Thursday, October 29, 2009

Press release for Selma and Montgomery


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Concert Choir will present two free concerts at churches in Montgomery and Selma Sunday, Nov. 15. The choir will perform at 4 p.m. at Memorial Presbyterian Church, 2130 Bell Road, Montgomery, then at 7 p.m. at Selma’s First Presbyterian Church, 301 Broad St. Call the UAB Department of Music at 205-934-7376 or visit

Philip Copeland, D.M.A., conducts the 42-voice a cappella choir. Audiences will be amazed by the musical artistry and technical accuracy of the UAB students as they sing works frequently featured in international competitions of choral music. Copeland has selected a diverse program for the performance that includes stunning music from five centuries and five nations, including Latvian, Latin and Hungarian works as well as several spirituals and hymns.

On the program is Toivo Tuula’s “Auringon Noustessa,” a work that celebrates a promised freedom from oppression. Also featured is Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi’s arrangement of “Death May Dissolve Me,” a work from William Billings, the United States’ most famous early American composer. The work also features the spiritual poetry of Isaac Watts, known as the “Father of English Hymnody,” whose hymns “Joy to the World” and “O God Our Help in Ages Past” are well known to church congregations.

The UAB Concert Choir frequently introduces lesser known choral masterpieces to the classical audience of Birmingham. In this concert, a work from English composer Cecilia McDowall and Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis will be included. Other works to be featured include the famous 16th century composer William Byrd’s “Haec Dies,” a standard among fine college choirs across the United States. “Esti dal” by Zoltan Kodaly, one of Hungary’s best known composers, also will be included on the program.

Touring nationally and internationally, the UAB Concert Choir has quickly gained recognition as one of Alabama’s finest a cappella choirs. In March 2010, the choir will be featured at the American Choral Directors Association regional convention in Memphis, Tenn. The choir was recently featured at the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO) convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2008, the choir won the Heinrich Schütz Perpetual Trophy for their performance of a work by the Baroque composer in the Fleischman International Choral Competition in Cork, Ireland. It was UAB’s second international competition; the first was participation in the 34th annual Florlilege Vocal de Tours in Tours, France, where the choir won two awards, the Prix Du Ministère de La Culture, an award given for best interpretation of a French choral work, and shared the top award in the Mixed Choirs Category.

About UAB

UAB is the first all-Steinway piano school in Alabama. The UAB Department of Music presents more than 150 concerts, recitals, master classes, and lectures each year - many of them free - for more than 400,000 people throughout the region. The department features 17 ensembles. Visit the department online at


Monday, October 26, 2009

Seeing things for what they are

I've given lots of time and energy to the "France" question for about a year now.  My personal experience with Paris and the Tours competition as a performer and conductor drives me to want to do it as many times as I can. 

I've looked at the possibility of going in May 2010 and I've come to the decision that it just won't work for us this year.

The primary reason:  we can't go and be the choir we are.  There are too many people who, for whatever reason, can't go.  We can't hope to compete on an international level without a nearly full complement of singers.

I propose this:

We start planning for 2011.  Dates for the festival are May 28 and 29.  Cost will likely be the same as it is now or a little more.

What say ye?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fantastic TED talk on conducting and leadership

A fantastic viewing and commentary on great conductors.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ryan will be a great choir director one day . . .

if he keeps going to all of his classes, that is.

He's reviewed the video from yesterday's rehearsal and made keen observations. I'm guessing the exercise took about two hours for him (or more). He's watching and listening like a choir director and I really admire that.

I am thrilled to have such a passion for excellence from so many of you in the group. We are working together to make something as good as it can be. It is motivating to me and inspiring to others. There are other choir directors that follow this blog - I know they long for this type of passion from their choir members.

In my response to Ryan, I told him this:

There is a "time" to fix things and a time to let them go (for now). On a Thursday before a Saturday performance I am likely to make a few small fixes but ignore most of what you have here - not that I doubt any of what you heard but because of "when" it is in the mindset of the choir. We have a certain momentum going into Saturday and picking apart everything today/tomorrow will lead to a worse performance, not a better one.

From a group perspective, that is my approach - we are gathering momentum and heading towards an exciting performance. However, individuals can make many of the small changes he talks about here without me addressing it to the group as a whole. I encourage you to read his comments and fix what you can (a few responses from me accompany his words):

Abide With Me -
1) 1st chord on the word "Abide", we still have the tendency sometimes to sound a bit country and lazy like "Uh-bide", needs more "AHH"
2) Sometimes we over do the accents & sfp at the beginning of phrases.
Ex: Help of the helpless, Through cloud and sunshine, or In life, in death.
3) In measures 21-22 (1st system top of 4) it sounds like we are stabbing the song, haha, if that makes any that i mean, it seems like we are trying to have such crisp consonants and sing each note so precise that we are overdoing it and it's making us have a bit harsher sound than we do throughout the majority of the piece, not as smooth as other sections of the song. (That could also be because you took us faster over that section than you did any other, idk.)
4) Since we are at mf for the majority of the piece, when the men get to measures 40-43 (the entire Amen section, minus the last one) we are clearly not at a mp, we are singing too loud.
To me, it seems the climax of the song is in measure 37-39 "in life, in death, o lord abide with me"
and after that it should come back down. I think by the end of the song, we have made our statement that we can't make it in life alone without the help of this higher power and that we are at rest now, knowing that no matter what happens, we are in the presence of the lord and that he will take care of us. The women do a good job, of keeping "peaceful and prayerful" but it sounds like the men are still looking for an answer, as if we aren't at peace by singing as loud as we are. You need to bring us down. (this is Ryan stepping into my area of interpretation - he can change it when he is standing in front of the group)
5) overall, i think that i a solid piece. i think we balance really well on it.

Dziedot -
1) Sopranos could sing with a bigger sound
2) In measure 12, half of the men saying "mah-nye" like eye, instead of "mah-nee" like key
3) Tenors are sitting a little too heavy on "aiz dziedot" in measures 14-15, they could lighten the sound up a bit.
4) Measure 17 is not locking in. Sopranos are not getting to the High F quick enough, sounds a bit screechy. Sounds like a few voices in other sections aren't sure of the 1st note in that measure either. Something to look into.
5)Measure 21, Soprano 1's. Sounds a bit thin and pitchy going from the High G to High Bb.
6) Dynamics! We don't do them at all in this song. our ff isn't too far from our p in this piece. We will crescendo, but we won't descrescendo, it's just all loud, and louder. (again, this is what I'm asking for, so don't change)
7) it's obvious that we know this song, we just need to use some musicality. this is pretty solid as well.

Aurington -
For this to be our least prepared piece, it sounds good.
My only opinions on this is that Sopranos need to blend and sound
like one voice in measure 2. (I've been thinking the same thing - Sopranos a little softer on that E)
Also, bass/baritones need to blend and sound like one voice in all the places
that we are isolated and singing by ourselves on the first page, sounds a bit weak.
* although i must say that starting in measure 17, where the basses come in with the melody,
then pass it off to the tenors, and the tenors to the altos, and the altos to the sopranos....
that section is sounding really good. The mens section on the top of pg 8 sounded a bit more
gelled today as well, was good but could be better though. (watch for individual voices sticking out on the tenor line)

Haec Dies -
1)Soprano 2's (Second group of them) sound better on their opening "Haec",
the most solid they have all year really...but it could still use more a bit more blend, space. and fowardness like the Sop 1's have. The Sop 2's sound a bit whimpy. They're good in every other section they sing, or at least from what i can pick out.
2) Soprano 1's "Dominus" from measure 20-22, sounds slightly pitchy and lacking some support.
3)Altos "In-e-a" measure 30-31, a little flat.
4)Basses entrance on "exultemus", measure 32 & m.34 , is flat, due to some scooping throughout the section. (I've not heard this but I don't doubt it)
5)Basses attack the 1st 2 entrances in the Alleluia section (m. 47. and m.53) with a little too much glottal, it causes the chord to sound jerky, hope that makes sense.
6) We tend to rush towards the end, it seems more obvious to me at the bottom of pg. 17 in the soprano 1's, because when we get to pg. 18, sometimes to soprano 1's line clashed with soprano 2's line...doesnt seem like they were in the same tempo. but only slightly.
7) good piece overall.

Regina Caeli -
1) Measure 23-24 is a key spot for us to go flat. It doesnt sound like we are getting all the way up from the A at the end of "laetare" to the the B on "regina", it's a unison note, and we aren't all singing the same B, that's for sure. Pitchy spot.
2) m.34-35, some bass or basses are flat on the A
3)m.39 altos and basses sound like they are saying "Qui-UH-quem" instead of "Qui-AH-quem" (excellent observation)
4)m.44, second beat of the measure, on "re", that chord sounds a bit weird and not lined up, it comes and goes very quickly, but it needs to line up for us to stay in tune for the rest of the song.
I don't think everyone is getting their notes there. We should hold.
5)m.52, when the altos come in, they sound slightly flat, idk, that could just be the recording on that one...but it doesnt sound all the way in tune.
6)m.60-61, make sure sopranos are singing those half steps right, sounds just under pitch, or maybe even wrong notes. either/or. idk.
7) strong piece, we just have to listen to each other and tune.

Death -
I really don't know what to say for this one, just because it' so much happening at once.
Um, i think again my biggest issue is the dynamics...i know we do get soft in some parts,
but overall it just sounds like we are singing loud for the most part overall. But then again,
it could just be the recording on my laptop...i would like to see more drastic differences between our ff, f, mf, mp, p, & pp's. (I've wondered about this myself) We stayed in tune. That's great. More work and molding to be done to this piece though, idk what, but it's def not to the place where it can be..for US that is. where exactly that place is, i dont know. But i think by experimenting with different dynamics we can find it.

Esti Dal -
1) Our entrances....making sure we come in strong and on pitch, but not loud.
It's a hard thing to do, and i think we are all scared of those "m's" from the basses entrance to the altos, the first pitch is always questionable for a split second and then it settles. I think it's a breath vs dynamic thing. People seem to asscociate quiet and soft with whimpy; the 2 arent related. The notes aren't being supported. It seems like an easy song and most of us think it is the easiest (singing one note, harldy any words.) To me, this is one of the more challenging pieces...for me anyway. Trying to keep the pitch up, while also trying to create this steady stream of sound to support the Sopranos who are soooo exposed. it's hard.
2) Sopranos from the beginning aren't blending, some people need to SING OUT.
They also have a few pitchy moments throughout the piece.
3)When the Tenors come in, in m.13, their "En" doesn't match the sopranos "en" which they sing a beat or so before the tenors, nor does it match the "en" the altos sing after them. I know you want it a bit brighter, and not too dark..but it sounds a little too bright and a bit throaty.
4) Beautiful song, if we put all the pieces together, again more concentration...even though this song is simple, it still requires our attention. Ps: we ended in tune. Idk if we dropped and then brought it back up. But we started on F# and ended on F# going into Nunc.

Nunc -
1) Good transition from Esti I think.
2) could use a bit more of the Alto2 note in 1st measure on "domine"
3)We were in tune up until m.9 on "lumen", it was just slightly under pitch,
then in m.10 we dropped on completely down the half step.
4)Soprano 1s need to watch pitch on "gloria" m.17 and again on "gloria" in m.19
5) All mens "et" in m. 18 could tune and balance much better.
6)m.81, the last big "nunc", we are oversinging, it's only f, we are def singing it at a ff, we need to back off, it's such a beautiful phrase, but we are pushing on it and making it sound forced. I only mean we dont need to sing so loud on the word "nunc" just because 4 of the 6parts singing in that chord are all singing the same note (D). so when we push on it, it doesnt really tune and sounds a bit gross. the volume on everything after that was perfect.
7)We ended in the original key as it is written.
8) I think that this is our best piece. or at least the piece we performed today. Just my opinion.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Revised France Payment Schedule

Deposit of $250 per person with Application Form by November 1
Payment of $750 per person by January 1
Payment of $750 per person by March 1, 2010
Balance due on receipt of final invoice sent approximately 30 days prior to departure

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reminder: Don't Drink and Then Commit a Felony

Sheriff: Drunk father, son rob home; son passes out

By The Associated Press

October 14, 2009, 7:10PM

CARTERSVILLE -- Officials say a drunk father and son burglarized a Cartersville home and were caught after the son was found passed out under the invalid homeowner's bed.

DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said today that 37-year-old Christopher Wright of Trenton, Ga., and his son, 19-year-old Caleb Wright, of Higdon, were arrested Sunday.

Harris said they broke into the home around 2 a.m. Sunday and took car keys, medication, about $200 in cash and $100 worth of jewelry. They were about to leave when one of the residents woke up, and they hid.

Christopher Wright sneaked out but Harris said Caleb Wright apparently passed out in his hiding place under the homeowner's bed.

The homeowner's wife found him around dawn and called a neighbor and police. The neighbor turned out to be Caleb Wright's grandfather. He turned the young man over to police.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Understanding my position on France


Don't mistake my lack of a "strong push" to indicate that I lack enthusiasm for going to France this year.  I certainly want to go and compete.  It is one of my favorite memories as both a singer and as a conductor!

At the same time, I can't push you too hard - if it doesn't happen for us then it won't be the end of the world.  I bet that there are very few choirs traveling to Europe this year because of the poor economy.  If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.

We'll talk more soon.  For now, we have a big concert ahead of us.  I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Reposting about Auringon

Originally posted August 13th:

Auringon noustessa with spaces.
Auringon noustessa without spaces.

Nää, oi mun sieluni, auringon korkea nousu
See, O my soul, how the sun rises over the rooftops,

ylitse kivisen kaupungin kattojen, katuin,
Over the wide stony wilderness of this bleak city,

ylitse vuossatain valheen ja tuntien tuskan
Over the centuries of falsehoods and moments of misery,

koittava kirkkaus!
Bold dawning brightness!

Nää, oi mun sieluni, katoovan elämän autuus!
See, O my soul, see the bliss of our life frail and fleeting!

Niinkuni ääretön temppeli on se sun eessäs,
Like an infinite temple it stands before thee,

alla sen holvien on ikiaikojen
Under its somber vaults in ancient silence

äänetön hartaus mestarin hengen.
the soul of the master breathes never-ending.

Nää, oi mun sieluni, yössäkin korkehin kirkkaus,
See, O my soul, how the blackest of nights turn to dawning,

tuskassa tummien hetkien rauha ja riemu,
Moments of darkest despair to relief and rejoicing,

vuossatain valheessa, elämän valheessa valkein,
See how amidst ancient falsehoods of life

iäisin totuus!
Still the brightest truth stands eternal!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Wynfrey?

Does the UAB football team spend the night at the Wynfrey hotel before every football game or does the coach live there?