Thursday, February 11, 2021
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Whew! I wondered if I would make it through a few weeks of the current pandemic, and it seems almost unbelievable that we have all been at this for almost a year! Wow! In all my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined the altering of a lifestyle that has been mine for decades. We have truly realized the depths of our stamina, strength, inner resolve, patience, anger threshold, resilience, values, and the list could go on...and on...and on. In short, we have gotten to know ourselves!!
I think I said this in an earlier post, but if not, the recall is worth it to me. My grandmother had three sons in World War II stationed in the Philippines, Germany, and Peru. She never knew if they were dead or alive...no television, FaceTime, email, Facebook, few telephones, etc. She would get an occasional letter from her sons weeks after they were written, but otherwise...nothing. My grandmother made it through that time in her life and her family's life. It must have been excruciating, but she made it through, and...I never once heard her complain.
I really thought "meaningful work" was on my side, and so I did the only thing I knew to do...I continued writing music. I have found out that whining is totally unacceptable. EVERYONE IS GOING THROUGH THE SAME STUFF!! The greatest generation showed us how to manage adversity without whining. I truly believe I became acquainted with the fact that I could honor my heritage by not whining. Of course, with the COVID vaccine "in the vicinity," though not received personally, it still makes it a little easier to be hopeful.
Amazingly, I found that this period of time in my life was quite a "productive product-producing pandemic." How do you like that alliteration? There was still music to write, hope to be shared, questions to be asked, values to examine, wisdom to be collected, and feelings to be channeled. In short, life continued.
I'm a small business, and you might wonder if I experienced negative business results. Well, no one was singing for a while, and then most people began to sing the good-ole'-standbys, so yes...my small business did indeed take a hit, as did other small businesses. You might wonder if I received governmental assistance. No, I didn't...for this reason: the people who were being assisted were those who could no longer do their jobs, and I could still write music. Yes, I spoke with the higher-ups, and that is what they said. So...I suppose I could have stopped writing music and then applied for some such benefit, but I could still do my job! Music-writing goes to the very core of me, and I really cannot "do life" happily without writing music. I can't stop, good people...I just can't stop!
I have tried to be creative as far as the places where I might go for creative ideas. Yes....you heard me. I've been forced to rely on some creative ways to research and create a creative product (another short alliteration)...prayers spoken in worship, websites that promote new public domain materials, examining realistic possibilities of old hymns of my childhood (see if you still agree with the theology that made so much sense 50 years ago!), etc. In short, I've had to creatively maintain my sanity. When I can't "organize sounds" any longer, I head to the jigsaw puzzle or a crossword, organizing in silence. All the while, finding the right note for the right word that moves me in "just the right way."
I wouldn't want to go through 2020 again for any reason under the great big yellow sun, but the truth is that I do have hope for 2021. I have hope that there will be a better tomorrow, and as we get ready to celebrate Martin Luther King Day tomorrow, I am setting the beautiful words of James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)...The Gift to Sing.
Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day -
I softly sing.
I'm not sure I could have gotten through this past year without the gift of song. I sang it, I created it, and I comforted myself with it. Thankfully, others comforted me, too. Cameron Cody, Music Director at Chapelwood Methodist Church here in Houston ministered to to me in a huge way. He and all his folks at Cameron Cody Music had webcasts several times a week of old gospel-style music that reached into my heart to heal the frustrations. The music was that of my childhood, and it took me back to my roots and formation as a musician and a human being. The old hymns, and old faith, and old theology molded me into a person who could handle a pandemic! That is really significant.
May 2021 be the year of healing and health for you and yours. May this country be healed to continue its path in wisdom, love, acceptance, and kindness. May we all find the place of healing in our souls as we "softly sing."
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
I loved working on the 14th Century Carol, Personent Hodie, for TTB Voices. When an arranger writes for TTB voices, we are generally thinking "Middle School," though many adult choirs could sing this piece effectively as well. Why? Accessibility...and because the primary concern of most middle school choral directors is holiday music for TTB.
There was an initial problem with accessibility in creating the piece for TTB. The range of the entire melody was not accessible to all TTB middle school voices, so I passed it around to different sections, according to accessibility. In the "refrain," all of the voices come together, using lots of unisons and duets. In other words, the arrangement is indeed accessible to middle school.
As you know, Personent Hodie is a carol from the medieval period, which generally means that accompanying instruments like hand drum, recorder, and finger cymbals also come along with it. Every arrangement I heard used these instruments, it seemed. I could have written out a part or ostinato for these instruments as well, but I wanted my arrangement to be different. For once, I wanted you and your students to choose improvisation! I did not give my students opportunities to improvise as I taught middle school and high school. I regret that fact. Actually, I was better at providing improvisational opportunities when I taught in elementary school! I was an Orff instructor, and many of the performance possibilities with Orff involved improvisation. When I "moved up" (I LOVED elementary school...I didn't want to move), I found myself more rigid and less likely to let students sing anything in choral music that was not on the page. So....now is your chance to allow students to improvise a bit, using the medieval instrument effects provided by a recorder, hand drum, and finger cymbals.
At first glance, Personent Hodie appears to be in the key of e-minor, but wait...there is a constant C#. The key is actually in Dorian Mode, and more specifically, this piece is in E-Dorian (E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D, E). Have students sing through this mode a few times to get the sound of Dorian "in the ear."
Now the recorder: I have written this arrangement with open block chords at the beginning. I think it would be great to allow a recorder player to improvise in E-Dorian with all sorts of fun scalar patterns for Verse 1. Because the piano becomes more active in the subsequent verses, the recorder might play some imitative five note patterns in Dorian Mode. Another option: The more active the piano gets, the recorder might want to play longer notes....whole and half notes, etc. Your choice. I just want students to have fun performing this piece with their own improvisation. You are actually creating your own performance.
Have fun with this arrangement! Is it right? Yes, it's right! It's your performance product, and during these days of the "unconventional," you can create your own "norm." Enjoy!!!
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Friday, October 30, 2020
This is such a strange time in our personal and political lives. Of all the issues I thought we might have in the past four years, a pandemic was not one of those. It was one of those things, when mentioned, I sort of always passed off, saying, "Oh, we don't need to worry about that. We'll be fine." I wasn't even entirely sure what it meant, and the "meaning" was something I could not envision. I never dreaded a pandemic. These situations have always been remedied. Well, that's just how short-sighted I was in understanding how global effects of disease might "come home to roost." We're still "stuck in the yuck." And, yes...I'm tired of it, too.
As far as politics might go, I don't think I've ever seen such paranoia, fear, mistrust, corruption, uncertainty, anger, frustration, unkind and scary behavior, etc. The effect of all of this on friendships has been an interesting phenomenon. People have seen their social media "Friends List" shorten by half, and in the quest for tolerance, we find that we have very little tolerance for differing political views. We have heard our friends provide such labels and "un-American," and worse. So...in short, I'm ready for "it" to be over and done with. Lots of "it"s. This period in history has been exhausting.
So...we will soon get to exercise our personal indictment on "how things are going." That is our privilege as an organized democracy, and I must say, I am totally delighted to know that so many are participating in the process. It is heartening beyond words. That has been the best part to me...to see the length to which regular people like me will say through their actions, "I'm important. I'm a member of this democracy. My opinion counts. If you want to see me in action, watch me stand for TWELVE HOURS in this line to tell the whole world EXACTLY how I feel about things going on in government! You cannot silence me, though you may try. You cannot intimidate me, because some of my family members gave their lives to give me this privilege. And....you will NOT prevent me from voting!"
That's who we are, folks! We are STRONG, and we will not be bullied into believing that we do not matter. We are seeing "attitude" from so many, simply by standing in line. THAT is the most effective form of silent protest.
I am proud of this country. The numbers of people voting are amazing. Not all of the people standing in the lines will vote for the candidate I support, but please remember, the joy of this process is in the right to stand. That right was secured many years ago. I am grateful beyond words, and no matter what might happen, I have seen a marvelous demonstration of caring from the American people. I have not heard the dialogue of 2016. I have heard support of values that have been in hearts for decades. We are Americans. This is what we do.
I am an American...and these days...I'm a proud American.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
The popular poem Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie inspires yet another creative choral setting describing a quiet winter's walk through the snow. With "velvet" steps, we are surrounded by the white lace of snow on trees, shrubs, and other gifts of nature.
•Solo versions of this composition (with accompaniment) are complimentary with purchase (High, Medium, Low).
•Complimentary Rehearsal Preparation Sheets also come with purchase.
•As always, purchase the Octavo file of your choice (PDF), then make as many copies as you choose for your choir.
In the following video, Earlene Rentz discusses her setting of "Velvet Shoes," with insight into its performance:
Hang in there during these tough COVID days! I'm cheering you on!!