Posts Tagged ‘community’

you may now call me dr. dee

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I defended my thesis at the end of August, and handed in the final document a week later.

I think that, technically, I’m not a doctor until my convocation in November, but unofficially:

I AM A DOCTOR!!

And I am a doctor who now lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

I just had my childhood piano delivered from my parents’ house to mine today. My new studio needs work, but it’s looking promising:

picture of Deanna's studio (full of boxes)

Not quiiiiite homey yet, but with a little love and a lot of work, I think this will make a fine studio.

I also have plans in the works, including group classes, a vocal playlab, and mulling over the possibility of a no-commitment pop choir. I’m also beginning work on a solo interdisciplinary performance piece/research project.

I’m very excited for what’s to come.

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Concert: ‘My Mother is the Ocean Sea’ May 10 @ 3pm

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Poster for May concert of Echo Women's ChoirEcho Women’s Choir is performing a concert on Mother’s Day afternoon, with Ukrainian singers Mark Marczyk and Marichka Kudriavtseva of Lemon Bucket Orkestra. I am not conducting in this concert, but am singing with a full heart!

Come join us!

Sunday May 10, 2015 @ 3:00 pm
Church of the Holy Trinity
(10 Trinity Square, next to the Eaton Centre)
Tickets: $15 advance/ $20 door/ $10 seniors, children, underwaged

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Concert: The Divine Feminine

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

I get to work with the wonderful Echo Women’s Choir this semester, and am conducting a set at their concert on December 7 in downtown Toronto. I’m loving the repertoire this season: a couple challenging Ave Maria kinds of pieces (unusual for Echo); a ladino lullaby; some Georgian crazy-harmony pieces; a gospel piece. I think it’s going to be a fantastic concert.

poster for The Divine Femine Concert

Here are the details:
Sunday, December 7, 2014
7:30 pm
Church of the Holy Trinity (next to Eaton Centre on West side)
$15 advance/$20 at the door/$10 seniors, students, underwaged

To reserve tix: 416-779-5554

for more info: www.echowomenschoir.ca

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Pete Seeger: The Man of a Million Small, Powerful Actions

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

So Pete Seeger passed away on Monday at the age of 94. I, like so many millions of people, have been deeply affected and influenced by his music and his commitment to building a more just world through music. I never met him, but I have had the pleasure of singing and teaching his music. I frankly don’t have much to say that could add to the many amazing tributes that have been published, from the New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and the CBC, to name just a few.

There’s a fantastic documentary on CBC’s program Ideas that lets you savour Pete Seeger’s music and ideas through his own voice. Definitely worth spending an hour to listen, if you are at all interested or curious about the man’s music and his ideas and experiences.

In 1993, Pete published a booked called “Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singalong Memoir.” This book has been deeply influential to me in my teaching, my repertoire, and my thinking about the social embeddedness of music. While he doesn’t explicitly focus on pedagogy, I’ve learned a lot about teaching through this book: how to piece together songs, how to contextualize songs through a wonderful combination of history, social, cultural and economic analysis, and personal connection. I love how, all through the book and the song transcriptions, he gives tips on how to involve everyone in singing. I can get behind anything that inspires a culture of singing.

I leave you with this story, as told by Pete in the Ideas documentary. It’s also in the book, but I love this particular version. It’s a story about the power of many people doing many little things. He doesn’t say here, but I know, from his other writings, that singing together is one of those small, mighty acts:

“I’m convinced that if there’s a human race here in a hundred years, it’s going to be millions upon millions of little things that save us. There’s a story I tell: imagine a seesaw and one end of the seesaw is on the ground because it’s got a big basket half-full of rocks. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air: it’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. Some of us got teaspoons and we’re trying to fill that basket of sand. Most people are kind of laughing at us, scoffing, “yah, people like you have been trying for thousands of years but it’s leaking out of the basket as fast as you’re putting it in. You’re wasting your time.”

But we say no, we’re looking close. It was a little less than a quarter full and now it’s a little more than a quarter full, and we think that one of these days, that basket is going to be more than half full. We’re watching it closely, and that whole seesaw will go zzzoooooop! In the other direction, and all around the world, they’ll say “gee, how did it happen so suddenly?” Us and all our little teaspoons.

[…] These small little things…the powers that be can break up any big thing that they want. They can attack it from the outside, they can infiltrate it and corrupt it from the inside, they can co-opt it. But what are they going to do about ten million little things? They don’t know where to start. Break up three of them, four more like it start up.”

Thanks Pete, for doing millions of little things and encouraging us to do our own little things to make the world better.

ADDENDUM: Someone pointed out to me a great article from Canada’s online news site rabble.ca about Pete Seeger, focusing on his participatory approach to music performance. Dig this lovely quote from Pete: “I guess it’s kind of a religion with me. Participation. That’s what’s going to save the human race.” Read the full article here.

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my ‘choir’ is performing tonight

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

I’m in a ‘choir.’ I have a hard time telling people I’m in this choir without putting quotes around the word. Because you see, it doesn’t look anything like any choir I’ve ever seen or participated in. If your definition of choir is a group of people singing together, then yes. We’re a choir. But after that, us and most other choirs depart ways.

You’re probably familiar with a typical choir: people arranged in rows according to voice type, facing a conductor and singing multi-part scored music. I’ve sung in these kinds of choirs, and I’ve directed versions of these choirs, and I love these choirs. I’ve been a part of choirs that have broken some of these traditions too, which I also enjoy.

But THIS ‘choir’, initiated and led by Fides Krucker (a strong influence in my singing and teaching, as you might already know), is a totally different animal. It has about 10 women in it. We meet in her living room, generally stand in something loosely resembling a circle, and begin with breathwork, sighs, yawns. We spend some time on vocal slides. We make eye contact with each other. We move around. We stand our own vocal ground while at the same time listening to each other, stealing sounds and gestures from others that we are drawn to.

Then we sing some songs. Mostly pop songs. Mostly in unison. Fides focuses on what she calls ‘vocal texture’—the individual and collective timbral quality of our singing voices demanded through the emotional and vocal journey of each song. For me as a singer, there is a palpable kind of emotional intensity through this approach to collective singing, whether it be joy or anger or sorrow.

It’s a pretty extraordinary thing, this ‘choir.’ At least participating in it is extraordinary. I don’t know yet whether it’s extraordinary to watch because we haven’t performed for an audience yet. Although we have had ‘performances.’

And these ‘performances’ might in many ways be the most extraordinary thing about this ‘choir.’ The ‘performances’ have all taken place at Ernestine’s–a women’s shelter in Toronto. We cram ourselves into a tiny room lined with green couches and a deliciously out-of-tune piano, replete with a few broken keys. And what makes it not-quite-a-performance is that the women of the shelter are invited to join in rather than just watch. In fact, the ‘choir’ sits among the residents on those horrid green couches. We all warm up together, and learn a song together. It’s more like a rehearsal or workshop. Except half of the women haven’t sung much, there are three interpreters, and children run in and out of the room constantly. It’s remarkable, because the ‘choir’ isn’t there to perform nor is the ‘choir’ there to use music as a tool to fix or improve anyone. We are all there working together, on our own and our collective vocal journeys.

If this is a choir, I want me lots more.

We have our first performance tonight at a fundraiser for the shelter. The women of the shelter will perform a song with us. We’re going to sing songs in various locations throughout the evening—outside by the fountain, lining the hallway, around a fireplace, and yes, even on the stage. It’s going to be a blast. I wonder what an audience reception of this ‘choir’ will be? I’m nervous and excited to find out. I’ll let you know…

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advice for choosing a choir

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Echo Women's Choir with Suba SankaranI was the guest editor for Whole Note magazine’s May 2012 edition. This Toronto area-based music magazine is known for releasing its ‘Canary Pages’ in May– a listing of choirs and other singing opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area for anyone who’s looking to join a choir, or perhaps looking for a change. I was asked to write about choirs and community for this year’s edition(you can read it here).

I also had some long, wonderful discussions with two Toronto-based conductors: Isabel Bernaus, conductor of the Jubilate Singers and Common Thread Community Choir; and Becca Whitla, conductor of Echo Women’s Choir and Holy Trinity Church Choir. I quote from our conversations a bit in the editorial, but they offered some really great advice for people looking to join a choir that wasn’t in the editorial.
So here’s the advice:
I asked both Becca and Isabel what kinds of advice they’d offer novice and advanced choristers, especially given the complexity of many of the issues surrounding community and musical excellence. Their advice? Take some time to do two kinds of research: research yourself, and research the choirs.

First, figure out what you want: what kinds of music do you want to sing? How often can you rehearse? How much commitment do you want to make? How far will you travel? Most importantly, what kind of atmosphere are you looking for: a professional, goal-oriented and music-focused environment, or an opportunity to meet people and sing among friends? Or something that balances both?

Once you’ve figured out these things for yourself, do a little research on the choirs listed in the Canary Pages and elsewhere to find good matches. Even then, however, it might be difficult to know if you and the choir you’re eyeing really are good fits. Both Bernaus and Whitla suggest attending a rehearsal and/or performances. “Many choirs have open rehearsals that you can attend,” Whitla suggests, “and if not, see the choir in performance.” Bernaus agrees, even encouraging potential choristers to contact the conductor (try to find a non-pressured moment—like AFTER a concert…) or contacting the member coordinator. They might welcome you to sit in on a rehearsal, or at least describe what the choir is like so you can make an informed choice for yourself.

The same advice holds whether you are brand new to Toronto or to choral singing, or if you’re looking for a change from your current choral engagements. If you are more seasoned, you can be more targeted, more strategic in your approach. You may perhaps already know some friends or colleagues that have worked in other choral settings, so you can get an ‘insider’s perspective’ on the repertoire, the rehearsal practices, the performance styles, and the feel of the choral space to decide it it’s a good fit for you.

In fact, choral singing overall is only one of many kinds of singing practices, which of course represent one of many kinds of music-making. The Canary Pages are a great resource, but they are not definitive. Many group singing activities happen beyond these pages. The volunteer-run World Harmony Folk web site (www.worldharmonyfolk.org) and newsletter, for example, promotes community singing classes, vacations, workshops, and yes, even choirs, from around the world.

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conducting myself accordingly

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I just got back from my first rehearsal of the season with Echo Women’s Choir. I’ve sung with Echo for many years. I love the world music and community-minded, loving atmosphere.  Plus, it’s really amazing to sing with 80 other women in the incredibly resonant Holy Trinity Church in downtown Toronto (yes, this is the same Church of the Trinity Session by the Cowboy Junkies!).   I haven’t been able to sing with Echo for the last year because of school, so it feels even more lovely to be back. Like reuniting with an old, dear friend.

But this year is a little different.  Becca Whitla and Alan Gasser, the choir’s co-directors, are taking a hiatus come January to study conducting in Cuba.  They’ve asked me to lead the choir for the Spring session.

Yep.  I’m conducting an 80-voice choir for 2011.

Are you surprised at this turn of events?  I am, a little.  Oh, I have some conducting experience, and I’ve worked with many groups as a song leader, but this, I’ll admit, is pushing my experience and ability to a whole new level. I’ve considered myself more of a singer and voice teacher than a conductor.  But the  series of events that led to this opportunity unfolded  like the stars aligning. And so this opportunity is here for me now.

I am totally scared and excited. That seems like the right place to be.

At the rehearsal tonight, I was warmly greeted by many choir members, who all seemed excited at the news of my role in the new year.  It’s reassuring to have their faith.  And I’ll be conducting a few of the pieces for the Winter concert in addition to singing with the sopranos. Sort of an apprenticeship. So hopefully that’ll ease me in. Get the choir and me a little bit used to each other.

Looks like it’s going to be a big year.

oh, yes, and the spring concert is on the theme of work. The concert’s on May Day.  So if you have any suggestions for songs about working, particularly for women and work, let me know.

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