Monday, July 26, 2021

TCDA - A Family Reunion

I'm back from a very emotional "high" for me and many other music educators in Texas and around the nation. The Texas Choral Directors Association convention was the first professional convention I've attended since February of 2020. We were in "lock-down" three weeks after my return from TMEA in 2020, and we have been longing to gather again for months.

Wanetta Hill graciously agreed to help me with our booth during TCDA, and I believe she knows everybody in Texas!! It was wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves during this very special time of reunion. Everyone was thrilled with the prospect of going back to their school and church choirs, yet no one really knows what to expect when they return. The "virus" seems to determine everyone's ability to plan, and the "one day at a time" mentality seems to be the only choice. One thing is for certain, no matter what situation unfolds, we have the "best of the best" out there in the choral classrooms, doing their best for their students. 

Here are some highlights from my time spent with fellow choral music educators, writers, and directors:

Wanetta Hill, Earlene Rentz, Victor Johnson, René Brain

It was wonderful to have friends stop by the booth to chat for a few minutes. In the photo above, from left, are Wanetta Hill (one of my wonderful, delightful lyricists), me, Victor Johnson (composer extraordinaire and choral editor with Choristers Guild....and one of the nicest guys in the entire world), and René Brain (fabulous pianist/accompanist and all-'round delight). I love these special folks, because we are all for the other person's success. For some reason, competitiveness seems to be present among many, and you can trust this, too: There are just as many of us who are totally supportive of each other, delighting in each other's success. We all have our strengths, and no one composer/teacher/conductor creates music exactly like another person. We all have our purposes and our uniqueness in this business.

Earlene Rentz and Cherry Tadlock-Garasi

Cherry Tadlock-Garasi holds a very special place in my heart as the person who saw possibilities in a piece I wrote in 2000. She was my choral editor with Warner Brothers Publications for many years, and she is now in Belton, Texas, where her husband Michael Garasi is in charge of the instrumental program at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. I am so excited for Cherry and Michael (and all of Texas), and I know their future at UMHB is bright with promise. Cherry was responsible for the publication of my most successful piece to date (over 200,000 copies sold) entitled Sleigh Bells. Cherry conducted that piece in clinic after clinic, and she believed in it! All these many years later, it continues to sell-away! I will never wane in my gratitude for Cherry. She is amazing!

Wanetta Hill, me, Bryce Gage

Family reunion! Bryce Gage stopped by the booth to visit and look at our music! He shared "the latest" of his fabulous choral program at Marble Falls High School, and he purchased some music. He took advantage of one of Earlene Rentz Online Publications' unique features. He found a piece of music he liked, but it was not in TBB. No problem! It is almost completed as of today. He also needed it a step lower than I wrote it for TTB...again...No problem! Done! Our online publishing process makes it easy for choral directors to find a piece that will work for their choir. It is truly something I love doing, so Bryce will have his arrangement within a day or so....AND....he will have Rehearsal Preparation Sheets for everything he purchased. His SSA choir will sing "Die Lotosblume," by Robert Shumann, and his TBB choir will sing a custom-made arrangement of "Personent Hodie." It all works!

Wanetta, me, René Brain, and Debbie Talley

Just to be perfectly clear with ourselves about our happiness at TCDA, we observed "Happy Hour" with two other wonderful women. René Brain and Debbie Talley invited us to spend some time with them before dinner one afternoon, and I am reminded that some people are fun, fun, fun, and they are a magnet for other fun people. It was so great to catch up, and have a glimpse into their lives over the past 16 months. We found out we are strong women, and we do whatever we need to do to live our lives with integrity in the classroom and beyond. We laughed until we hurt physically, and others joined us occasionally to laugh along. May we always remember to laugh!

Me, Wanetta Hill, Mary Jane Self Phillips, and Tammy Benton

Life is a celebration, and no celebration at TCDA is complete without food! We enjoyed our dinner at the historic Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. It is the neatest area that has been artistically created by someone who thought friendships, food, and being together were winning combinations...RIGHT! We had the best time, and the food was outrageously delicious. Such a great choice, Wanetta! Along with Wanetta and me, a former student/amazing choral director (Tammy Benton) and Mary Jane Self Phillips (choral director) joined us for the incredible evening.

Happy Birthday, Wanetta!!

No special evening is complete without celebrating someone's birthday! Wanetta was the special person of the moment. It is so great to have Wanetta with us at TCDA, because it is always close to the time of her birthday. We celebrate...and celebrate...and celebrate! Birthday moments with friends are special, and to share good times with those around us who mean so much to us gives us opportunities to continue the celebration of life for all of us.

At the close of TCDA this year, my thought was "This has been really good." Everyone was delighted to be "out and about," and we were all thrilled to be smiling at each other in total delight of being somewhere. There are so many unknowns, but we know that we are among friends when we are together encouraging, supporting, and loving each other through it all. we will deal with whatever lies ahead. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Repertoire List (Pandemic to Present)

Looking forward to fall! We sing again! I was able to be very productive during the "pandemic era." Yes, I know we aren't "there" yet, but I choose to live in hope. You will find below a Repertoire List (Pandemic to Present). I am grateful that the process of writing music has allowed me to keep a healthy mental focus during the past 16 months. Without music, we all might have suffered more, huh? I am grateful for the art of music; it lifts me up when things are really tough. You will find my personal emotions "on the page" in many of these octavos. To purchase:

Benedictus (from Schubert's Mass in G) - SSAASSA
Cell Phone Ringtone - 3-Part Mixed, 2-Part, Unison
Credo (from Schubert's Mass in G) - SSAA, TTB, SSA, TTB, 3-Part Mixed
Die Lotosblume - SSASSAA
The Gift to Sing - SATB, SSA, 2-Part, Unison, 3-Part Mixed, TTBB, TTB, TB
Keep A-Goin' - SSA, 2-Part, Unison, 3-Part Mixed, SAB
Misty Covered Mountains - 2-Part (with Wanetta Hill)
My Heart's in the Highlands - SATB
O Great Spirit ("Lakota Prayer") - SSAA
O Honey, Fare Thee Well - SATB, SSA, 2-Part, Unison, 3-Part Mixed
The Old Churchyard - SSA, 3-Part Mixed, SAB
Personent Hodie - TTB
The Rocky Road to Dublin - TTBB, TBB, TTB, TB
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - 3-Part Mixed, 2-Part, Unison, SSA
Trees - Unison, 2-Part, SSA
Velvet Shoes - 3-Part Mixed, SSA, 2-Part, Unison, SAB
We Shall Walk in Peace - SATB
We're Singing Again - 3-Part Mixed, 2-Part, Unison

Benedictus (from Schubert's Mass in G) - SSAA, SSA
Come Home - SATB
Credo (from Schubert's Mass in G) - SSAA, TTB, SSA, TTB, 3-Part Mixed
The Gift to Sing - SATB, SSA, 2-Part, Unison, 3-Part Mixed, TTBB, TTB, TB
God of Mercy, Lead Us Home - SATB (with Greg Funderburk)
Meditation in Stillness - SATB (with Greg Funderburk)
The Ninety and NineSATB (Optional A Cappella)
O God, I Will Listen - SATB (with Greg Funderburk)
O Great Spirit ("Lakota Prayer") - SSAA
The Old Churchyard - SSA, 3-Part Mixed, SAB
Personent Hodie - TTB
A Prayer for the Graduate - SATB (with Greg Funderburk)            
Resurrection Morn - SATB
The Shepherd's Psalm - SABSATB
Sometimes a Light Surprises - SATB
We Shall Walk in Peace - SATB

Hopefully, there will be several octavos in this list that you can use with your choral group. I will also add new pieces as they are completed. If you need voicings other than those listed here, please send me an email via the "Contact" button on my website, and I'll get it to you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Getting Ready for TCDA!

It is so great to be getting ready for another convention! Finally! Wanetta Hill (a wonderful lyricist) and I will be in San Antonio for TCDA in Booth 1327. We'll be selling music in every way card, check, cash, and purchase order. We have it covered, we have waited 16 months, and we are finally getting a bit of normalcy back into our lives. More and more people are getting vaccinated, and we are respecting the knowledge gained in the past, while we express hope for a bright new day in the future. I am glad we are getting back together with our choral music "family" for a reunion we alone understand (my late husband called choral musicians an "interesting sub-culture"....HA!). We get together for all things choral-musical, and we share ideas for success. As you know, there are those whom we only see at music conventions. They are our family "in the profession" when we go to San Antonio, or whatever place houses our "convening get-together."
So...whether it is lunch with Wanetta Hill, dinner with Tammy Benton and Wanetta, or whatever we decide in between, the truth is that in the past we have laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I'm wondering what the "dynamic" of the convention might, concern, worry over the beginning of school, worry over the dreadful Delta variant, budgets, logistics of singing together safely, vaccines for the "under 12" group, etc. How will the experiences of the past 16 months affect our interaction?
Choral musicians represent a group of people who love music, love each other, love students, and we love the fact that we share something in common with each other. We cheer each other on to do the very best we can to further the choral art among ourselves and in our students. My role as a composer of choral music is to be a provider of information to be studied in the classroom. I take that charge most seriously. It hits me sometimes that my music actually determines musical content for an extended period of time in rehearsals. That is huge.
I love going to conventions and meeting with other composers of music. We all have something unique to say in choral music, and we are the only ones who can say "it" the way we need to hear "it" said. We all have our specific function in the world of choral music, and we truly enjoy talking to each other and encouraging each another in the art of choral music writing.We generally know how to write as we listen to teachers who are "in the trenches."
Please come visit us at TCDA. Join us in this wonderful experience in San Antonio (Booth 1327). We will celebrate our return to a life that was under the veil of uncertainty for a long time. It will be a pleasure to join others for a sweet reunion of true goodness, living with hope into the future.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Do you feel it?

I am totally thrilled to be singing in my church choir again, and I know that those who conduct choral and instrumental ensembles professionally are delighted with the dreams and possibilities for Fall/2021.In short, I have a feeling of "hope" going on in my life. That is so great, given the likelihood that the darkest days in our society are behind us (at least for those who are preventive). As we reconnect with ourselves and our art, the tendency is to ask ourselves, "So...what did I learn from such an unprecedented experience?" I am not sure about you, but there were some really important take-aways that I connected with as we were "on the journey" and as we are now looking at the pandemic from our "rear-view" mirrors. Yes, I'm aware that we are still in the midst of an awful variant that might do its dirty work in the future, but on the whole, those who have protected themselves are likely safer than others. Aside from a new appreciation for healthcare workers and educators, I realized just how much I totally love music! I was fortunate in that I could do my job at home the same way I had done for almost three decades. At times, I would get up to leave my desk, and be totally in love with my work all over again, thinking, "Wow! That was fun!" Others were frustrated and suffering, but for me, it was an affirmation of my choices in music and my delight in the process of creating it. I also learned that I should keep a more well-rounded lifestyle, not investing totally in my friends in one location. I tried to get to know the people who live near me, as most of my friends were elsewhere, and we could not get together. I learned that I do not enjoy uncertainty. I like science. I invest in science as knowledge for my life. I like it when they know how to cure my ills and improve my health. I do not like it when they don't know as much as I don't know. I was sad to see the hatred of the world up close and personal, but I needed to know some things. I was also uplifted when I saw an off-the-charts level of caring for others. The drive-by birthday celebrations were such a gift of grace! It was like, "If you can't come out of your home for a party, the party will come to you!" As I was completing my income tax return, my accountant realized that it was my birthday. All of a sudden, birthday messages came from everywhere! She cared that I had a good day. I was in tears by the end of the day. I also have a new appreciation for other generations. The Greatest Generation did not have social media or other virtual means by which to stay in contact with their families. The heroes of WWII became even greater heroes, as did the families who waited on their loved ones. They did what they needed to do without a lot of whining and complaining. I tried to see lots of things as humorous. At times, the tragedy was just too great. So many lost their lives, and musicians were not immune to such horrific experiences. We had one of the most dangerous occupations out there in the world. Choral music sales were almost non-existent. We were notified with nice letters, but sweetness doesn't pay the bills. There were many, many lessons to be learned by all in our profession. The most valuable thing I learned from the entire disaster was that: It can happen. It can really happen. It can happen again! Everything can be taken from us in the blink of the eye, with no plan for anything that will stop it. As a student in a history class, I heard of all the plagues, epidemics, pandemics, but never even once thought it would happen to me or anyone I knew. I have invested my life in the choral arts, and never once have I thought that choirs would be forbidden. It just never occurred to me. It will now. It will occur. Lastly, when I vote, I will always consider the abilities of those elected officials who will most likely do the right the right time...for the right reasons. And yes...I have a role in my own future security. Do you feel it? It is a feeling of hope! It is a great feeling, and one that I will never take for granted again. I know the joy of hope.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Shepherd's Psalm

The most recent addition to my website ( is entitled The Shepherd's Psalm , an arrangement based on Psalm 23 that combines the Scottish/Gaelic tune Leaving Lismore with the American folk tune in the familiar hymn My Shepherd Will Supply My Need. In the initial Scottish folk song presentation, I have paraphrased the words in Psalm 23. Once the familiar hymn is added, I used the original text by Isaac Watts. Both of these tunes were similar in style, and I love both of them. The inspiration for this arrangement? During this past year and couple of months, I feel that we have been on a long, anxious, arduous journey, and it was not a sprint through the was a slow...cumbersome...slog. Now that we are coming out of this dreadful experience, it is easier to feel a slight reprieve such that we can feel the serenity and calm I enjoy associating with this biblical chapter. We hear these words as an effort to comfort hearts of families and friends at memorial services. Thankfully, it really seems to have that effect on our spirits. We somehow find comfort to live and work and keep going, knowing that we are not alone. As this arrangement begins, treble voices are singing in unison, with limited harmony. The men's voices come in later on in the verse, and we move along the journey. After verse one of the Scottish tune, the treble voices again present the American folk tune with the Isaac Watts text (My Shepherd Will Supply My Need). In the second half of the presentation, the first tune joins with the Scottish tune, and all voices join to provide the "traveling material" to the next section. In the last presentation, we rejoin "Lismore," with the melody in the Alto and Bass, while Soprano and Tenor sing in unison and duet, with descant-like countermelody material that enhances the melody. At the end, we emphasize the purpose in this entire arrangement, as related to this period in history. The text is "My soul the Lord restores." These walks through valleys and shadows might be necessary in order to be restored in our souls. It seems to me that "restoration" of our lives has been the yearning for months. When will we get back to our lives as we knew them? We want to restore our way of life, our joy, our purpose, our security, our being. As one final musical illustration of restoration, I used the chord progression at the end to bring the idea to the ear. In the last phrase, we go from chords in D Major to a B-flat Major chord...then the key is once again restored to D Major. The journey is long, but a comforting presence is with us. May our souls be restored in the days ahead.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"Love Thy Neighbor" - in Action!

Today has been a good day for many reasons, but one of the "main" reasons I am encouraged today is because of my church, South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. During this pandemic, those of us who have always participated in some type of religious corporate worship have found it necessary to make profound adjustments. Because we have been unable to continue our religious "habit," we who have saturated ourselves in religious institutions have been walking around totally lost to our carefully created way of life. Whether you choose to have a religious focus in your life or not is totally by choice, but some of us have found that our social, spiritual, educational, and mental health have been impacted by the inability to continue our lives with those we love in our church choirs, Sunday School, worship, and all sorts of other church activities. The questions we have asked ourselves over and over might have included: When are we going to be able to attend church again? When are we going to be able to sing in church again? When will our church choir be able to gather for rehearsal? When can we sit with others at church, other than our designated family or pod group? When can we remove the masks???????????? I have been so proud of our pastoral staff at South Main. They have done a masterful job of negotiating and navigating our movement through this dreadful pandemic. More than a year past the initial shutdown, and because of a magnificent task force of medical, school, city, and "other" representatives in the body of South Main, to our knowledge, no one has contracted COVID from church activities! That is pretty remarkable, given that the virus continued to float around Houston, disrespecting many who were worthy of being ignored. A couple of weeks ago, a questionnaire was sent to the entire congregation. Questions asked were in regard to who was and who was not fully vaccinated, half-vaccinated, planning to get vaccinated, and not planning to get vaccinated. All responses were anonymous, and none of us had any idea what to expect, given that all political groups are represented in our church. We found out the results today: 89% of our congregation is fully-vaccinated!!!!!!! Woo Hoo! Another 7% is planning to be vaccinated!!!!!!! Another Woo Hoo! That means 96% of our congregation will be vaccinated within the next week or so. I know that the term "religious freedom" does not refer to this situation, but I certainly feel that way today. I feel the freedom that I felt when that needle went into my arm with my first vaccination. I feel more free in my life than for 14 months! "Love thy neighbor." That's the phrase our pastoral team has quoted over and over in the past year + two months. The team never told us what we ought to do...rather they just quoted another source who was famous for thinking of others first. Of course, there might be reasons that some would refrain from getting the vaccine, but for those of us who can, it has been a little taste of heavenly change. It appears to me that our church family enjoys life, and we enjoy our lives with each other. We enjoy being church, and being church to us means that we are together...really together. Thank you, South Main, for thinking of me and others. Sure...the masks are going to continue being worn at South Main, but there is a new day dawning when we can return to a bit more "life as usual," and the reason we can do that is because we loved our neighbor. Love you, South Main. Amen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

I am ready to hear some consonants!!!

Aren't you ready to hear some "hard core" consonants coming at you from your choir? From anyone?! I am! We have all been "masked" for so long, and I realized fairly quickly into the pandemic that most choirs were singing the "familiar," with texts printed on the screen for a specific reason. Why? So we would know the words that were coming at us! Those masks have functioned absolutely beautifully over the last year (plus a couple of months). They have prevented us from understanding approximately 75% of the words spoken to us. I finally just quit talking (quite the accomplishment), knowing that the person to whom I was speaking couldn't understand me, and whatever they replied would not be understood by me. That has been the toughest issue of face-to-face interaction, and has made telephone conversations the source of most quality conversations. I long to hear some really crisp "d"s, and "t"s, and "k"s, and just about ANY CONSONANT coming at me. When I finally hear them, it is going to make me feel as if I'm at a party, receiving an incredible gift! There have been choirs that have truly given their best effort in singing new literature, and frankly, to this day I have no idea as to what the words might have been...unless they were provided. We have learned to be moved by the tone, alone. I learned to truly enjoy exploding...(and I do mean exploding)...consonants when I sang with Robert Shaw. Of course, he demanded it, but it was truly fun. It was all part of the choral singing experience, and unless I'm being totally lazy, the technique remains in my DNA to this day. I have thought over and over that had a horrible virus infected the population back when I was singing with Mr. Shaw, it is likely that not one person would have survived. We spat, we exploded, we "wore" everyone's germs proudly as we sang Beethoven's Ninth. The style of singing in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus could not have been successful without the "explosions." I'm not sure the audience ever needed the program notes for text. What is it going to be like when we remove the masks? Well...I think there will be explosions of JOY from congregations, choirs, and businesses who focus on the art of face-to-face communication for the greatest effectiveness. The pastor of my church said recently that when the "maskless" days are approved for worship, he was going to suggest that we all wear our face masks during worship on Sunday, and remove them together! I thought that was a great idea! We have been in this awful pandemic together, so...we can crawl out together, into the sun...into the sweet, unencumbered air...into the CONSONANTS!!!!!