Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bach: Christ lag in Todesbanden - Rehearsal Tracks

The following tracks will help you learn your parts! Select the the appropriate verse and voice part, listen, and learn lots! The files are in .mp3 format. You may download the files you want by right-clicking the appropriate link, and selecting "Save Target As..."

Thank you very much to Con for doing these for us!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fred Penner!

Fred Penner made a visit to Medicine Hat on January 24, 2009. He teamed up with the Medicine Hat Symphonic Society's Acadamey Orchestra to perform a concert of his well-known children's music.

The orchestra normally performs without a conductor, however, since in this case it was important for the orchestra to stay together both with themselves and with Mr. Penner, I was asked to conduct.

I got the scores, many of which I already knew from growing up watching Fred, and began to prepare. The scores however, were far from ideal. Fred puts on concerts with orchestras all over Canada and even internationally - that means the scores have seen many conductors and many orchestras. The hand-written scores were well used; every conductor from coast to coast has put their own markings in them. Red, blue, green pen, different colored pencils, many post-it notes, and an enormous amount of pencil made each score look more like a children's colouring book than a piece of music.

Challenge number one: decifering the scores! A few hours with each score and I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. I even started to understand many of the marks, post-its, extra pages, and crossed-out sections that previous conductors had added.

I never really thought much about the fact that I was about to meet a celebrity from my childhood; I worked hard on making sure I was prepared. I met Fred at our rehearsal on Friday night - what a great guy! I tried to keep my professionalism and focus on the task at hand, when really I just wanted to talk about his TV show, and how cool his log was (if you don't know about the log, then you've likely not seen his show...).

Rehearsal was challenging but good. There were many instances where I needed to change my gestures and interpretation very quickly in order to keep up with Fred and the way he does things. Challenge number two: making sure the orchestra and Fred start and stop playing together, and making sure what the orchestra had on their pages is actually what Fred was playing. Like Fred said part way through our rehearsal, "I wrote and recorded these songs 20 years ago, they have been done many different ways and there have been many changes since then." So, an extra repeat here and there, an extra bar in some places, a few ritardandos and fermatas, and a little rubato, and we were playing well together.

Unable to keep my excitment under control, I got a picture:

The concert was a success. I had a great time conducting, the orchestra had fun playing (and singing sometimes!), and I think Fred had a good time too.

I am thankful for this opportunity - It was a real learning experience for me! I look forward to doing more of this in the future. It was also quite fun to meet Fred Penner. We sang The Cat Came Back! How cool!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Adult Choir Spring Concert

After much discussion, we have found our dates!

Saturday, April 4, 2009, Medicine Hat
Sunday, April 5, 2009, Brooks

Book them off!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Adult Choir Christmas Concert 2008

Hello Adult Choir! I am glad you enjoyed the recordings so much! Because of your enthusiastic response, I have posted the entire concert recording here on my blog. I am glad you are interested in listening to yourselves! It can be an invaluable educational tool to listen to yourself, and then respond accordingly! Here is the Concert:
  1. Jubilate Deo
  2. Our Soul Waits
  3. E'en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come
  4. Thou Shalt Know Him When He Comes
  5. Alle von Saba
  6. Toccata
  7. Three Choral Preludes
  8. Dialogue
  9. Gloria I
  10. Gloria II
  11. Gloria III

Thank you for a fantastic first semester! I am pleased with what we accomplished in such a short time, and am very much looking forward to the winter semester! Bach here we come! (by the way, make sure you check out the other posts on this page - lots of Bach info, and recordings for you to listen to!)

Also, thank you to all the instrumentalists who played! Excellent job! It was great fun to do such a majestic concert with Organ, Timpani, and all the Brass!

Girls', Children's, and Junior Choir Christmas Concert 2008

Hello Choristers! The following tracks were recorded at the Girls' Choir, Children's Choir, and Junior Choir Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 14, 2008 at Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church. Some of you asked if you could re-listen, or listen to specific parts of that night. Please enjoy listening to the sounds that you made!

Carols of the World

  1. O Come All Ye Faithful
  2. Orion
  3. Iroquois Lullaby
  4. Hand me Down My Silver Trumpet
  5. Inscription of Hope
  6. Born This Christmas Day
  7. Louez le Seingeur
  8. Three Spanish Carols
  9. Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella
  10. Russian Candle Carol
  11. Speaking of Music
  12. Pat-a-Pan
  13. Joy to the World / Sing for Joy

I am very happy with the way this concert turned out! All of the performers really stepped up and did their best. I am very proud of all the ensembles that were involved!

Thanks for a fantastic first semester!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Adult Choir and Mr. Bach

The following seven posts correspond to the seven verses of Christ lag in Todesbanden, Bach's easter cantata. Give them all a listen! I also included some extra information here and there for those who are interested. Keep in mind that the posts are backwards from the way the work is performed. I hope this is helpful! Enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Christ lag in Todesbanden Verse 7 (Chorale)

Here is a very small history of where this work comes from. I may have gotten a little carried away, but it sure was fun! Enjoy the sounds and the learning!

Martin Luther (not Mr. King, but the reformer from 500 years ago; responsible for Lutheranism and other protestant faiths), believed that church should be an interactive event for the common people as much as it was for clergy and the elite. Because of his influence, churches began to switch from using Latin (an already dead language) to the venacular (the language spoken by the common people) in their services. Therefore, a major point of his reform was to also have music that was singable and easily understood by congregations.

Because Luther was German, Lutheranism became an identifiably German faith. Bound with the tradition of Lutheranism, were several hymn-tunes. These hymn-tunes were familiar to the German people, and Luther and his contemporaries paid special attention to setting texts to these hymns that were easily understood by the commoners. These chorales, or german hymns, became a favorite starting point for the compisitions of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach would frequently take an old well-known Lutheran hymn tune (a chorale), and turn it into a multi-movement work called a cantata. The word cantata literally means 'to be sung' as opposed to the word concerto, which meant 'to be played'. This is the chorale that Bach used to craft the corresponding entire cantata. The sopranos sing the chorale "Christ lag in Todesbanden" very near (there are some chromatic alterations) to how it would have been sung 500 years ago. The other parts in the choir sing a harmonization that supports the sopranos and which was written by Bach. The entire cantata "Chirst lag in Todesbanden" is based on this tune. Bach crafts 7 verses with this same tune, but somehow each verse stands independant from another, and each verse is so completely different and interesting, that the performer and the listener never become bored.

Take a listen:

Christ lag in Todesbanden Verse 6

This will be done by a Soprano soloist and a Tenor soloist. I already have a Soprano chosen. Does anyone have any ideas for a Tenor? Email me!

Christ lag in Todesbanden Verse 5

This is where the bass section gets to shine!

Christ lag in Todesbanden Verse 4

Listen to this one lots! We likely won't take it this fast, but this recording will give you a very good idea of our goal! Altos you have it relatively easy in this one. Can you hear the alto line? The Altos sing the Chorale meldoy throughout this verse.

Christ lag in Todesbanden Verse 3

Time for the tenors to shine!

Christ lag in Todesbanden Verse 2

Time for the Sopranos and Altos to shine!

Christ lag in Todesbanden Verse 1

Study this one hard! Sopranos have it easy for the most part because they are singing the chorale tune, but the rest of us have work to do! Listen, however, for small parts of the chorale tune in the other voice parts as well. Normally Bach introduces each line of the chorale tune in the Alto, Tenor, or Bass section accompanied by a counterpoint, then the sopranos sing the same obbligato line stretched out over several bars.

Listen how the music changes when the words are "Hallelujah, Hallelujah". After singing about how 'Christ lay in deaths grip,' the music speeds up (we wont speed up quite this much though) and becomes more dance-like when we offer God praise and thanksgiving through the word Hallelujah!