I am having an extraordinarily difficult time writing about the loss of this great leader...
How Can I Keep From Singing
Prayer of the Children
Enjoy the Silence(1 Comments)
The Conductor's Lab Choir will give Twin Cities-area high school choral directors the opportunity to work with Artistic Director and Founder Dr. Matthew Culloton, in a variety of ways aimed at making the educator -- and their choral program -- stronger overall. This program offers 3 conductors the opportunity to apply new pedagogies and choral techniques to their classrooms. That multiplies out to hundreds of public school students who willl share the outcomes with their schools, districts and families.
What's so crazy about this program is that there are currently no professional development programs of this nature in Minnesota for choral conductors. I got a chance to hear the opening concert of their season and it was simply incredible. Check out this YouTube video from that performance:
Before we begin, you must watch this video of the Florida State University AcaBelles...
Let me start by giving a shout out to my alma mater (FSU) and the AcaBelles for being recognized by the Huffington Post. Also, let me profess my love for modern a cappella groups like Take 6 and the Pentatonix. The creativity found in some of today's a cappella arrangements can be mind-blowing. These groups work tirelessly to perfect their performances and often come pretty close (Don't start with the autotune argument...that's for another day). Unfortunately, the haters keep hating. I have had many conversations with friends and colleagues that got pretty heated because of their sincere disdain for modern a cappella music/groups. Am I in the minority? What's the issue? Help me understand why so many purists can't appreciate this style/genre. Chime in and let me know your thoughts! I am looking forward to a healthy, friendly debate on this topic.
Other a cappella videos
Take 6 LIVE
This is definitely one of my favorite patriotic choral arrangements! Kudos to the American Choral Directors Association for having the Vocal Majority perform at their 50th Anniversary conference. These guys are AMAZING! You know who else is amazing? All the men and women that have dedicated their lives to protecting our great country. Let us thank and remember those who have served in our Armed Forces. Although words will never be enough, I truly appreciate and recognize all you have sacrificed to protect us. God bless you.
When I came to Minneapolis for my interview with VocalEssence, one of the first people to show me around the twin cities was "local" composer Jake Runestad. Little did I know that the word local was not an accurate word to use when describing Jake Runestad and his compositional reach. This guy has received commissions and performances by Craig Hella Johnson, Patrick Quigley, Philip Brunelle, Andre Thomas, James Bass and the list goes on.
Funny thing is, he is only 27 years old...and in some conversations...a rising choral rockstar. It is evident that he has an excellent pedigree; having studied with acclaimed composer Libby Larsen and Pulitzer Prize winning composer Kevin Puts. So to put it simply, Jake Runestad is the real deal.
His latest project, Dreams of the Fallen, will be premiered on Monday night and will feature pianist Jeffrey Biegel, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans. This work is part piano concerto and part choral symphony with emotionally charged text by Iraq War veteran Brian Turner. Honoring Our Heroes - A Veterans Day Concert will be performed at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. There will be a live web-stream of the performance starting at 7pm and it can be found at www.lpomusic.com. Did I mention that actor John Goodman will be making an appearance to narrate Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait? I'll definitely be watching and hopefully you will too!
MPR Exclusive Sneak Peak of Dreams of the Fallen
Jake Runestad's description of Dreams of the Fallen
Best YouTube Performance
Southern boys don't get to experience snow very often. That's why I decided to stop by the office tonight; to get my first swing at this Minnesota winter (I told y'all I was crazy). I knocked back a few Monsters and started jamming to some good ol' choral music. One of my favorite pieces by Eric Whitacre cued up on my playlist and then it hit me.
Back in the day, when he composed what is now known as Sleep, the music had different poetry. Whitacre originally set Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, unfortunately, he hadn't secured the rights to do so. Long story short, after a battle with the Frost estate, the original text was no longer an option. Whitacre wisely collaborated with lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri and re-birthed what is now one of his most beloved works. Being totally honest, I prefer the marriage of Silvestri's text with Whitacre's music, but I want to open the floor for dialogue. What's your preference? Listen to both and chime in...
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
After listening to this album, I was simply blown away by Daniel Elder's beautiful harmonic language. I was so inspired by his music that I contacted him almost immediately to discuss his compositional journey. The artistry this ensemble exhibits is simply astounding and it became abundantly clear why Daniel Elder won the Abbey Road Studios' 80th Anniversary Anthem Competition with his composition The Heart's Reflection. Dr. Joe Miller and the Westminster Choir illuminate the warmth and transparency of Elder's music in this fantastic recording. I strongly recommend you give this album a listen.
"The process of recording "The Heart's Reflection," the Westminster Choir's newest recording under Maestro Joe Miller, was one of utmost privilege for me as an emerging composer. From the early stages of planning the program, in which Dr. Miller sat down with me to comb through my entire works and pick a dozen of the best-fitting artistic statements, to the month-long rehearsal process (yes, barely four weeks of rehearsal) in which I sat in with the choir as they prepared these works to record; in all of this I was humbled at the high level of attention and artistry that my music was given. When the album was first planned, I was given leave to write an additional 3-4 works on top of what I currently had in my catalogue - I cannot express how exciting it was to write new music knowing it would immediately be rehearsed and recorded on such a profound project. I endeavored to create a collection of widely-varying themes that could hold the attention of today's diverse audience, from sweet piano themes to electric percussion accompaniments and every a cappella style in between. As a result, I hope that those who listen to this CD can take something from it that speaks directly to them and their unique experiences."
Preview Track: Ballade to the Moon
Just 6 months ago I was dropping 60-hour workweeks like they were hot; working as a high school chorus teacher in Florida. Now I am the assistant artistic director of VocalEssence and the producer of American Public Media's 24/7 choral stream & blog. Wait, what in the hell happened? Are you crazy....you're seriously giving me a blog?
I've always been a choral nerd, but to be producing and blogging for one of the few 24/7 choral streams in the country definitely wasn't on my radar. Can somebody wake me up from this dream? (No, please don't!) Some may think that I'm crazy for moving to the North Country (probably a solid assessment), but when it comes to choral music, this place is the land of Milk & Honey.
Moses (F. Melius Christiansen) led the singers out of the wilderness and some of
Minnesota's the region's Joshuas (Westin Noble, Philip Brunelle & Dale Warland) have kept on fightin' the battle.
This is such a grand opportunity to share my love for choral music with thousands of people from this culturally rich state and region. I am hoping that we develop a strong bond and that you become avid listeners of our 24/7 choral stream. So....I guess it's time for that awkward moment during the first date, when we attempt to get to know one another.
Well, who am I?
I am THAT guy. People that know me, realize that I am THAT guy who always looks to push it a step further.
What does that mean for this choral stream and blog?
I recommend that you fasten your safety belts and prepare for one hell of a ride; North Country just got a new injection of Southern swagger.
Posted at 12:23 PM on April 2, 2013
by Brett Baldwin
Filed under: Choral Music
This month, as part of our Voices of Spring programming, we're having a little fun with those who make the music.
We're asking the singers, choir directors and vocal performers to share with us a little observational humor, so we're taking #ChoralTruths to Twitter. We're hoping that you'll share with us something that you see as being a universal truth from your spot on the risers.
The example we've been using is: "Altos always carry pencils." We don't know why; but it does kinda seem true. Have you ever seen an alto not carrying a pencil?
We'll pick the best and share them on Twitter and here too.
So go on, be merciless... and let us know your #ChoralTruths!
Posted at 3:19 PM on February 4, 2013
by Brett Baldwin
Filed under: Choral Music
It's a small desk, but it's no matter -- the 9 members of Cantus ably fit around it for an outstanding performance on a recent trip to NPR's Washington, D.C. headquarters.
The nine-voice ensemble performed pieces from their latest album -- the stellar Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: "Wanting Memories" (Ysaye Barnwell), "Zikr" (A.R. Rahman), "Ave Maria" (Franz Biebl).
For an in-depth account of their recording process, read the transcript of Val Kahler's interview.
Highlights from Dec. 11 to Dec. 18
Tuesday, 7 pm: Welcome Christmas!, with VocalEssence.
Wednesday, 12 noon: Music with Minnesotans: Actor and singer Dane Stauffer.
Wednesday, 7 pm: Candles Burning Brightly.
Thursday, 11 am: Cantus, live at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Angelica Cantanti Youth Choir, I Cantanti, The Singers, and the National Lutheran Choir.
Thursday, 7 pm: Christmas with Luther College.
Friday, 7 pm: Minnesota Choral Christmas.
Friday, 8 pm: Minnesota Orchestra: Osmo Vänskä leads a program of Prokofiev, Aho, and Brahms.
Saturday, 12 noon: Metropolitan Opera: Verdi: Aida.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: International Holiday Sampler.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, in Brahms, Wagner, and Richard Strauss.
Monday, 7 pm: A Chanticleer Christmas.
Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: The Childhood of Christ, by Berlioz.
Tuesday, 7 pm: Slavic Wonders, with the Rose Ensemble.
I had the great privilege this past weekend to attend one of the premiere US concerts of the Cuban choir, Schola Cantorum Coralina, brought to us through the initiation of our very own Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence.
I didn't quite know what to expect going into it. A few weeks ago I thought in my naïve, snobby Midwest "our choirs are the best" attitude, "Okay. A Cuban choir? This will be nice. Some mambo and Afro-Cuban percussion with added singing. Cute. Fun."
...No. It was so much more than that. I was COMPLETELY blown away. Of course there was rhythm, but it was a side note. It was as if they said, "Well, yeah. We're Cuban. Get over it. Now check this out!" I was taken by the tightness of their blend and expressive movement, the complexity of the repertoire, a genre seemingly lost to our American choral ears (Cuban choral music that is), and their unwavering communication. Their conductor (Alina Orraca) had enormous control of this choir who had the musical spectrum and control likened to a 1966 Pontiac GTO - beautiful, tender, muscular, fast, and sassy.
My mind has been consumed ever since, LITERALLY unable to stop thinking or talking about their performance!
A beautiful combination of high-caliber musical performance and commitment to youth education, instilling a passion for choral music in the Cuban community.
If you missed it, I am sorry. BUT, you can still check them out online. Here are some videos from their winning performance at the 2007 European Grand Prix for Choral Singing.
Guillaume de Machaut was born sometime around 1300 in Champagne. As is the case with so many medieval composers, and even beyond, no one knows his exact date of birth.
That means we never get to celebrate it.
So I wanted to share a song written by Machaut, called Rose, liz, printemps, verdure, performed by the Gothic Voices. Not only is this one of my favorite Machaut songs, it's one of my favorite pieces of music ever.
My ear is immediately drawn to the open harmony and the unusual cadences (endings of phrases). The cadences are, though, as they should be given the time period - it's just not how we're used to hearing phrases end.
For living in the 14th century, Machaut's music and poetry was well-preserved and cataloged. Although the majority of his music is secular, his mass, Messe de Nostre Dame, is the first extant copy of a composer's complete mass setting. Machaut's hundreds of poems tell tales of the Black Death, the French countryside, love and more.
It is understood that Minnesota holds a very strong grip on the world of choral music, both nationally and internationally. With our world-renown professional and collegiate choirs, fabulous public school programs, and choirs with a message we have carved our name in choral history. We live in a special place, and it is our depth that is so remarkable.
Here at Classical MPR we have made an official commitment to the choral community in Minnesota. We started by creating an on-line choral stream with hours and hours of non-stop choral music from around the world. We will bring to the Twin Cities the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the King's College Choir (Cambridge), and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir with a commission by Edie Hill. In the future we will continue to nurture that relationship by creating collaborative programming and content.
This summer at the State Fair Classical MPR thought, given our choral initiative, that it would be appropriate to incorporate several vocal acts, including VocalEssence, the Minnesota Boychoir, and members of the Minnesota Opera. But something was missing...so when I was approached by Brian Newhouse and Daniel Gilliam at MPR to discuss other ensembles to incorporate, I responded immediately with the idea of a young-adult chamber choir. They asked, "Does anything like that exist?" Knowing of nothing I said, "No, but I will create it."
And so here we are, The State Fair Singers with me, Sam Kjellberg, the aspiring conductor. We will sing a short program of music by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and a short hymn by the great Thomas Tallis. It's a simple concept – young-adults between the ages of 22 and 27 singing together, all coming from fabulous collegiate choral programs – Concordia (Moorhead), Luther, Saint Olaf, the University of Minnesota, and Yale. This project has been the seed to something we hope to continue through the next several years, or until we're too old to be considered "young-adults." (...but "youth" is a mindset, right?...)
The name seems a little narrow and constraining, and in some ways it is, but even with the name attached, this group has hopes of being a symbolic gesture for the future of choral music and classical music in general. It is my opinion that Classical Music must focus on keeping its youthful vigor and innovation alive and well. I hope that ensembles with this sort of youthful energy, determination, and initiative will continue to be heralded for years to come!
Come at check us out at the State Fair!!!
August 27-29th, 2-3pm
September 3, 2-3pm
All at the Minnesota Public Radio booth on the corner of Judson and Nelson!
Posted at 9:04 AM on June 29, 2012
by Daniel Gilliam
Filed under: Choral Music
The American Choral Directors Association, Minnesota chapter (ACDA-MN), is presenting a state-wide choral sing-a-long on November 10, 2012 [corrected date]. You can get your choir invovled by applying here (deadline is October 1, 2012). Locations are spread out across Minnesota, so you should be able to find a convenient spot to showcase your group.
According to the ACDA-MN website, the goal is to showcase choirs "of any size, age, or ability representing school, community and faith-based organizations." This event is part of the organization's 50th anniversary year.
It's the y'all come of choral singing.
St. Olaf College organ and church music professor, John Ferguson, is retiring after 29 years. The college celebrated his tenure, complete with a hymn festival and Cantorei reunion (uncluding 200 voices), and this "Ferg Feast" tribute video. You can view the hymn festival program book here.(1 Comments)
Posted at 12:16 PM on May 22, 2012
by Elena See
Filed under: Choral Music
Since the very beginning, Classical MPR has championed choral music through our regional broadcasts. Now, you can listen to choral music all day and all night long with our new online choral stream!
Danish recorder player Michala Petri's newest recording is titled English Recorder Concertos — but it's not out of the question for her NEXT recording to be featured in our choral stream. Take a listen below...and make sure to visit the New Classical Tracks page with Julie Amacher to hear selections from Petri's newest release.