Secondary School Choral Festival and Workshop

July 25, 2011

Choral

Last Friday, my choir (very small, very new, and very quiet) had the opportunity to work with UK choral director David Lawrence during a one-hour workshop, followed by a three-hour combined choir rehearsal. The combined choirs were from secondary schools all over Mackay, and they gave a concert for the Choral Festival that evening.

I told David up front that I must have the quietest choral group in the Mackay district. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get these girls to come out of their shells and sing out.

So he spent the next hour showing me how to do just that. I think the most important message he got across to them was this: there’s no physical difference between singing on your own and singing with other people. Every one of them would willingly sing as long as others were singing, but when asked to sing on their own, they clammed up.

So he said to everyone, “now, all of you sing on your own…at the same time!”

That seemed to do the trick. A couple of hours later, I came upon them in the classroom allocated to us for the evening before the concert, and they were absolutely belting along to someone’s ipod.

I’m buying the sheet music for “Soul Sista” and “The Lazy Song” first chance I get. I think for the next little while, I’m going to spend some quality time with lots of songs that they not only like, but like to sing really LOUDLY…without hurting their voices.

I also need to do some reading. At the recent ASME conference, I bought a number of books all to do with directing choirs, because I am seriously lacking in self-confidence on this particular point.

That seems weird, because I’ve been in heaps of choirs, ever since I was twelve. The school choir, Qld Children’s Choir, Qld Youth Choir, Brisbane Chorale, Conservatorium Chamber Singers. I’ve travelled all over Queensland, and even went to Japan one time, singing with choirs.

But I think that might be just the problem. I’ve been in so many fantastic choirs, with so many great choral directors, that I seem to be totally intimidated at the idea of directing one myself. There’s some part of me that thinks there is just no way that I could ever be that good at leading a group and bringing voices together so well.

I already happen to know for a fact that this isn’t true. Last year I was the musical director for the school musical, and I managed to lead a group of about fifty-ish students, male and female, and they were even singing in harmony by the end of three months.

Unfortunately, while they loved being part of it all at the time, I couldn’t seem to persuade them to stick around. Besides that, many were seniors and are now gone.

I need some serious confidence-building in the area of choir-building, so I’m hitting the books. In the meantime, I’m trying to get the girls I do have to rope some guys in.

Back to the story. The concert was last Friday evening. Four of the six or seven school choirs performed separately, and then all choirs joined together into one great big mob on stage.

They sang a traditional Nambian song called “Halima Pakasholo”, and Elgar’s arrangement of “Ave Verum Corpus”. They also sang two uplifting ballads, “Raise Your Voice” by Tim Morley and Dawn Ellis, and “Together As One” by David’s wife Rebecca Lawrence.

I had such a great time that I was inspired to compose some choral music myself, so I sat down in front of my computer and basically stayed there for the next two days.

The result was a new setting of “Ave Verum Corpus” to add to the dozen or so that are already out there. You may or may not have seen me carrying on about it on Twitter for the past day or so. You can download the score from my Compositions page, and hear a Sibelius audio. You can also find it on MuseScore.com.

Creative Commons License
This article by Gabrielle Deschamps is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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About Gabrielle Deschamps

I'm a secondary music teacher, interested in music technology and its integration into classroom pedagogy.

View all posts by Gabrielle Deschamps

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