Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sometimes, I'm just so, so proud...

CMT Artist of the Year Awards


Kimberly Schlapman...Amazing Lady!!

Kimberly Schlapman (pictured on the right at the recent Stand Up to Cancer event) totally surprised me one day in our South Habersham Junior High School Choir (I was the choral director)...she told me she was going to audition for the All-State Choir!! What? Kimberly was so shy and soft-spoken that she rarely could be heard, and when she told me her name was "Kimberly"....many voices in the choir came forth with a boisterous "Her name is 'Kim!'" Whereupon, Kimberly just looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and mouthed, "Kim." I thought to myself, "Isn't this sad. This child would like to be known by her entire first name, and she is acquiescing to the demands of classmates." I would have been happy to call Kimberly anything she chose, but she knew that to respond too strongly against some "vocal"  classmates would have caused an uproar.

Well...Kimberly is causing an uproar these days...an uproar of thunderous applause, cheering, awards beyond belief, and absolute admiration. Oh...and Kimberly did audition for the All-State Choir, and she was successful not only that year, but every year she auditioned! Yes...she surprised me then...and a few other times as well.  The next year, our choir sang for the Southern Division ACDA convention in Atlanta as a demonstration choir, and Kimberly was the soprano soloist for the Kyrie of Schubert's Mass in G. In the "Christe" section, I told her there was a certain passage that only professional singers could "hold over" and not take a breath.Well...don't you know...she had never made that phrase without a breath in our rehearsals...but come the performance, and Whammo! Done! What????!!!! Okay...at that point I knew we had someone really special in our choir.

So...Kimberly went on winning international singing competitions, continuing her study of voice, and quietly doing just as she "jolly well" chose to do. She kept on achieving, achieving, and achieving. One day, I received a call from Bobby Ivey, her choral director for her senior year in high school, and in the phone call, he told me that "Kim wants to be a singer." Well....I totally didn't "get it." I said, "Okay...that's great...she is a singer"....but...I didn't know what he meant. 

Later on, to my surprise, I was singing with the Lexington Singers here in Kentucky, and I was on my elliptical exercising one day at lunch before a rehearsal that evening. I heard where a group called Little Big Town was singing in a Christmas concert with us. I thought that was the group Kimberly had in Nashville, but because the name was so "unique," I had been trying to find the band "Big Little House" on the internet.  Well...nothing turned up....Ha Ha.😩 I went to the Little Big Town website, and though I hadn't seen Kimberly in many years, I could tell it was she. I couldn't believe it! I had no idea!! Since it was a city-wide event with the orchestra, it seems that they frequently invited groups to share the stage with the orchestra and choir. Okay....this was somewhere around 2003. We re-connected, and it was so, so enjoyable to see her having a great time singing professionally.

Well..."the rest is history," as they say. I have watched Kimberly's achievements with great admiration and knowledge of her incredible courage and work-ethic. Her bandmate Jimi said it well, " She is one of the most "compassionate" human beings on the planet. Yes...I know first-hand. When my husband passed away, I receive texts from Kimberly, expressing her condolences, giving me strength for the journey ahead that was all-too-familiar to her. It was such an encouragement for me to see Kimberly smile, and know that I, too, might smile again one day.

So...to see Kimberly receive one of the CMT Artist of the Year awards Wednesday evening was a joy beyond words. I know she has worked like a trojan to get where she is at this point. Life has not been easy at times. She has more inner drive, courage, determination, love for music, love for people, and appreciation for the good things in her life as compared to anyone in the world. Yes...I am proud of all of my former students. Many of them are living beautiful lives, enjoying music, singing, directing choirs, encouraging their children (and grandchildren) to sing...so many are products of the best facets of our music education philosophy. Kimberly has delighted me in that she gracefully, lovingly, and beautifully embraces an international platform to "change the world." For many of us who do not have that opportunity, we are grateful for her voice as she spreads joy and light in a dark, dark world.



I am so thrilled to know that I might have contributed just a bit to her being able to experience life in all its fullness, and Kimberly, I want you to know that you have earned the right to be called exactly whatever you choose...by everyone...for the rest of your life. Congratulations, Dear Heart! Enjoy these days of musical bliss and all the wonderful ones to follow. Love you!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wexford Carol ("What Were You Thinking?")


The Holidays...

I just love the Wexford Carol. It is a beautiful Irish carol, and it is filled with musical substance. If you research a bit, you will hear many different versions of this carol. It was originally written in Mixolydian mode, but some versions go back and forth from minor to major tonalities. It is so interesting that I liked all versions. However, as a music educator, I must think about which version might be the most successful with younger singers.

In all my years of teaching elementary and middle school-aged children, I never sang the Wexford Carol. I didn't even know it existed. Why? I have no clue, but...my guess is that Mixolydian mode was "not the norm" in the ears of elementary and middle school students. At any rate, I am glad that I continued to search, because I found that other arrangers "heard" a few changes in harmony that seemed to assist singers in finding a tonal center in this carol. The first time I heard "Wexford" came as the result of a request from a friend who wanted to make a fellow lawyer from Wexford feel welcome in his law firm. I wrote out the melody so someone could play it on the flute at the firm's holiday party. Interesting, huh? 

The text of the Wexford Carol is sacred...Mary, Baby, manger, Lord, etc. I realized that this text might be prohibited in some schools, so I wrote a secular version, and you can hear it on my website. I really think this is a beautiful tune, and I want students to sing it!

I "hear" this piece as a sort of medieval style....slow madrigal, etc., so I put some of the early instrument sounds in combination with the piano to create a special "effect." The hand drum ostinato moves the arrangement along. The flute plays several countermelodies, and is sometimes in harmony with the piano...all for effect. The finger cymbals (or a triangle is just fine, too) are a "punctuation" to phrases, creating a bit of expectation for the listener.

The Wexford Carol is available from Earlene Rentz Online Publications in voicings for 3-Part Mixed, 2-Part, and Unison.

In addition, I created a short video to assist teachers in teaching the singers.

Enjoy a holiday with the Irish!!

A Suite of Three Seasons ("What Were You Thinking?")


 Dr. Earlene Rentz

Wanetta Hill provided lyrics for this short three-movement suite celebrating the seasons. It is available in 2-Part Voicing from Earlene Rentz Online Publications.

The Movements in A Suite of Three Seasons are as follows:
Movement I - Winter Wonder
Movement II - Fall
Movement III - Spring

1) Winter Wonder - The form of this movement is a very succinct ABA. The first section creates the imagery of the delicate falling snowflakes of winter...soft, beautiful, gently falling. Section Two brings the more abrupt movement of the snowflakes as they are hurled, swirled, and twirled by the wind. Section A returns with the gentle snowflakes and with a "surprise" on the final chord. Winter always brings a surprise with the weather at some point. The final choral provides it in this setting.

2) Fall - The gentle rustling of the fall leaves is the scene I try to create with the music in "Fall." Also, the constant movement and circular feel is reminiscent of the raking of leaves and their movement in the air. Again, a "surprise" in the chord at the end to unify the work as a whole.

3) Spring - This is probably the most challenging of the three movements. In fact, Wanetta has included a French phrase, and the pronunciation guide is free with the purchase of the music. The accompaniment brings the sleeping plants, flowers, and trees to life, and color is popping out all over. Imitation is used as the compositional technique to create energy and total involvement from the ensemble.

Please listen to the wonderful singers from The Lodge Recording Studios in Indianapolis as they perform this suite of nature's wonders.

I also made a short video in the "What Were You Thinking?" series about A Suite of Three Seasons that may contain helpful information for your performance.

Enjoy this imagery-filled octavo from Earlene Rentz Online Publications!




Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Considering Matthew Shepard

What an Evening!!


Last night was an absolutely incredible evening! Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare were in town to perform Craig's amazing composition Considering Matthew Shepard. I have known Craig since 1990 when we both arrived as "rookie" professors at The University of Texas at Austin. I also sang in the very first "Conspirare" group...though it was called the "New Texas Festival Chorus." I have worked with many, many gifted musicians over my more-than-six-decades, but Craig Hella Johnson stands out as one of the...very...most...gifted. He is totally incredible. Whether we were singing Bach's "Mass in B Minor" or Brahms' "Ein deutsches Requiem," it was all a journey in unique interpretation and new emotional responses to a familiar score.

Many of you may remember the tragic story of Matt Shepard, a beautiful gay man in Wyoming, who in 1998 was left to die by a fence in Laramie. After fourteen years, much extensive research with those most closely connected with Matt's life and legacy, and emotional, gut-wrenching thought, Craig finally put the "pen to the paper" and created a unique, powerful work of art, the likes of which I have never seen or heard. Amazing voices (a former student...Kathlene Ritch was one of those incredible voices), gut-wrenching, real, and artistically tasteful descriptions of a night that changed the nation...with a subsequent discussion that explored the reality of "improvement," legislation achieved as a result of the work of Matthew's parents, and the need for more work to be done in hearts and legislation to eradicate hate and bigotry. We must replace those negative components with love....pure and simple...love.

Conspirare is on tour this year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tragic event concerning Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. My point in writing: to encourage all of you to attend this performance and enter into an evening of introspection, sorrow, conviction, and bold empowerment to change those things that can be changed in our corner of the world. You will hear more musical styles than the heart can fathom...avant garde, jazz, hymn, gregorian chant, pop, country...the list could go on and on, and every style speaks to our hearts as we are able to understand and respond. As one of the attendee's said, "Some of our students were attending this to get 'concert credit,' and I could tell they were blown away by what they heard."

The good news about Considering Matthew Shepard is that everyone to whom I spoke following the concert was "blown away" by this extraordinary composition and performance. We all arrived with uncertain expectations, and left with hearts that had been filled to capacity over and over during the evening...tears flowed, anger seethed, love and pain entered. In the end, I think we all departed, inspired to be better, do better, and love... more.

Thank you, dear friend...

Friday, October 5, 2018

Three New Chorals from EROP


The three EROP chorals listed below are brand new. I haven't even had time to get to the studio to record these with "real" voices, but I wanted you to listen to them as possibilities for your holiday or spring concerts. I'll get to the recordings soon.

Go Tell It On the Mountain
My students really inspire me. One of my wonderful students, Tammy Benton (a Texan...you've probably heard her Middle School Boys' Choir at national and regional ACDA conventions), told me that arrangements of Christmas carols for TTB/TB are needed...so....I began with Go Tell It On the Mountain (TTB). There is a voicing for TB as well. This arrangement is in a jazzy, gospel swing style, with some easy syncopation. There is a slower middle section that sings of the manger, etc. The last section mirrors Section I in its rhythmic style. I think your guys will enjoy singing this fun "toe-tapper."

O Come, All Ye Faithful
I've always loved this carol. I wanted to write this arrangement for males, but when I started working with it, it only "worked" for treble voices...SSAA, SSA, 2-Part, and Unison. I have no idea why that happened, but I learned a long time ago that I should not force a setting in one particular voicing, if I didn't really like it. I wanted this piece to be strong and convictional, and the treble voices made this happen for me. There are some unique harmonies, because I have learned that my arrangement must be different from everyone else's. So...I "go with it" now. I like the descant I added for SSA, 2-Part, and Unison voicings. In the SSAA, I worked the descant into Soprano I. A powerful arrangement, and it works for large or small groups. It works for most church choirs. The "season" is on its way!

The Skies Remember
"He and she, separated by the sea"...Katia Madsen wrote these lyrics, inspired by a friend whose husband was deployed in the military. These days, there are many reasons for couples to be away from each other...employment, family illness, opportunities elsewhere that require commitment for a season, etc. In these very challenging times, families find courage in knowing there is a common sun, moon, and many stars that are visible to both individuals. We wish you courage... Available in SATB, SAB, and SSA.

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I hope you will visit our website, listen to these brand new pieces, and also browse the entire site for your choral needs.

The website sells PDF files of choral and instrumental music (orchestrations). Directors may make multiple copies for your school or church choir. Keep the file for replacement copies for those precious souls who inevitably "misplace" their music (as I get a bit older, I'm understanding those singers much better!).

Happy Singing, Happy Lives!! Enjoy EROP....