gave us to listen to (the choir on the website is much better, by the way!). Here's what I noticed:

m. 9: Women need to be careful about their pronunciation of the รถ with an umlaut.
m. 11: Men's vowel sound on der isn't quite right. We sound too much like an American choir singing in German and not enough like a real German-speaking choir.
m. 18: The letter g at the end of the word traurig is treated like the ch sound would be in the same position, not like a hard g as our women have been doing.
m. 35 & 41: This is the same problem as m. 11. The first e in the word gehe needs to be closer to our long e sound in English (ee) rather than an "eh" or even "ay" sound.
m. 36 & 42: Our vowels on Altar need to be brighter.
m. 38 & 44: Again, the vowel on the word dem needs to be longer.
m. 45, 49, 54, 58, 62, 66, & 70: See comment for m. 11. The difference between dir and der is almost indistinguishable (but not entirely).
m. 75: The vowel in Seele also need to be closer to English "ee" than "eh" or "ay."
m. 78: The g at the end of unruhig is treated in the same manner as traurig in m. 18.
m. 85 & 93: The first e in werde needs to be longer (i.e., "VEER-de"). This caught my attention more that any of the others.
m. 96: Again, the e vowel in er needs to be longer (more like English ear than air, if that helps).
m. 97: We need to be sure that the s at the end of meines is hard, NOT soft like a z in English.

Great work from a fine student.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

One Hour: One Page

Why yes, I did. I spent one hour on one page of music today. And it was a good move. That blasted page and a half in "Spleen" is finally starting to make some sense.

And then, I spent 15 or 20 minutes with the tenors on the first part of the work and the last part of the work. They've got it. We are very close to having "Spleen" in our hands . . . and then we can finally begin to "own" the piece as well as go on to something else.

So yes, it took an hour. And yes, it was worth it.

And . . . the facebook-livejournal diversion was interesting today. Isn't technology great? Or at least . . . interesting?