Sunday, November 21, 2010

MHC Christmas Concert

Tuesday, December 14: 7pm
College Theatre
Tickets $5/$10 at Cultural Centre or at door

Join the MHC Adult Choir, Girls' Choir, Children's Choir, and Junior Children's Choir in a choral celebration of Christmas!  Hear Christmas carols old and new, and from near and far!  This will be a sold out show, so get your tickets early!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Dreadful Practice - a MHC Choir Halloween Concert

Saturday, October 30, 7pm
College Theatre
Tickets $5/$10 at Cultural Centre or door

Join the MHC Adult Choir, Girls Choir, and Children's Choir as we sing about witches, trolls, dragons, and more!  Featured works: The Witches' Scene from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, The Witches' Chorus from Verdi's MacBeth, and Hall of the Mountain King from Grieg's Peer Gynt.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Conservatory Class Dates and Times

Happy Back to School!  Here is a reminder about the dates and times of your Conservatory classes! All classes begin the week of September 13 and all classes are held at the Medicine Hat College Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Junior Choir A (ages 5-6) - Wednesdays, 4:00-4:45
Junior Choir B (ages 7-8) - Wednesdays, 4:45-5:30
Children's Choir (ages 9-14) - Wednesdays, 5:45-6:45
Girls' Choir (ages 12-19) - Wednesdays, 7:00-9:00
Adult Choir - Tuesdays, 7:00-9:00

Rudiments of Music Theory - Tuesdays, 4:00-5:00
Music Theory and Harmony - Tuesdays, 5:00-6:00
Overview of Music History - Tuesdays, 6:00-7:00

The theory and history classes are intended for all ages.  Many adults will find the Overview of Music History course very informative and enjoyable. There are no formal grades or tests given in class; success is based on the time and effort each student devotes to reading and homework outside of class time.  Students may wish, however, to register for a Royal Conservatory examination, and these classes will prepare students to write these exams successfully. 

The Royal Conservatory of Music has recently changed the names and levels of their theory and history classes - I have not included these names in this information.  If you are unsure which course to enroll in, or what level would be best suited for you, please contact me.

Looking forward to a fantastic year of music!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Our team has successfully completed three weeks of Music For Life Camp! Each week was different and had its own challenges and successes. We had to continually adapt and change or plans and our minds as we ministered to these people.

Our first week was in the small city of Entebe where the prominent religion is witchcraft. Our second camp was in the heart of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, where the kids were noticeably more needy. Our third week was also in the heart of Kampala but in the slums. News about this camp spread faster than any western media could achieve and our original 80 kids turned into 250 by day four.

Our western ideals and attitudes had to quickly change as we were reviewing and planning for each day. Time is merely estimated by most local people here. Therefore, the beginning of camp changed from day to day. Lunch was at no particular time, we ate when it was ready. People are much more relaxed and laid back, it seems as if no one rushes for anything. In fact, if it rains here, it is acceptable to show up late to work because you have been waiting for the rain to stop before leaving home.

(I suppose I can think of a few exceptions. People seem to be rushing if they are driving. The rules of the road as we know them do not apply here. What seems to be 2 lane traffic can easily split into 5 or more lanes depending circumstances. In this city of 1.4 million people there are only 8 traffic lights, most of which also have traffic police standing underneath them. The police frequently override the lights and direct traffic causing huge traffic jams which they think they are helping. The city is littered with crater sized pot holes, and a whole variety of speed bumps. These only slow people down somewhat, in fact, the solution to this obstacle is to buy yourself a 4x4.)

(AND, when kids line up for food, or line up for anything for that matter, there is utter chaos. We had injuries due to lining up. My theory is that normally if they don't push their way to the front, they don't get anything. We, of course, always planned so there would be enough for everyone, including those at the back of the line.)

Cleanliness and hygiene are also things that we have had to become used to being different than at home. Washing yourself is something that doesn't happen often. Laundry happens but it requires getting water and washing by hand. This is extremely hard work so it is only done periodically. Shoes are expensive and unnecessary and are therefore not used by many. This leaves kids pretty dirty. We handed out toothbrushes to all the kids and they were more excited about them than western kids are when receiving a video game at Christmas. Body odour is a normal, socially accepted fact of life. There is no kleenex, toilet paper, or towels here, you can imagine the result...

Safety is an interesting subject here. Every mall, hotel, restaurant, bank, church, etc. is in a gated compound with security guards standing by. The guards all have rifles, and many places have metal detectors, devices to check your vehicle for bombs, and other security equipment. Some of you may have heard that there was a bombing in Kampala about 2 months ago. I find some irony in this considering there are more security guards with rifles per capita than anywhere I have ever seen.

Socially we've adapted quite well. We've learned some Lugandan phrases that, when used, go a long way in making a friend. Generally, the African people have shown us great hospitality, often going out of their way to offer is help. We've learned that when someone raises their head coupled with a long blink, they are actually acknowledging, not snubbing. We have struggled, however, with peoples vocal volume. No one here speaks up! We haven't quite figured out what the reason for this is yet.

We fly home tomorrow. I am sad to leave the team, the city, the country, and the continent, but happy that we had such a fantastic experience! Stay tuned for pictures!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My friend Taylor

There are many things that one should be prepared for when heading to Africa. I spent a considerable amount of time researching and organizing vaccines and health care coverage, buying a mosquito net, packing bug spray and sunscreen, finding appropriate clothes, etc. Africa, in my mind, was a big scary unknown place where a countless number of bad things could happen to you.

After being here for a few weeks, I slowly realized that this is simply another place on earth where humans live happily and comfortably. The local people are not overly concerned about mosquitoes, malaria, sun exposure, robbery, health care, and the like. They simply live their lives. And, after being here for a while, we simply lived ours. All of my concerns faded to a point where sunscreen, mosquito nets, bug spray, etc. didn't seem like such an important detail any longer.

Originally, I wouldn't have dreamed of walking barefoot anywhere here, but, time wore on, comfort levels rose, and I found myself wandering campsites, beaches, and more without shoes on. Everyone was doing it. I know, I know, bad reasoning, but when in Rome, or Africa... Especially when you are staying on the tropical island of Zanzibar, it just seems natural to wander the white sand beaches in your bare feet. Little did I realize that this would come back to bite me (more literally than you might think).

As the island became a memory, my left foot became itchy. I thought it was simply a mosquito bite which needed a moderate amount of scratching. After a few days without change my mind started to drift towards athletes foot. I scratched. My nurse friend took a look, she was not convinced it was fungal. This concerned me a bit, but instead of doing something intelligent, I scratched. Several weeks after realizing my foot was suffering from an ailment that could not be diagnosed using the extensive knowledge obtained from my Bio 30 course, I decided I should have a local medical professional have a look.

I have health insurance. I will leave the name of the company out of this post in hopes they will continue to cover me. I decided I should call Blue Cross (oops) before going to the doctor. My card suggests that I call them collect. It was interesting to learn that the Ugandan telecom company does not offer that service. So after 2 hours of phone drama, I finally reached a human being. She took my information down and I explained, to the best of my knowledge, what my problem was. She politely suggested I see a doctor. After my brain finished calling her names, I used my mouth to ask some further clarifying questions. None of these could be answered however, all I was promised was a return phone call.

My driver and I decided not to wait for the call. At this point I was ready to get this figured out. I scratched. My driver said he knew the place where all the westerners go. Considering my heritage, I agreed this would be a good place for me.

The clinic was called "The Surgery". There were many mzungus, including two white doctors. After about an hours wait, I finally saw a doctor. My ears have become tuned to Ugandan English so understanding him wasn't a problem. The conversation was short and sweet. He asked me what my problem was. I showed him. He asked me if it was itchy or painful. I scratched. He asked me where I'd been. As I was saying Tanzania, he said, "oh, you have a tapeworm. Don't walk on the beach without your sandals on next time."

The doctor's desk was littered with normal doctor things: pens, papers, pictures, a stethoscope, and a few pill bottles of random sizes. He sat down at his desk and asked me if I'd like drugs. YES PLEASE! At this point I thought I'd receive a prescription; instead, he grabbed a huge bottle of pills sitting right on his desk, dumped some into a zip-lock bag, and handed them to me. He said, "take one twice a day. You're lucky, this kind of worm affects dogs badly but in humans it can't get to your digestive system. Your body prevents it." Wow, what a relief. For those nerds out there, I have Albendazole, the same drug used to de-worm just about everything imaginable. I am on a strong dose because the worm is in my foot instead of my gut.

Interestingly, as I write this now, it has become incredibly easy to see the worm under my skin. It is like he has been found out and has no reason to hide any longer. So, you may be wondering, who is Taylor? He is the worm in my foot. I named him Taylor the night before I went to the doctor. There is no reason for the name other than it was the first one that came to mind as I gazed upon the small, but significant eighth member of our team.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Going Bananas!

Uganda is not like the Africa you picture in your mind. It is very green and lush here. Bananas grow particularly well. So far we've eaten the following:

Fried bananas (called gange here)
Baked bananas (matoke - a staple at every meal)
Barbecued bananas (gange)
Mashed bananas (matoke)
Chopped bananas
Yellow bananas
Red bananas (cool hey!?)
Tiny bananas (like seriously one bite)
Huge bananas (2 feet long!)

These people have a banana dish for every time and every occasion. It isn't a normal and proper meal if there aren't some sort of bananas involved.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Uganda has two official languages: English and Lugandan. Since I already have a mediocre command of English, I have been putting in an effort to learn some Lugandan. Here is what I know so far:

Jebale - good work
Mjebale - good work (plural)
Abana - children
Sebo - sir
Setaga - I don't need that Jesu anjagala - Jesus loves me
Kale - alright
Wagelu - higher
Wonzi - lower
Siinayo muwala - I don't have a girl
Sagala - I don't like it
Gende - go
Jendi - good

Each letter makes a sound; for example, "kale" would be pronounced "KA-lay". G's are hard like in "grass", J's are soft like in "joke".

I learned "siinayo muwala" yesterday morning and practiced saying it all day. By this afternoon I had a blind date set up for me. I guess if you're going to speak the local language you better mean what you say!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

African Children's Choir Training Centre

Today we visited the school where the African Children's Choir gets trained. Each year a different group of kids are auditioned and selected to form a choir. All the selected kids move from their villages to Kampala and move into the training academy. For 6 months the rehearse singing dancing and drumming for about 4 hours a day. They also continue their regular schooling, do chores, go on field trips, and have time for the all important pastime, football. The centre has staff from Uganda, US, and Canada and the team is currently training the 36th and 37th African Children's Choirs.
When I arrived, I was greeted with several hugs, and the kids would not let me carry my bag - they insisted on doing that for me. Bob, Joshua, Frank, and another guy whose name escapes me all have me a personal tour of their home. They are very proud of where they stay and the activities they do there. We ate dinner with the choirs - matoke (mashed plantains) and ground nut sauce (something like hot runny peanut butter). This is a meal we have had many times while in Uganda.

Somehow the kids found out I could play the drums so they asked if we could go upstairs so I could show them how to play. It turned out that this group of 10 year olds taught me a thing about playing the drums. They were amazing and they've only been playing for about 6 months. More and more kids came in and it wasn't long before the mzungus were treated to an impromptu show. There are no appropriate words to describe the talent we witnessed.

We were asked to teach a few songs to the kids. Blessed Be and Glory Hallelujah Jubilee are our hits so we taught them those. It was then time for devotions. The kids started singing and drumming with no help from the adults. The sound was fantastic, it was like nothing I've heard before. I looked up at the clock and it was quite obviously stuck at 11:01 but deep down inside I wished that time had stopped for real and that we could sit and listen indefinitely. Watching and listening to these kids could make any skeptic a believer. They sang with all of their hearts, souls, and bodies.

Allison pulled a great little message out of butt. She talking about the singing in the Bible: God created singing, David sang, Mary sang, the angels sang, the first church sang, and now, the African Children's Choir sings! All the adults stayed up late jamming and singing together and sharing stories and enjoying each others company.

It was a cool day!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MFL Camp; Day 4

By the time we were all up and had breakfast eaten we were finally able to welcome our last 2 team members to Uganda! After a dramatic stolen passport and long unexpected delay in London, they have finally made it. This means that the remainder of our supplies have made it too. We are very happy to have them here!

We all went straight to church. Church started at 7am but we didn't show up until around 10am. Church can be as long as 5 hours so we thought we'd sleep in a bit before showing up. We were actually expected at 9:30 but no biggie, TIA. All of the kids from camp were there waiting for us because we were asked to sing a couple songs for service. So service went on until we showed up, at which point we were ushered to the very front of the church and asked to stand up and introduce ourselves. Soon all the camp kids came up with us and we sang a few songs that we'd been working on during camp.

It is amazing that 4 days of camp have come and gone and that we are now finished our first camp. Tomorrow we head to Kampala for a few days rest before we do it all over again!

Friday, August 13, 2010

MFL Camp; Day 2

Music for Life has a school in Uganda where former African Children's Choir members go when the are finished touring. All of the students have overseas sponsors who pay for them to go to this school until grade 7, and then beyond all the way through university. We were fortunate to be able to visit the school this morning.

It happened to be the last day of school before their short 3 week summer break so we sat through their final school assembly. They began by singing some praise and worship music. All the music was student led. Keep in mind there were no kids older than 15 at this school. It was incredible! I have never heard kids sing like this! And their drumming is second to none. They can harmonize, vamp, and improvise effortlessly. They sang a few songs that were familiar to us, and a few others we didn't know but were stunning, to say the least. The whole room vibrated with vocal sound, drums, and the swaying and dancing of children.

Some of the kids prepared a special song and dance. My initial reaction was one of dread - if this happened at home it would typically be a grin and near it sort of moment. I was more than pleasantly surprised. The only thing more professional looking than their costumes was their act! I guess this is what you get when you have a school full of African Children's Choir alumni! In fact, we were also treated to a song by the former choir!

The principal of the school brought our team to the front of the hall and we all introduced ourselves. Once he found out there was a bunch of musical talent on the team, he asked us to present a song. I was so excited at the opportunity to teach this group of kids some music that I jumped out of my chair and yelled YES in front of everyone. We taught the whole school Blessed Be and within about 2 minutes they had completely learned the song and we're letting it rip so loud that the guitar became useless. The drummers took over the accompaniment and we were whoop-whooping and singing at top volume! Fantastic!

We all had private tours of the school property from the kids themselves. My tour guide's name was Julius; he is a former second grader whose English was too notch. I saw the boys dorm, the classrooms, computer room, library, offices, and kitchen.

We were fed lunch while visiting the school. Sweet potatoes and very salty fish from Lake Victoria which borders the school property. We each had enormous portions which came out of two gargantuan pots. Everything was covered in a very typical Ugandan peanut-type sauce.

The school visit has been a huge highlight of the trip so far. We all enjoyed ourselves there so much that we found it difficult to leave. Our afternoon camp went well, similar to yesterday, but today's high certainly came from visiting the MFL school.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Music for Life Camp; Day 1

We finally found our team yesterday after some waiting. It was generally a joyous meeting, however two of our team mates had their passports stolen on the flight here and they are now stuck in London! We hope we can connect with them this weekend.

We asked the local volunteers many questions and they asked many of us. They took us to see the facility that we'd be using for camp. It is a primary school that is currently out of session. This is the reason that we are doing camps during these 3 weeks. In the matter of about 2 hours we gained a clear idea of what we needed to do to make these camps a success.

To prepare for camp we packed 5 large suitcases from Canada stuffed full of supplies. We packed enough craft supplies, sports equipment, drama materials, paper, toothbrushes, and science activities for 100 kids for 15 days of camp! Since two of our team members got stuck in London, 3 of our supply bags got stuck with them. We hadn't even started yet and we were already missing 2 team members, all of our sports equipment, our curriculum, half of our craft supplies, and all of our science, health, and wellness supplies. We had time for a quick meeting last night to completely revamp our plans and get prepared for camp using the people and resources we had.

I am happy to report that today was the first day of camp and it went fantastic. 94 kids showed up! We began with an opening where we introduced ourselves, the local volunteers introduced themselves, and then we shared songs with each other.

We split the kids into 4 groups and then each of us took a group to a classroom and taught them the story of creation. "It was good!" every kid had these words drilled into them, and it truly was good.

At lunch time we all marched over to another primary school where a few ladies cooked for us all. The kitchen facilities are difficult to describe: as far as I can tell there are 3 cauldron sized stone holes where fires could be started and a few dirty jugs which supposedly contain clean water. Somehow, over 100 people were fed here and although the adults ate different food than the kids, I heard no complaints, only content chewing.

In the afternoon we split into 2 larger groups; one group did sports while the other group did music. In a matter of 45 minutes Allison and I had taught the kids 4 songs and had them singing a round in 3 parts. Of course, Greg had a backup soccer ball and had the kids playing football in no time.

The local volunteers have been very impressed so far and we are feeling content with the job we've done. We are about to have a meeting to debrief about our day and plan for tomorrow.

Other news:

We are staying in the nicest place we've been in since arriving in Africa. It is a convent. The nuns ride motorbikes and talk on cell phones but are always wearing their habits.

Listening to the local volunteers jam gives us all goosebumps.

Greg has played about 5 matches of soccer in less than 48 hours.

Don't assume! One of the local volunteers is a mzungu.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Music for Life mission trip, day 1

It is 9am and Greg, Allison, and I are sitting on the side of the Entebbe Highway in Uganda underneath the Nkumba University turn off sign. We are trying to meet up with the rest of our Music for Life mission team, 4 others from Canada and about 7 others from here. We found some plastic lawn chairs so we helped ourselves, set them up and are now sitting and waiting. We have received many strange looks and lots of staring but little do these people know how used to it we are. So we continue to sit and wait, hoping someone who knows something will find is here!

We have been here for 5 weeks now and have seen and experienced a ton. Today is the first day of our mission trip; we are excited to get going. But, as we have learned in so many other situations, things in Africa operate on their own schedule. People don't wear watches and finding a clock is a difficult task. I have found some clocks here and there, but only about half of them have been operational.

Africa has a certain style of communication as well. Actually, in North America we would simply call it a lack of communication. For example, at one point on our tour, our driver left the group at a museum then disappeared with our bus for an hour and a half and didn't tell us what he was doing or where he was going. I am sure he had something important to do and his intentions were good enough, but we had no idea what was going on.

It is a similar situation now with our mission trip. We have asked many questions about what we will be doing, what we are responsible for, and what we need to have prepared. Most of our questions have yet to be answered, and the information we do have has already changed multiple times. So we have tried to prepare for anything and our plans involve a lot of flying by the seat of our pants. I am confident that Music for Life is a trustworthy organization and that together we are going to do something great. I just don't know what that will be quite yet!

So, we sit and wait (under the shade of s jackfruit tree in a torrential downpour) not knowing when we'll get picked up and not really knowing what we're waiting to do. But, as all the Mzungus (local dialect for "white man") here put it: TIA or This is Africa!

Friday, July 2, 2010


After a whirlwind five-day choir trip, the Medicine Hat College Girls Choir is exhausted, sleep deprived, sunburned, dehydrated, a bit cranky, and overwhelmed. BUT, the choir is also thrilled that they were able to have such a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Unisong festival is an abbreviation for "United in Song", this being the entire purpose of the festival. We were one of 11 choirs from all over Canada who prepared 3 concerts for the general public to see at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Canada Day. The first three days of the festival were spent rehearsing as a massed choir under the direction of Gerald Fagan. Approximately 300 choristers prepared a program of 11 Canadian choral works which featured pieces from coast to coast.

The fourth day of the festival was Canada Day. The massed choir performed three free public concerts and was accompanied by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, directed by Pinchas Zuckermann. Most of the MHC girls had never seen such a large stage before, nevermind performing on one and it was a great honour and privilege to be able to sing with such a fantastic orchestra.

The MHC Girls Choir also had a few opportunities to do some singing just as our own group. We did a small set of pieces on the lobby stage of the National Arts Centre, shared an evening concert with another choir at a local church, and sang a small set of pieces in the rotunda of Parliament.

Throughout the week we had some opportunities to take in some great sights. After our rotunda concert we had a private tour of Parliament where we saw the House of Commons, the Senate, the Library, and more. We were also fortunate to have the opportunity to tour the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec and check out the new water park, Calypso, nearby. In between our Canada concerts we were able to take in some of the sights and sounds of the party on Parliament Hill. There were many street vendors, buskers, concerts and crowds. The Queen was also on the hill, but we didn't manage to see her. Perhaps the highlight was the beaver tail we all ate at the end of the day.

The festival was not only a great opportunity to make some fantastic music, and to have some great experiences, but also to make some new friends. The Girls Choir became great friends with the Colorado Children's Chorale from Denver after eating breakfast with each other one morning. The kids exchanged contact info with each other and are now asking to make Denver our next choir tour destination.

We had a great trip. We will now break for summer and then start again in September just a little more experienced and educated than before!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Unisong Update

The MHC Girls' Choir is on tour in Ottawa taking part in the Unisong festival. So far we have done a small concert at the National Arts Centre and an evening concert at a local church. We have also been rehearsing with 11 other choirs en mass to prepare for three large gala concerts on July 1, Canada Day. As of this moment, we are waiting to hear if the Queen will be in attendance at one of our performances.

Needless to say, our days have been jam packed; we are only on day three but it feels like we have been on the go much longer. We have made some amazing music, met some amazing people and are having a great time!

The chaperones may be a little sleepy. Maybe tonight's meeting won't go so late:

Monday, June 21, 2010

MHC Girls' Choir on CHAT TV

CHECK THIS OUT!  The MHC Girls' Choir is heading to Ottawa from June 28 to July 2 to take part in the Unisong festival.  Unisong stands for "United in Song" - we will meet up with other choirs from across the country to join together and perform three concerts on Canada Day in our nation's capital!

Because of this incredible opportunity, we were featured on the CHAT TV news broadcast on May 26, 2010.  Check it out:

It was fun to have this exposure and in typical media fasion, they got a few little things screwed up in the story, but in general, its all good!  ENJOY!  Check back here for updates on how things go in Ottawa!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Great Fun!

The Dance Sing Groove Concert was AWESOME!  Congratulations to the MHC Girls' Choir and Children's Choir on a job well done.  All of our hard work and preparation paid off in full!  The audience loved the concert, I had fun, and all the performers did too!

And here's a special thank you to the band who played the Mamma Mia music, our dance teacher, and to the helpers up in the technician booth who truely saved the evening!  This wasn't possible without your contributions!

Have a great summer! See you back at rehearsal on Wednesday, September 15, same time, same place!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Looking ahead to Fall 2010

Hello Choirs!  This may be a bit premature, but I've started plans for the fall.  The MHC Adult Choir, Girls' Choir, and Children's Choir are going to bring Medicine Hat a fantastic 2010/2011 concert season!  We are going to start off with a Halloween concert.  I know, I know - you're worried.  But you shouldn't be.  It is going to be light-hearted, accessible, and a ton of fun.  Check out the tentative program:

MHC Halloween Concert (please send suggestions for a better title...)
Saturday, October 30, 7 pm (TENTATIVE)

MHC Adult Choir

  • Harvest Hymn - Ryan Taylor - I like the text in this piece.  It may be a stretch for a Halloween concert... we'll see...
  • A Halloween Quodlibet - Ryan Taylor - this is a piece that will continue teaching us how to have fun with choral music.  A quodilbet is a group of songs that can be sung at the same time.
  • Ho, Ho, Ho, Dido & Aeneas - Henry Purcell - Purcell is a famous English composer and he just happened to write an opera with a scene full of scary witches, perfect for Halloween.  We will do part of a scene from this opera.  These are the chorus parts:
    • Score 1 
    • Score 2 
    • Score 3 
    • Recording (this recording includes the recitatives, and duets which happen between each chorus part - we will do the entire scene as heard here.  If you're interested in seeing the scores for the other sections, click here)
  • Deamon Irepit Calidus - Gyorgy Orban
    • Recording (the tempo in this recording is quite slow, but it allows for you to hear each part better.  We'll go as fast as snot.  Check out other youtube videos to see how differently each choir does this song!)
    • Score - this piece is relatively new so it is not available in the public domain and therefore I cannot link to it.  You'll have to wait until September to see the score for this!
    • Translation:
    • Daemon irrepit callidus
      Allicit cor honoribus;
      Daemon ponit fraudes inter laudes, saltus, cantus
      Quidquid amabile daemon dat
      Cor Jesu minus aestimat.
      Cordis aestum non explebunt, non arcebunt, Daemon!

      The demon sneaks expertly,
      Tempting the honorable heart;
      He offers trickery amid praise, dance, and song.
      However amiably the demon acts,
      it is still counted less than the heart of Jesus.
      Poor, passionate, undisciplined demon!
MHC Girls' Choir
  • Old Abram Brown - Benjamin Britten
  • Witches Chorus, Macbeth - Giuseppe Verdi
    • Score (pages 8-16)
    • Recording
    • Translation:
    • Che faceste? Dite su!
      Ho sgozzato un verro!
      E tu?
      M’è frullata nel pensier
      La mogliera d’un nocchier
      Al dimòn la mi cacciò
      Ma lo sposo che salpò
      Col suo legno affogherò
      Un rovaio io ti darò
      I marosi io leverò

      Per le secche lo trarrò
      Un tamburo! Che sarà?
      Vien Macbetto. Eccolo qua!
      Le sorelle vagabonde
      van per l'aria, van sull'onde
      Sanno un circo lo intrecciare
      Che comprende e terra e mar.

      What did you do? Say now!
      I’ve slaughtered a boar,
      And thou?
      To me fluttered in thought
      the wife of a sailor
      she cast me out to the devil
      But the spouse who sailed
      with his ship, I’ll drown.
      I’ll give thee a north wind
      The billows I will raise

      I’ll drive him onto the shoals
      A drum! What will it be?
      Hail now, Macbeth!
      The sisters vagabond
      go through the air, go on the waves
      They know a circle how to weave
MHC Children's Choir
  • The Fate of Gilbert Gim
  • A Tragic Story - Benjamin Britten 
This concert will be a great chance to hear what the other MHC choirs are up to!  You'll also get a chance to share some fun music with your peers, friends, and family.  Stay tuned for the tentative Christmas concert program!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Congratulations Adult Choir!

The Music of the Americas concert was a great success!  It was an incredible journey!  Thanks to the choir for working hard and playing hard!  A special thanks to all the soloists: you sounded great!  And thanks to the audience for coming out and supporting us!

The MHC Adult Choir is finished for this season.  Our next choir rehearsal is:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010; 7 pm
Choir Room, Cultural Centre

EVERYONE IS WELCOME: returning members, new members, scared members, everyone!

See you in September!  Have a great summer!  Oh, and keep checking back here for updates on next semester's repertoire, concert dates, and other incredibly interesting info!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Music of the Americas

MHC Adult Choir Spring Concert
Tuesday, April 13; 7 pm
Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church

This high energy concert features folk songs and spirituals from North and South America and is easily accessible to all audiences.  Come be inspired and leave whistling one of these catchy tunes!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Rotary Music what?

Even though the two weeks of the Rotary Music Competition oops I mean Festival have now come and gone, the work as a teacher is by no means finished. The week following the festival, although less hectic in scheduling, is still stressful.

I am a liar. I didn't like doing it, but I lied to my students. I told them this wasn't a competition. And they believed me. That is until they performed, got some great feedback from the adjudicators, and then watched another kid get handed a trophy. This week I have had to explain to my students firstly, that I lied and just wanted them to do their best while not worrying about being competitive, and secondly, that no matter how they placed, they are worthwhile students and musicians.

I realize that I set my students up to be shocked. I simply figure that it is stressful enough for students to prepare a piece, memorize it, miss school, get dressed up, and perform (perfectly of course) in front of friends, family and a judge. Adding the competitive factor just doesn't seem right when you look at the long list of inevitable performing stressors. And really, how does one explain how music is made into a competition?

I thought I'd take a stab at seeing how the words in the title "Music Festival" came to inevitably mean 'Music Competition' as they do to us here today, in Medicine Hat. With the help of, I found the following:
  • MUSIC - an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and colour
  • FESTIVAL - a period or program of festive activities, cultural events, or entertainment
Wow! That sounds pretty great! A program of festive activities where you can express ideas and emotions through sound! Nothing about winning so far though...
ah ha! There it is. It seems like a stretch to make the arts into something competitive. Isn't the very nature of an art non-competitive?
  • ART - the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or more than ordinary significance

It follows then, that a music festival should be a place where people are entertained, hear something extraordinary, and share themselves and their talents. How have such innocent, beautiful and noble virtues become clouded by rivalry and supremacy? How are one person's ideas and emotions better than another's? How is one performance better than another? Sure, one kid may have missed a note while another kid didn't. One kid may have played Rachmaninoff and another played a C-major scale. Does a person really set out to learn Rachmaninoff, C-major scale, Schubert, the box-step, a flawless legato line, or even the meaning of a simple quarter note in order to be better than a peer?

At what point can we gather and build each other up? Why can't we inspire one another because of the commonalities that unite us; right now, it seems, that our commonalities pit us against each other. Imagine the day when kids can listen to their adjudications and feel comfortable accepting constructive criticism because they know there is no one in the room looking to be better THAN someone else, just be better themselves. The festival would be a place where the art of music and true friendships would blossom.

This whole business of a festival rather than a competition really came to a head for me when I was preparing a student for the RoseBowl. For those of you who don't know, the RoseBowl is a competitive concert featuring the best performers from the entire festival. The single best performer at this concert wins the RoseBowl, and is thus dubbed the best musician of the festival. While looking over the concert program, I read the following quote on the front page:

"In music festivals the object is not to gain a prize, not to defeat a rival, but to pace one another on the road to excellence." Sir H. Walford Davies

I was shocked. Who put that quote there? It's not about the prize or the competition? The RoseBowl has not one, but three adjudicators!!! Their sole purpose (and the sole purpose of the entire concert) is to decide who is best. What is going on here? Who is selling us these lies? (sorry again to some of my students)

The competitive factor seems to foster the worst in people: parents who live vicariously through their children (22 classes by one kid? seriously?), teachers who use the festival to increase their exposure and prestige (auditions to be accepted into a teacher's studio? that's a little backwards!), kids performing to win money and "hardware" (trophies, that is).

Perhaps my second most frustrating moment was when I found myself feeling tense while waiting for the adjudicator to reveal the results for one of my students. I now ask myself: why was I tense? Is it because my student may beat another teacher's student? And, it would follow, of course (hope you can hear the sarcasm here), that I would then be a better teacher. I am frustrated because I had fallen into the trap of the competition.

The blame can't be put solely on the students, parents, and teachers. We've been set up by the people who have gone before us: the past Rotarians, past parents and teachers, past winners and losers, and the now grown-up students. We've been set up by the rules and regulations. The Rotary Club prides itself on sponsoring the festival for 54 years and they have done a great job. It is truly an amazing feat to get this entire thing organized. Anne Carrier, the club, and all the volunteers are doing fantastic work. It is now time to change; it is not necessary to offer the exact same festival year after year. Arts competitions are an old-school way of thinking; from the stuffy, overly formal competitive atmosphere at each venue, right down to the signage, programs, and red blazers.

This is a call for change. Let's have a real festival - a festive festival. It means that there won't be a grand RoseBowl winner. You won't have a chance at getting a trophy. There will be no opportunity to gloat. It also means that there won't be eight RoseBowl losers, there won't be over a thousand participants trophy-less, and there will be no misunderstanding as to why one kid is or isn't better than another. Instead, the focus can be on the art and entertainment of music, our common talents and interests, and building one another up. If you want to compete, baseball season is right around the corner.

I wrote a lot. Probably too much. The Rotary Music Festival uses another quote on their website:

"Where words fail, music speaks" ~ Hans Christian Anderson

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rotary Music Festival - Thoughts

Hi all! I have no idea who reads this anymore, but after such a long day, I will use this as a means of organizing my thoughts, reflecting back, and looking forward.

The Rotary Music Festival is such an interesting, dynamic, and complicated experience. Organizers, teachers, students, performers, accompanists, adjuticators, and volunteers all come together with a common purpose: to make music. The logistics of an event like this seem huge, even impossible; the preperation seems unmountable at times I'm sure. Teachers and students prepare in advance for days, weeks, months, and even years.

I never participated much in music festivals when I was younger (more about that at a later time perhaps), but I am now participating as a teacher and accompanist. It is only the second day of the festival, and so much has happened. I had a huge day today: accompanying 13 kids, warm-ups, lessons, three choir performances. Lots to ponder. I like lists; they organize. Here are my Rotary Music Festival Day 2 lists:

  • Putting one of my students in the wrong vocal class and almost getting her disqualified. I guess I wasn't paying close enough attention - you live, you learn - won't make that mistake again.
  • Wearing dress shoes all day long. I have the sorest hips in town.
  • Being an ass in Grad school and then having to own up later. The choral adjudicator was my old prof. I wasn't a good student in Grad school.
  • Judging a book by its cover. Always somewhat emberassing when you catch yourself pulling this one...
  • 0 for 2 winning roll-up-the-rims


  • Watching a trio of voice students flabbergast an adjudicator. Kids who don't know their own talent amaze me.
  • Witnessing a student cram, with all her might, all the French diction possible into her head to prepare, forget some of it during performance, but still finishing with a smile and a positive result
  • Making a few extra bucks playing the piano. (but I've had to practice)
  • Changing.
  • Having the Children's Choir mezmorize the adjudicator with energy that bubbles over, and voices that sing uninhibitedly
  • Hearing the adjudicator speak to the parents of the choristers: "Please continue to support your children by keeping them in choir. They are learning, growing, and experiencing a much more valuable form of music than what a finger and an iPod can bring."
  • The Girls' Choir got the highest choral mark of the day with their performances.
  • Trusting in the natural leadership abilities which have lay dormant in each choir when the conductor can't be there to help
  • Getting the Adult Choir out of their comfort zones a bit, working hard, performing at festival, and being succesfull.
  • Having a beer with my old prof and apologizing.
  • Enjoying the overwhelming feeling of pride that all my students bring me.
  • 0 for 2 FREE roll-up-the-rims.

And thats only day two.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

MHC Junior Children's Choir Schedule

Just in case you forgot, or lost the newsletters, here is what we're up to:


Wednesday, April 7 – no rehearsal (Spring Break)

Wednesday, April 21, 4-5:30pm – Dress rehearsal (Black Box Theatre, Cultural Centre)

Wednesday, April 28, 4-5:30pm – Dress rehearsal (Black Box Theatre, Cultural Centre)

Sunday, May 2 – Performance: “A Barnyard Moosical” (Black Box Theatre, Cultural Centre), 1:30pm call time, 2pm performance

Wednesday, May 5, 4:45pm – Last rehearsal / party

MHC Children's Choir Schedule

Just in case you forgot, or lost your newsletters, here is what we're up to:


Wednesday, March 3 – Regular Rehearsal but in College Theatre to prepare for Rotary

Monday, March 8 - Rotary Music Festival, arrive 5:30, perform 6:00; College Theatre

Saturday, March 20 - Choralfest Calgary, bus leaves Cultural Centre at 9:45am

Wednesday, April 7 – no rehearsal (Spring Break)

Sunday, April 25 – Music for Life Concert (St. Paul Lutheran Church) 1pm call time, 2pm concert

Tuesday, May 4, Spring Concert Dress Rehearsal

Wednesday, May 5, rehearsal TBA

Saturday, May 8, Spring Concert

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Pilgram of Sorrow... Which is best?

The MHC Adult Concert Choir is going to learn this piece. Which do you prefer? Why?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010