Saturday, May 31, 2008



I like sharing new "finds" with you about good places in Birmingham. If you like Cajun food, try New Orleans Food and Spirits. It's in Vestavia, off Hwy 31, near the Rave Theater where the Sneaky Petes used to be. I had lunch there the other day and it was delicious.

Menu here.

I had the "Taste of N'awlins" and loved it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tuxedos and Dresses


There's been a little snag regarding turning in your outfits. For now, please keep them and don't bring them to the UAB Music Office.

Watch your email for instructions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Read it for yourself - judges comments from Cork

Pretty interesting reading.

I got this in the mail today: comments from all the judges including the scores. I doubt most choral conductors are sharing their comments so publicly . . . but what does it really matter?

We received some very interesting comments . . . a few commonalities:

1. judges commented most on going a half step sharp on "nunc dimittis" (better sharp than flat, i say)
2. judges usually commented on vibrato, desiring less. that's pretty interesting to me, since in the usa we are probably known for singing with less vibrato than most other choirs.

Read it here, and comment below. Enjoy, and respond in the comment section below!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UAB Choir Google Calendar: Fall 2008

I've done it before and I'm trying it again: adding Google Calendar functionality to this blog. All choir dates (for Fall 2008) are on this calendar.

I do it this way: I keep my normal calendar on Google, then I ADD the UAB Choir Calendar to it. Play with it--maybe you can figure it out!

You can subscribe to the UAB Choirs Calendar here: (please let me know if this works)

HTML Version.

ICAL version.

Choir exam times, December 2008

Getting my things together for fall:

1g: Friday, December 5, 1:30 - 4:00
2E: Thursday, December 11, 1:30 - 4:00


Many choir members know that I joined "Facebook" recently. I've actually been a member of the community for a few years but recently started accepting "friends."

I should post positive/negative thoughts about the experience soon. However, today's blog post is devoted to the topic of "distractions" and it's dedicated to Brian Denton, who happened to begin facebook chatting with me this morning while he was in the middle of his summer school education class.

It brought to mind this article that I read the other day . . . an article that opens with this joke:
The students sit in class, tapping away at their laptops as the boring old law professor mechanically plods through his lecture. Except one. Instead of hunching over a portable computer or a notebook, he’s playing solitaire with a deck of cards on his desk. The professor halts his droning. “What are you doing?” he demands. The student shrugs. “My laptop is broken,” he says.
Now I know that classes can sometimes be boring.

I am also very familiar with the temptations of a notebook computer and a wireless internet connection.

Here's my wisdom for today: resist the temptation to surf the internet during class. Invest yourself in what is being discussed, even if it is boring.

The internet is a master of distraction . . . it can take you away from important relationships and significant dialogue.

I know that I can't watch TV and surf the internet at the same time. I also know that you can't chat on facebook and have any idea of what is discussed in class.

To be fair, Brian wasn't the first surfer I knew about. I occasionally observe other classes for one reason or another . . . and I was HORRIFIED at what I witnessed from the back of the classroom. At the beginning of class, one young woman dominated the discussion of her personal hard feelings for the Iraq war. Five minutes later she was on Facebook, Ebay, Email, and several other sites.

It was ridiculous. I was observing the class because the professor was nominated as one of the universities best teachers . . . one of the most accomplished and one of the most acclaimed. And here this girl was thumbing her nose at his class so that she could check her email. I was embarassed for her and her lack of respect.

And it's contagious (more from the article):
“Visitors to classes, as well as many of our students, report that the rate of distracting Internet usage during class is astounding. Remarkably, usage appears to be contagious, if not epidemic. Several observers have reported that one student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes, and within twenty minutes an entire row is shoe shopping. Half the time a student is called on, the question needs to be repeated.”
I already know the typical student response:

"It's not my fault, the professor is boring!"

I'm calling BS on that one. Even the most captivating TV series "Lost" is boring if you aren't paying attention.

"I can multi-task."

BS. You can't. No one can. My computer can. You can't.

Live life, everyone. There's time to surf later.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In the news

Surprise! I'm in the newspaper today, and so are you . . . the winners of the Heinrich Schutz Perpetual trophy . . .

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Creating a new standard: Clarifying Expectations

I've been inspired by Dr. Kris' syllabus to clarify my expectations for UAB Choirs. Pay attention to these standards . . . you will see them on the syllabus soon.

90-100% = A (Excellent: exceeds expectations)

The Rehearsal Standard
o Brings music and pencil to every rehearsal
o Marks music with rehearsal comments and language pronunciations and language translations
o Seldom or never excuses self from choir for bathroom or water
o Follows appropriate role in choir as either section leader or section member
o Proper hygiene standards

The Attendance Standard
o Two unexcused absences or less. If absent, calls Dr. Copeland.
o Three tardies or less; always calls section leader if going to be tardy
o Attends all recording sessions, sectional rehearsals

The Performance Standard
o Has all music memorized by deadlines
o Sings with animated face, vocal nuance, keeps eyes on conductor
o Arrives at called time warmed up, dressed appropriately, ready to sing
o Proper Uniform at all concerts, Excellent Hygiene,
o Females: Designated lipstick, Hair pulled back, Black hose, low heeled shoe
o Males: face appropriately shaven

The Communication Standard:
o Follows choir blog for pertinent news
o Communicates promptly with director concerning emergencies, conflicts, potential problems that interfere with choir.

2008-2009 Dates

It's never too early to get it on your calendar:

August 17, 2008 choir room
3:00 All men audition
4:30 All women audition
6:00 Callbacks
Note: I will seat the choir this year before making a final decision.

August 19 UAB Classes begin

Friday, August 22 CHOIR WEEKEND (tentative) (required of all who make choir)
5:00 dinner
6:00 rehearsal
9:30 movie

Saturday, August 23 (required of all who make choir)
9:00 rehearsal
12:00 dismiss

Saturday, September 6
9:00 - 12:00 morning rehearsal

Tuesday, Oct. 14
Recording session, Bluff Park Methodist Church
8-10 p.m.

Oct. 17: Drop dead date
You are not assured of your spot in this choir until the Drop Dead date. If you are not maintaining the standard set forth in the grading rubric you may be dropped from the class.

Oct. 17, 2008 Fall Choral Concert
Jemison, 8:00 PM

Oct. 28, 2008
Recording session, Bluff Park Methodist Church
8-10 p.m.

NCCO Convention Performance (exact travel date not confirmed yet)
Wednesday, October 29 Travel to Louisville, possible concert there
Thursday, October 30 Louisville to Cincinnati
Friday, October 31 4:30 PM Performance at convention

Dec. 6, 2008 Christmas at the Alys
Jemison 7:00 - 10:00 pm

Dec. 7, 2008 Christmas at the Alys
Jemison 3:00 pm

Dec. 5-11, 2008 Final Exams

FINAL EXAM TIME FOR CHOIR: (updated 5/27/2008)
1g: Friday, December 5, 1:30 - 4:00
2E: Thursday, December 11, 1:30 - 4:00

January 7, 2009 UAB Classes begin

January 12, 2009 Rehearse Carmina Burana with Birmingham Concert Chorale
Monday night, 7-9 p.m. Briarwood Presbyterian map

January 17, 2009 UAB Honor Choir
1:30 Gather on Jemison Stage
3:00 Concert

January 22-24 AMEA Conference
UAB Concert Choir hopes to perform at this conference

January 26, 2009 Rehearse Carmina Burana with Birmingham Concert Chorale
Monday night, 7-9 p.m. Briarwood Presbyterian map

February 2-7, 2009 Carmina Week
February 2 7:00
rehearsal with Birmingham Concert Chorale (Briarwood Presbyterian map)

February 3 7:00
dress rehearsal with Alabama Symphony (Jemison)

February 5 7:00
dress rehearsal with Alabama Symphony (Jemison)

February 6-7, 2009
Carmina Burana Performance

April 24, 2009
6:30 p.m. Choirs gather
8:00 p.m. Spring Concert

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thinkin' About Tomorrow

Just looking ahead.

Florilege vocal de tours: May 28-30, 2010

It's a possibility. The dates work for UAB and I like going on a trip in May. At the moment, I don't see any other possibilities but I'm sure I will find a few . . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I don't normally comment on local news stories, but this phrase from one article struck me as funny:

Wilhite said the school system forbids students to bring their cell phones to school, so it's unlikely that the nude photos are being transmitted or received by students during school hours.
Sure . . . since there is a rule against cell phones at school . . . it's unlikely that students break the rule?

Does anyone else think that principal is a little too trusting?

A Note in Our Honor


I hope you have kept up with "The Continentals" blog about their trip.

If you haven't, take the time to read some of their stories and see some of their pictures. In a very real sense, our trip continued with them. Our experience started with 65 singers in the Spring Concert, then 44 took the music to Ireland, and then this remnant of 14 singers continue to sing our songs and touch others. I'm proud of that . . .

I'm even prouder of what they are learning over there, even if they are some painful truths about humanity. If you have a little time, check out this post. Read about their experience at the Dachau Concentration Camp. I won't quote Ashley's description of what she saw, but I do want to share with you the note she left on our behalf:
We visited a chapel that was erected later to serve as a worship place for visitors. There was a wall of letters written by visitors in all languages as well as a book of prayers and wishes. I got a little teary eyed reading some of the comments people left, and I decided to leave one on behalf of our choir. It went something like this:

May all who enter this hallowed place remember what it stood for; may all who leave take away a message of peace and acceptance for all people. Let us a remember that despite our differences we all share the commonality of what it means to be human.

"All nations shall come and worship before you.
For your mighty and holy acts have been revealed.
Great and marvelous are your deeds
Lord God Almighty."

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Concert Choir
Birmingham, AL USA
Music is a powerful force . . . especially choral music. It puts us in touch with great texts, like this one from the Bible. Putting our words of hope in that sacred place honors us . . . on behalf of the choir, I thank you Ashley.

In the comments section of Ashley's post, she references the work Ross Bernhardt wrote for us: Dresden Meditation. Bernhardt's work sets Norbert Capek's powerful words of hope in the face of overwhelming despair:

In the depths of my soul
There where lies the source of strength,
Where the divine and the human meet,
There, quiet your mind, quiet, quiet.

Outside let lightning reign,
Horrible darkness frighten the world.
But from the depths of your own soul
From that silence will rise again
God's flower.

Return to your self,
Rest in your self,
Live in the depths of your soul
Where the divine and the human meet.
Tune your heart to the eternal
And in the depths of your own soul
Your panting quiets down
Where the divine and the human meet,
There is your refuge.

-- Norbert Capek

I hope I can live in that divine place today . . I hope my mind is occasionally quiet . . . I hope God speaks to me like He did through Ashley and the words of Capek.

I wish the same for you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Director of BCC: Me

I learned a few things tonight:

1. That I'm the new director of the Birmingham Concert Chorale. I'm excited about it and looking forward to working in that position on Monday evenings.

2. That Facebook is quite a tool for communicating news about yourself. At about 9:45 p.m. I posted the byline (or whatever it is called) that I "had news." In about ten minutes, I had 5 posts to my "wall", two chat invitations, and then a phone call. That's a pretty fast response.

So . . . what does my affiliation with BCC mean for my choirs at UAB?

Well, I'd say things will stay about the same. It doesn't mean that the groups will combine "more." We already combine fairly often.

My position as "Director of Choral Activities" at UAB means that I do what is best for UAB in that capacity. I'll choose works and combined activities for my UAB Choirs on the basis of what is best for my students there. In the meantime, I'll work to build up the BCC in the hopes that it will soon pull off major performances by itself and without other choirs.

For instance, I already committed UAB to Orff's "Carmina Burana" for the 2008-2009 academic year. I'm not sure what other choirs will join for that performance . . . but I'm sure I'll find that out fairly soon.

I know that the 2009-2010 calendar hasn't been decided yet. In my thinking right now, it is time for UAB to NOT do a combined work with the BCC and the ASO. In fact, it might be time for UAB to do a major work by itself for that year.

So . . anyway . . . that's big news in my professional life. I'm excited by the potential of the group and the affiliation with this quality community choir. Mark Ridings has skillfully led the choir for ten years and has done a wonderful job with them. I'm looking forward to building on the foundation that is already there.

In fact, I'll be looking first to UAB Concert Choir Alumni as my first recruits for the BCC. Spread the word!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Facebook: It Might Be a Mistake

LHL, originally uploaded by philipco.

I may have made a mistake.

Brain. Overload. Should not see. Things. Like. This. Albums. Like. This.

Big News

Big news.

I have accepted friendships on Facebook.

Calm down. It means nothing.

Dresses and Tuxedos Due June 1

Ireland people: Tuxedos and Dresses due back on June 1.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Still on Ireland time

7:00 p.m. last night . . . exhausted. Went to bed at 8:00 p.m.

3:30 a.m. Awoke, worked 8 hours.

10:00 a.m. Exhausted. Napped for two hours.

Anyone else having similar issues?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cap'n Chris Sums it Up Very Well

I read this great post from Chris after I declared the trip over:
The competition was like many I had been to before, almost. We performed at a caliber that rivaled the most glorious moments in my UAB choir history.

After a much needed sectional, I felt that the basses finally found the right balance.

Everything was going so well; the Irish people really liked us and it seemed that the Lord Mayor of Cork was following us around.

We started to lock the chords in faster and make dynamics more polar... it was incredible! With that in mind I know that we all were very satisfied with our performance even though we did not win the entire festival. We had high hopes and emotions and everything looked like it was perfect. Not one person acted in a way that hindered our pride during and after the competition performance. We were simply spectacular.

We walked away with an award and left the stage after the gala concerts as winners, in the way that we, the big American choir, stole the show.

What fantastic remarks from Chris. A couple of thoughts related to his post:

1. Do you think that the people of Cork see the Lord Mayor as often as we did? He certainly seemed to be where we were. I liked him very much and I wish that I could consult with him for my future clothing purchases . . . a very snazzy dresser to be sure. His accessories, especially the ceremonial Lord Mayor wear, were a little much for me but perhaps that kind of thing is popular in Ireland.

2. "We performed at a caliber that rivaled the most glorious moments in my UAB choir history." I agree. Trips like that bring out the best in us. I think we will be able to build on what we learned and experienced for remarkable performances next semester.

3. "I know that we all were very satisfied with our performance even though we did not win the entire festival." A great way of looking at it . . . and it mirrors my thoughts and feelings exactly.

4. "We walked away with an award and left the stage after the gala concerts as winners, in the way that we, the big American choir, stole the show." I can't add anything to that . . . it's absolutely true.

3:30 AM - in own bed - trip is over

I hereby proclaim Ireland 2008 over.

It was a great trip. We didn't accomplish all we wanted to, but we discovered many new things along the way.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Flight Delayed Again: Now 8:28 p.m.


Jeez. I'll never do American Airlines again.

We're sitting in O'Hare leaning on each other with bad looks on our faces. Perhaps I should video the scene.

What are you thinking?

Looks like we might leave Chicago on time. Enjoy the video!

Landed in Chicago: Delayed to Birmingham

Current information is that we are going to leave here at 7:35 instead of the 6:55 that was originally scheduled.

Hmmm . . . I hope that is the only delay.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Whole World at Dublin Dinner

Toilet Paper Awards 2008

Here's the link to get the full list of awards. Not all UAB Concert Choir got an award . . . but all who were on the trip did. That's not a slight towards our at-home third of the choir . . just a reality of the way it usually works.

I had no official role in the creation of this list.

A few of the highlights:

The Margaret Hendricks "Anything You Can Sing, I Can Sing Louder Award":
Brian Bastow
Brian Denton
Marybeth Verchot

Kevin A. Beck Straight-Tone Award:
Nancy Lewis
Martin Schulz

There’s No Minute Like the Last Minute to Get Your Passport Award:
Daniel New
Michael Dees

Delia M. Charest Pretentious Diva Award:
Nancy Lewis
Erin Pair
Marybeth Verchot

For her future earning potential, otherwise known as FEP, Emily Fledderman receives the Deborah Leigh Hughes Copeland Most Likely to Marry a Music Major Award
Emily Fledderman

Now men notice the color of my eyes award:
Whitney Cummins

The Andrew Granlund Submissiveness is the Easiest Path to Relationship Bliss Award
Lincoln Parrott

Best Use of Lipgloss On a UAB Choir Member:
Lindsey Lingerfelt

Most Likely to Enroll in Opera the NEXT Time It’s About Pirates Award:
Christopher Josof

Most likely to slip the Blarney stone the tongue:
Samantha Pace
Mark Kunkel

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The last song . . .

Well . . . the last two songs, really.

We were the last group to perform in the gala concert tonight. I wish everyone at home in the USA could have heard our group and observed the audiences response following our two songs: "Star of the County Down" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

It was magic. Ashley will probably be able to describe it better, of course, but the crowd just went crazy after both of those songs. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful year of singing.

The Irish crowd was already buzzing about "Star of the County Down" when they heard it announced as one of our selections before we sang. Uncharacteristically of me, to be sure, I addressed the crowd and dedicated the piece to the wonderful people of Cork . . . . for their kindness, their hospitality, and their food! (they've provided wonderful snacks and refreshments at every concert).

The choir sang with unbelievable energy and zest. Their faces were alive and their bodies were moving (in appropriate ways, of course).

Several people told me that we got the best response from the audience of the entire evening . . . and that is saying a lot considering that we sang at 10:30 when the concert began at 7:30.

We've been told by more than a few people that they thought we were going to win the competition. We weren't surprised by those comments . . . we thought so as well! We'll work through our thoughts and feelings as we digest the experiences here.

One thing is for certain . . . we will come back a stronger choir . . . with more members who know the thrill of competition and striving for excellence.

The Liebau piece (Whole World) was a perfect way to end the year. The choir sang with huge volume for the last few words and I really didn't want to cut the last chord off . . . I knew it was the last note we would sing in an official concert . . . . the moment was as precious as it was powerful.


Heinrich Schutz Perpetual Trophy

The good news: we won the Heinrich Schutz Perpetual Trophy for our interpretation of a Heinrich Schutz work in the National or International competition.

The bad news: we didn't win. And, of course, we are disappointed. Losing isn't fun, that's what makes winning so great.

It was a very close competition and the caliber of the other choirs was extremely high. Win or lose, we are thankful for the experience and we'll be a better choir from having entered the fray.

Today, I take the most joy in what this has brought for the UAB students. Here's something Ashley Arrington said:
I had a great time singing last night. My face was shaking from smiling so much. I felt like we exuded confidence and pride for our choir, our country, our school and of course our music. I was worried because I didn't know how we measured up to other choirs since we hadn't heard any anothers perform...but when we went out to listen afterwards I realized we were right in stride with everyone else if not a step ahead of them. Performing for an attentive, interested audience is a thrill like none other. I could see people's reactions out of my peripheral vision and that really encouraged and excited me even more. I also think we stood out in a number of ways. We had by far the biggest sound. Other choirs were good at the controlled chamber choir-esque sound, but that got boring very quickly. However, there was no way anyone could sleep through any song in our set. Every song was exciting in some way. Our songs were impeccably chosen and executed.

As we sang I thought about what Dr. C said about all of our songs having a certain universality to them -- that is what this whole experience has been for me. We've gotten to meet people from all over the globe, and despite our differences we all share a love of choral music. It is a source of passion and joy for all of us or else we wouldn't be here. When we hit the phrase "until the universe can fit inside my heart" I could feel the love and warmth in the room. I felt a definite appreciation for what we were doing up there from people of all walks of life. That caused a revelation in me -- that we're all just people, no matter what or where we come from. Music is the single thread that ties us all together and it is truly a universal language.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

We're proud of our performance!

We won't know the results until tomorrow, but the choir feels fantastic about the performance (and so do I)!

We sang with great passion, sensitivity, and authority. We were different from the other choirs in some pretty profound ways . . . but it's all up to the judges.

More later. There is a reception to attend . . . . .


We're headed off to sing

We meet downstairs in 20 minutes to travel to the competition. It's rainy and cool here, but the choir feels (and sounds) good.

Perhaps it is the adrenaline, but I feel great momentum building for our performance.

We had a great rehearsal this afternoon. In that final practice, I shared an insight that I'd gained from this morning's study of music:

There is a thread that unites all our works in this performance - an otherworldliness - a place of mystery - a universality - a sense of awe and anticipation. We'll try to find that special place in the music tonight:

1. Regina coeli: ora pro nobis Deum
2. Nunc dimittis: the sense of awe at the beginning of the work that leads to a glorious AMEN of praise
3. So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ: the peacefulness of sleep
4. With a Lily: "until the universe . . . "

We will work to find that quiet place tonight.

Tonight is a night of many culminating meanings.

A year of work in 12 minutes.
All of our passion and emotion in 12 minutes.
Our eyes and eyebrows in 12 minutes.
An intense period of lightness, joy, and relaxation in 12 minutes.
Our most beautiful sounds . . . in 12 minutes.

Forty-four people will become one voice . . . .

Wish us luck and passion.


Friday, May 02, 2008

UAB is blogging Ireland again

Don't miss this review of the National Chamber Choir of Ireland. Ashley shows real insight for choral music in this post . . . she's really a remarkable young woman. I wish I had gone to the concert.

Brian Denton is singing beautifully and blogging up a storm. Here is his take on what's next:
Tomorrow night is the real deal. The reason we're here in Ireland. We have 12 minutes to sing our hearts out and make magic with the wonderful music that we're performing. We're ready. Our Spring concert back at home was just the start for this choir.
Chris is busy spying on me spying on others here and he's got a video of pictures he's taken here on his facebook account. I've got to find out how he recorded "Michelle" from our concert yesterday . . . it's a great recording although I took the piece a little fast. The kids were a little restless so I rushed the tempo a bit on purpose. If I'd known I'd here it again I would have milked it for all it's worth!

Patrick is posting pictures and a few comments here.

It's almost like the old days with many choir members blogging! Madison Holler is rumored to have a blog out there that I haven't found yet. If anyone can help, let me know.

Choir is in good spirits. I think tomorrow will be special.

We're having a blast

E6DS1882, originally uploaded by philipco.

Things are busy here . . . the competition has us singing in several venues. On Thursday we sang in a well attended library and later in a concert for Ireland choirs. Between those two performances, we had a session with the Lord Mayor of Cork, who formally welcomed us to the city. It was a very nice experience, one that we were not expecting. Following that, we had this picture taken and I think it will become a favorite of mine. Standing with me are the section leaders with the choir looking triumphant in the background.

Here's a larger version of the picture.

More photos here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

UAB Choir is Blogging Ireland

Other posts for you to check out:

Chris Josof's thoughts here.
Ashley blogging for "The Continentals."
The "Runaways" are blogging here.

In the picture here, we see newcomer and Montevallo transfer Daniel New and Emily Fledderman spending some time in the airport while traveling over.

Still Missing Charles

UAB to Ireland - The Long Plane Ride

Here's video of what we were thinking after finally getting off the plane in Shannon, Ireland.