Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Best August on Record! NASA Anniversary, too....


What a month! Earlene Rentz Online Publications has had a record-setting month in August. As of this writing, we have had more than three times the sales of past years, and there is more of August on the calendar! EROP has been in business since the very end of 2011, and so much has happened with the choral music market and technology since that day in 2011 when we began this incredible journey. Mine seemed to be the first of its kind back then, and that is no longer the case. I wanted to start a business that would allow me to live "in the middle of nowhere," avoid the post office (done!....that journey took about an hour of the day for travel), sell the music (done!), send immediately to customer (done!), and receive money for payment (done!)...all in two seconds. We did it, and the journey has been wonderful. I love my lyricists, and I am looking forward to another great year with this company. The move to Texas has been great for business....totally great. I really appreciate Texas choral directors welcoming me warmly into the state.

Brian, Jan, Me

August has also been special because of other reasons...one of which was a special visit from good friends and fellow choral directors Brian and Jan Knutson from Wisconsin. They braved the Houston heat, came for a visit, and requested a possible visit to NASA's Houston Space Center. Uh....Yes! As you know, July was a marvelous anniversary month (50th) for the moon landing, and because I am in Houston, I sometimes hear about friends who were involved in that event. For example, a friend from my church was Gene Kranz's right-hand-man during the mission. His wife was my husband's secretary when he was pastor of South Main Baptist Church. I had no idea of this connection with the Space Center and history, but how interesting!

On one of the NASA tours, we had a wonderful presentation, with all of Mission Control restored to its form (flowers, stations, ash trays, and board data) from that historic day...July 20, 1969. We sat in an observation room above MC, and I remembered that one of my friends (now deceased) from California's NASA site (their chief contractor, in fact) had sat in this very room, and I was again connected to my personal history.




We also saw where the future begins to formulate in the minds of those whose future goal is to train astronauts and to put Americans on Mars. I have no idea about the purpose of the equipment, but the NASA facility is a huge campus, and I am certain that there were reasons for all of the contents of the training room.

Astronaut Training Facility

I was impressed with the intricacies of many of the older rockets...tubes! The rockets were huge, and I hope these photos give you an idea of the scope and power these giant rockets represent. 






The thing I remember most from the day...when these brave men were sent into space the very first time...their fuel? Kerosene and liquid oxygen! Are you kidding? We had kerosene heaters when I grew up! I had no idea kerosene was that powerful...mixed with liquid oxygen? Whoa....what a combination. I suppose I had expected something a little more sophisticated, but no....those brave souls went way out into space on very basic fuels. The minds behind the missions and the use of those fuels were the most impressive ever! Scientists whose brains were so genius and so hungry for "the unknown" they were willing to give their all to the exploration of whatever was "out there" in the universe. And....yes....sometimes it didn't work out well. To see the tears of mission directors and sense their anguish was also part of this moving day. To sense their pain and despair led to a memorial moment all its own.

Well....one thing "out there" was a moon rock. So...I had a new experience...I touched a moon rock...one of about 13 or so in the world. Maybe you can see it...well-worn from thousands touching it, too. Great photo of Brian's hand touching it.....it was dark in the room.

Look really hard to see the moon rock!

Of all the emotions I had that day, the primary one was "pride" and "admiration." I admired the bravery and courage of those men who 50+ years ago wanted to explore the unknown, and allowed those on earth to put them into another atmosphere....just to have information up-close about things that are far away. I was proud that there was a curiosity in Americans who climbed aboard a rather small vessel.....

...not knowing if they were ever return to the planet on which their families lived. In addition, I was amazed at the rather crude, but still impressive beginnings...

The Redstone Rocket (Early Rocket)

...and certainly I was in admiration of the wonderful minds like Katherine Johnson (Hidden Figures), friends Spencer Gardner and Leland Bethers, and thousands of others whose names I do not know, who went to work every day....after day....after day....after day....not knowing if the request of President Kennedy was actually possible or not...and not knowing the realistic consequences of pushing ahead. But....they....did....it. 


For me, the entire experience was inspirational. It gives me incentive to strive for those things the world may not understand, but knowing for me, the goals I reach are delightful in my mind, just because they are. We've come a long way in many areas of knowledge, but there is always so much more to learn. I relish that quality in my work. I am so proud of those who have the same delight in their chosen paths of professional delight....those at NASA accomplishing goals I might not be able to appreciate in all implications for the planet, but they know why they do these things....and they continue to "do it."



THANK YOU! I am a proud American.




Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Great Time Was Had at TCDA!



I enjoyed being at the Texas Choral Directors Association Convention last week in San Antonio. Earlene Rentz Online Publications had a booth at the event, and I think I finally figured out why we all go to convention before the school year begins. Yes...we find music for the following school year, but...the greatest part is "the people."

People.....like Wanetta Hill.
Wanetta

Wanetta is one of the wonderful lyricists I have depended on with EROP. She had major illness and surgery last spring, and her life was in jeopardy for a while, but she made it to TCDA to bring delight, energy, expertise, and personal interaction to the EROP booth. She certainly could have cancelled her TCDA trip, and had I been in her shoes, I probably would have done just that....but....she pushed on, staying at the booth with me constantly, accompanying, conducting, and just being SUPERWOMAN!! She is one of the most selfless persons I have ever encountered, and I love her for her kindness, tenacity, and support. She is totally great!

People.....like Gary Packwood.

Gary is totally delightful. I love him. He is the Director of Choral Activities at Mississippi State University in Starkville. We have worked together in the past for a choral clinic there at the school, and I can tell you that his students work incredibly hard for him. I have never seen a group of students with such "purpose" and "drive." The "drive" part is literal...they were driving us all over that campus, getting us from rehearsal to rehearsal in a golf cart. His students were so fun....so very, very fun....and focused...but then....that's who Gary is for all of us: fun, focused, inspirational, professional, positive, funny, and he is a tremendous choral director. Those same students cleaned up after working like trojans (or Bulldogs!), changed to tuxedos, and sang their hearts out. Wonderful students!

People.....like Mark Buley.

I was so fortunate to see Mark at TCDA, as he was working for American Classic Tours and Music Festivals in San Antonio. Mark was a graduate assistant when I taught at UT-Austin, and I have never met a nicer human being. To hear all the wonderful things his children are doing in music was thrilling, heartening, and delightful. Mark is a wonderful band director, but he is doing something different now, as am I. We had this element of our journey in common, and we find great joy in doing the new things in our lives. It was so good to re-connect with Mark.

People......like Victor Johnson and Tammy Benton.

Wanetta, Victor, Tammy, and me

As if the critical health problems of Wanetta Hill were not enough, our wonderful, gifted composer friend Victor Johnson also met with acute health challenges during last year. We prayed both of these individuals through some really tough times, and they are both walking miracles of the power of Love. You can call the "Source" whatever you choose, but we are so fortunate to have both of these lovely humans happily walking among us. I am filled with gratitude for their lives and their recoveries. 

And then there is sweet, wonderful, hilarious Tammy Benton. The only student I have had to-date who told a group of middle schoolers to form their "Ooo" vowels like the "Ooo" in Coors! I truly choked on that one. Call me weird, but I wasn't ready for that one, folks. She came up with another word very quickly, but "Coors" was already out of the bag. I'll never forget it. What a hoot! Tammy is a tremendous middle school choral director. She just teaches herself silly in the classroom, and her students sing like a dream. They are totally involved in the learning process, and she connects effectively with all ages and groups....but particularly the boys' ensembles. Really? Yes....REALLY! She is amazing. She conducted in my session, and she had another session, too. She just can't stop! I wish I had her energy. She is amazing.

People.....like "the Icons."

In between Wanetta and me you see two persons who have been a part of TCDA for decades....Rene Brain and Debbie Talley. There are so many icons in choral music who have contributed to this great organization as directors, accompanists, music industry representations, etc., who attend TCDA and contribute their gifts and professionalism consistently. The art work (background) throughout the Convention Center is amazing...sculptures of Texans' contributions to education, science, and life in general are on display. It is truly a beautiful venue.

Personally, it was great to be back in Texas, attending TCDA for the first time in seven or eight years. I was in Kentucky for several years, and it was just a bit difficult to get to San Antonio every year in the middle of summer. It was great to be back. It was great to see old friends. It was great to make new friends. It was "all good," as they say. So...until next year, "Farewell, and joy be to you all." See you again at TCDA/2020.




Monday, July 8, 2019

New Additions for Fall/2019 from EROP



What a busy year for Earlene Rentz Online Publications and me! A move back to Texas makes the "highlight reel," but there were other decisions made about EROP that you might find interesting:

1) Rehearsal Preparation Sheets - These materials are sort of my "signature" creations in support of music educators who purchase my music. I "built" every piece on the site, note by note, rhythm by rhythm. You can think of me as a "musical mason" of sorts, because I am always writing with the idea of musical concepts I might be able to teach through the study of a composition. Therefore, I can identify the places in my music where difficulty might occur and know how to "take the students through it." Rehearsal Preparation Sheets consist of a few exercises that move the student toward mastery. Sometimes it is helpful to know where my head was at the time of writing. I have always found that when students understand a piece more effectively, they sing the piece with greater purpose, emotion, and clarity. It makes sense to them, once they "know." Don't worry. I'll leave you several things to "fix" as well, but I do enjoy helping you with my Rehearsal Preparation Sheets!

Take a look at this sample:


2) Videos - I have recorded several videos you can locate on You Tube for separate titles that introduce you and your students to the music...where it came from...why it was important...how it took shape, etc. Just put the title, my name, and do a search. My incentive might have been based on the things happening in the world and in my life at the time of composition. Be assured, world events and personal events do affect my composition of music. When enlightened as to the ways they have affected the music, it all makes more sense. I give many of these bits of information through the videos.

Take a look at this video for EROP's holiday best seller, For Unto Us a Child is Born. You can acquaint yourself with my thinking process as I was writing the arrangement.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ERt-Mv9mq4

3) Somehow in all of the hustle and bustle of moving, I have managed to write a few more pieces in 2019, and I wanted you to know of the titles, with links for location. Since January, I have written the following:

Be Thou My Vision  - SATB

The Star-Spangled Banner - SATB

Imagination - 2-Part

A Pippadoodle Day - (Unison/2-Part)

Il etait une bergere (There Was a Shepherdess)- 2-Part

There are more compositions that are currently being written, and one commission must be held back because of "rights of first performance." The ethical "rules" for a commission call for such. Those chorals will be added as soon as ethics are fulfilled.

Enjoy visiting Earlene Rentz Online Publications. Having my own business has been a great challenge and it has been incredible fun. Visit our website often. I hope you will find something that would be great for you and your choral situation. If you do not find "it," let me know exactly what you are looking for on the site. Sing on, my friends!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

EROP at Texas Choral Directors Association Convention!

As of this morning, Earlene Rentz Online Publications is "good to go" in Texas! What a journey! I've found out that moving a residence and a business is quite involved on all counts. After more than two months, it seems that things are getting in place with the bank, the Post Office, the Secretary of State, the Comptroller, and everyone in-between. Big relief, big exhale, and a grateful heart! I am reminded that we really cannot get much done in this world without the assistance of nice people. Yes, there are "others" along the way, but it is so great to be in touch with someone who loves the job they have. It makes all the difference in the world.

So...I wanted to make you aware of a few things coming up in July. I will be sharing my work efforts from a job I love tremendously. I will be presenting a reading session at the Texas Choral Directors Convention on July 26 in San Antonio, 12:45-1:45 PM. We will be in Room CC302, and we will read through 15 choral music octavos that have been written during the past year (the rules). The content will be both sacred and school music.

Two marvelous choral directors, Mrs. Tammy Benton and Mrs. Wanetta Hill will be assisting in the session. Tammy is my former student who teaches at Midway Middle School in Midway ISD (Waco) and is an incredible specialist in boys' choirs. She will also conduct other voicings for middle school students. Wanetta is a recently retired choral director at Champion High School in Boerne, Texas. She is a marvelous person and an outstanding choral director who writes lyrics for many of my choral settings in both sacred and secular categories. Both of these ladies' choirs have won Sweepstakes in numerous UIL Competitions in Texas. They are wonderful friends and choral directors.

For all 15 pieces that will be presented at this session, I have created Rehearsal Preparation Sheets. These materials are sort of my "thing" to contribute to music education. I actually go through and teach the piece for the choral director. Why? Because I "built" the piece from the ground-up...every note and every rhythm. I write the piece with the question in mind: "How would I go about teaching this section?" It is just much easier for me to create these materials, then teachers can use their very valuable rehearsal time doing other things...like creating phrases that will melt your soul.

Earlene Rentz Online Publications will also have a booth!! Come by and see us at #6068. We would love to meet you and hear your ideas about possible choral pieces for the future. It's all good and you are the persons we want to please with our compositions next year.

See you in San Antonio!! Come by the booth! Come to our session!

Friday, July 26, 12:45-1:45, Room CC 302
Booth #6068 (Exhibit Hall)

See you there!!!!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I'm in Houston!

This blog post is written to let all of you know that Earlene Rentz Online Publications is now operating out of Houston, TX. I lived in Houston before moving to Kentucky, and because of the huge Texas choral music market, I decided to return to create a life here in Texas.

It has been a joy to be back in the place where Bill and I began our lives together almost 20 years ago. I have reconnected with friends, and I do feel at peace and at home here in Houston. One of the most wonderful aspects of being back is to once again be a member of South Main Baptist Church, Bill's pastorate for 17 years before retirement.

Dr. Steve Wells, me, and Rev. Susan Moore

My pastor is now Dr. Steve Wells, and South Main has a terrific team of ministers (like Rev. Moore) who are nice, competent, delightful people, serving this storied congregation with compassion, clarity, and "mindful direction" for the future. There is a rich history at South Main Baptist Church, and I am delighted to be a part of it again.

Of course, I needed to find some way to use my gifts in music, so I am singing in the choir with Dr. Carey Cannon, a former soloist with the U. S. Army Chorus who has been Minister of Music at South Main for six years. His experience is rich, and he has sung with some of the best choral musicians in the nation in various points along his professional journey. Next year, I will conduct the Women's Choir at South Main, and in the near future, I'll be writing a commissioned choral piece for the church. There is always something to be done with using "personal gifts" in a church environment. For me, it happened quickly!!

...with Dr. Carey Cannon

All-in-all, I am amazed that life sometimes presents opportunities that we wouldn't dream in a million years. The interesting thing is that before my Bill passed in 2017, he looked at me and said, "You might want to go back to South Main one day." I didn't say anything, because that was too much for me to think about at the time. However, he was right...he was very right, and I am so grateful he planted the "seed" of consideration for a move back to Houston. It has all been so good for me.

As always in running my business, the best way to be in touch with me is simply by using my email address (earlenerentz@yahoo.com). In addition, visit my website for a look at new arrangements and compositions. Browse our entire catalog, and please write me if you need to ask questions regarding the choral repertoire for sale. I have begun including orchestral scores with the complimentary materials, so that is a real plus for my site.

I celebrate this "season" of my life. I celebrate kind friends who have embraced me as a new resident again here in Houston. I celebrate my supportive friends and colleagues, too, as they are indeed precious, and have been angels of mercy to me in my recent life's journey. I appreciate all of you more than can be imagined, but I hope you will try to imagine arms of gratitude reaching out to you all. That is exactly how I feel about all of you.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Carowinds...the breath, the tone, the phrase

Marc Setzer, Me, Bob Holquist

I really enjoyed myself this past weekend. I had the privilege of listening and adjudicating several choirs at the Carowinds Festival of Music in Charlotte, North Carolina. There were several very good choirs, and I enjoyed hearing all the wonderful things going on in choral classrooms in North and South Carolina.  The adjudicating team was Dr. Robert Holquist, Professor Marc Setzer, and me. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my two colleagues, and when we began discussing generalities, I realized that we all said pretty much the same things in different ways.

I generally have mixed emotions as I adjudicate choirs. I believe that encouragement is needed in our educational system for students and teachers. I want to be constructive when I adjudicate, so that choirs can make some improvements in the future. There is a standard, and integrity demands that the standard be upheld. However, if I might suggest one thing to a choir or its director that will make a difference in their performance, I try to find that "thing" that might be most beneficial to the group as a whole.

I am reminded of a couple of things, however. I think I said the same things all day long...not because it was all I knew to say...I said the things because I heard so many of the same issues from all the choirs. They were the same things I have always heard from Solo/Ensemble performers and Festival choirs. Do any of you other choral directors have that issue? I am reminded that choirs so often have the same challenges year-to-year-to-year...choir-to-choir-to-choir...and I find that my colleagues and I often say very similar things to develop improvement. We just say things in our own ways. The good thing is that sincere interest in improvement is our goal, and we try to convey that to the choirs and directors.

In my opinion, there were three concerns regarding techniques that were consistent across the board for most choirs:

1) The breath - Our bodies are our vocal instruments. We cannot even get started until there is breath to set the entire mechanism in motion. So...how do we do this? Well, the first thing is to teach students how to breathe. Yes...that wonderful diaphragm session. In the midst of becoming familiar with this glorious muscle, we must teach students how to use it in the process of singing. That is, singers should support the sound. What should students do to support a musical tone? There are many ways to teach this vocal technique (one for every vocal instructor, I think), and I've found that it basically comes down to however the teacher might have been taught. Funny, huh? There really isn't too much that makes sense about support, but something in the body must be done so that there is some control to the amount of air that comes rushing out of the lungs. We might not be able to "see" the support happening, but we certainly know when it is not present. 

2) The tone - The good news is that once you get the breath in good working order, the issues with tone will likely be resolved as well. Without the appropriate breath support, the tone may become thin, "throaty," or "chesty." What is a good tone? Well, it is a supported tone. So...this issue is interwoven with "the breath," and the chances are...once you "fix" one, you "fix" both. That's good news!! I almost forgot...in order to get a good tone, try opening the mouth, dropping the jaw, and creating space so that the sound can resonate like the body of a guitar and its strings.

3) The phrase - Once you get a substantial breath that produces a good tone in the singing voice, it's time to sing! It is important to sing phrases musically. So...what does that mean? I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you of several considerations for singing a phrase musically. First, the phrase must begin a bit softer than its apex, grow, reach the apex, then taper off. What determines the apex? Well, sometimes it is the highest note of the phrase. Sometimes it is the longest duration. Sometimes it is the most important syllable of the spoken phrase. Sometimes it is a combination of all of those. Underneath the overall arc of the phrase is the fact that sometimes (depending on the style) each note should have the same movement as the phrase. Every note should begin, grow so that the loudest portion of the note is the middle of the note, then it should taper off (I learned this from singing with Robert Shaw). All within an 8th note?? Yes...all within an 8th note. You can hear this happening! Try it with a nice, legato piece of music. You will hear it! Yes...this is a mental thing, but it truly makes a difference in the musical direction of phrases. Okay...so....try it!

As I write all of these things, I am reminded that I am the perennial student. Learning never stops...even at my (ahem) "age." We are always looking for "the next thing" to finally "realize" in the profession of music. I love adjudicating. I love to trying to help students to sing better and feel better about their performance on the concert stage. The only bad thing? I will never get to hear if anything I or my colleagues said that made a difference in how choirs perform on Monday morning. I would love to hear that. I want to hear that something I said in some way made a student sound better in choir.

So...because I truly am interested...come back to Carowinds next year! Maybe I'll be there again! The roller coaster! The screams! The choirs! Are you kidding me? There is no way you could get me on that roller coaster...











Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Kentucky Castle

The Kentucky Castle

One of my favorite places to visit is The Kentucky Castle. It is a landmark visible to all on the infamous Versailles Road near my home. I have not met a soul in almost 20 years of Kentucky living who is unfamiliar with this unique structure. Most would not know of its storied past. Long story short: a man built the castle for his wife, and before its completion, things "did not work out." Then...the castle began a journey of owner to owner to owner, etc. You get the idea. However, The Kentucky Castle is now thriving. It is a favorite place for brunches, dinners, parties, meetings, and weekend get-aways.

The Castle is now a restaurant and hotel, filled with the unique delights of rooftop vistas, beautiful decor, a bar, and a gift shop. Oh...and did I mention an organic garden? Yes! The new owners of this landmark facility participate in organic gardening and host a community farmer's market during the summer. Kentucky is finally making wonderful use of The Castle on Versailles Road!!

  Organic Garden

 





One of the surprises of a recent visit was that two of the cutest goats were there to roam around the organic garden. Yes, the restaurant has plans for those two little cuties for the future, but I was so thrilled to see "small creatures" entertained on the castle grounds.


Castle Goats

You might think that such a place would only be a dinner spot, but no ma'am! There is a wonderful brunch every day, and the food is totally delicious. My cousin Catherine Bryant from Henry County (New Castle), Kentucky, joined me for our last get-together before my move to Texas. Sooo fun! It is a great place to take your special guests from out-of-town. Everyone is so kind, and The Kentucky Castle is "on the ball" with making sure reservations are correct and confirmed. 

Earlene and Catherine

Am I whetting your apetite for a Kentucky Castle experience? I hope so!! Please do not worry about wearing your marvelous evening attire for a visit into royalty. Leave your tiara at home (actually, you can purchase one in their gift shop, if you choose). Business casual attire is just fine, and the staff is always ready to make your experience delightful.


If you just want to rest, contemplate the universe, and walk the grounds, the gardens and lawns are extraordinary for a stroll. I hope you will choose to visit this wonderful place away from all that is "the norm." Just step back into medieval times, and take a few minutes to see the result of someone's creative image of royalty befitting a loved one. There is one thing we know for sure: This entire experience is truly "working out" for many of us who take a few moments to step back into history, and find an enjoyable experience...of royal dimensions.