Stay tuned throughout February for my first ever Podcast mini series! Choral Music: A Human Art Form
Part 1: Why does representation in Choral Music matter? In this first installment, I address the question “Why Does Representation in Classical Music matter?” (or choral music) My answer to this question, and subsequent defense of that answer got me kicked off of a Facebook page. So in this episode, I tell that story. It’s a doozy. My answer was, “Representation matters because music is for ALL. From all to all. It can and should transcend innate characteristics.” It turns out this put me at odds with the moderator who had a “music is not universal” perspective which I have noticed has become more prevalent in the last five years or so. I have a lot problems with this trend though I see it as well-meaning one.
So, I decided to line up a series of episodes and guests during Black History Month in order to advance the conversations around representation, equity, equality and inclusion of ALL in the most HUMAN of all art forms: Choral Music.
This is a FASCINATING discussion with Donald Brinegar, author of the recently published “Pitch Perfect: a Theory and Practice of Choral Intonation.” Donald and I discuss the sometimes misunderstood concepts related to intonation and what makes something “in tune” or “out of tune.” Is it possible that we our education related to this topic has been lacking? I think it has been lacking for many, which is why I think this episode is so important. The conversation runs mostly along two tracks. The common misconceptions surrounding the mathematics of intonation as well as practical ways to bring concepts of intonation into rehearsals with singers of all levels.
Donald Brinegar is a conductor, tenor soloist, voice instructor, educator and master class clinician. Professor Emeritus of Music at Pasadena City College, Brinegar directed the Choral Studies program at PCC for 36 years. Brinegar also conducts the Donald Brinegar Singers, a community choral ensemble in Pasadena, California, Director of Choruses for the Pasadena Symphony and POPS, . During the summers he co-directs the Cal State Los Angeles masters program in choral conducting.
He has an extensive background as a performer both as a soloist and a conductor having performed throughout the United States, Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Canada. Brinegar has performed as a featured soloist with Robert Shaw, Helmuth Rilling, Roger Wagner, Gerard Swartz, Murray Sidlin, Howard Swan, Charles Hirt, Rod Eichenberger, William Hall, Marvin Hamlisch, Michael Feinstein, and with numerous music festivals, orchestras and opera associations. He has collaborated artistically with Henry Mancini, Barry Manilow, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, John Delancie, and the Chieftains. His choirs have given five performances for the American Choral Directors Association Conferences, California Music Educators (MENC), Choral Conductors Guild, and have performed in Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Music Center, and the Hollywood Bowl. In the Fall of 2017, Brinegar was recognized by the Pasadena Symphony as their Artist of the Year.
The Donald Brinegar Singers, choral ensemble, was founded in the Fall of 1997 as an ensemble of former students and colleagues of Professor Brinegar. Their first concert was given in November of 1997. Their second performance was the premiere of Lauridsen’s organ edition of Lux Aeterna, accompanied by organist James Buonemani. The ensemble presented music of the holiday season and was then invited to perform at The ACDA Western Division Convention in Los Angeles, 2000. Shortly following the convention appearance, the Singers recorded Ubi caritas et amor and Madrigali Six Fire-Songs: for Lauridsen’s compact disc, Northwest Journey. The Singers performed the Chansons des Roses with Lauridsen accompanying at the San Antonio, Texas, ACDA National Conference. The Singers followed with two more performances of Lauridsen’s music in Las Vegas, 2004 ACDA Western Division Conference, and the premiere of Nocturnes (The Brock Memorial Convention Commission) 2005, Los Angeles ACDA National Convention.
Seven important concepts to master to keep your choir moving forward for an ENTIRE academic year.
Sometimes we fall into ruts. Sometimes the singers do… Ultimately, both scenarios are bad and are OUR fault as the director. I have had wildly successful school years and seasons with churches and pro choir. And some that fell flat… In this episode I draw on that experience to come up with list of winning strategies synthesized from my best years on the podium. The list below is NOT ranked in any type of way.
Keep sight reading every day. If they’re bored, then you’re boring them.
Raise the bar. Once a choir thinks they are “good” they will stop working.
Group building is not just for the first day of school. Do more.
Set goals. Communicate them publicly. Don’t assume they know why.
Create engaging rehearsals by BEING engaging. (Hint: learn to be yourself!)
Interpret text. A lot. If you don’t know how, then ask somebody.
If the morale or rehearsal etiquette is not what you want it to be, it’s time to shock the system.
Tune in to this episode to hear the full explanations of each concept!