Choral Repertoire

The INTJ Artist and Defeating Self-sabotage

Last week, I finished the second concert of my Celebris Ensemble. We sang a really fun concert of madrigals, folk songs, and jazz and pop standards. As always, I tend to reflect (some might say overthink) about my concert and things that I’ve learned from it.

The act of creation can be a tough business. At least I’ve found it to be so. You receive that flash of an idea, that moment of inspiration, and then the next several months are carved up into research, planning, communicating with people, rehearsing with your fellow musicians, etc.

Any time you as an INTJ (or anyone really) engages in a creative act, two main obstacles stand in your way to complete it: you and other people. But before you engage with others, you must first fight yourself—your fears, worries, insecurities, weaknesses, and gaps in your knowledge. These keep you from succeeding. Author Stephen Pressfield, in his excellent book The War of Art, called these enemies “resistance.” The battle against resistance is renewed every morning. (Disclaimer: The book contains some objectionable elements).

Increasing Your Knowledge and Skills

As a creative entrepreneur, I’m astounded by the sheer volume of things I don’t know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to create something—an event, a book, a business—and come across something vital that I need to know: some new skill, some vital piece of information, some tool or person I need to do the job. Instead of being daunted by the fact that you don’t know something, be excited that you get to learn something new.

One truly helpful place I’ve rediscovered on this journey is the library. Some of you might think this is obvious, but it wasn’t to me. I’d forgotten how valuable of a resource this place is. Your tax dollars already fund this, so you don’t need to pay more for books, which can be pricey. If the library doesn’t have the book, they can order it from another library. I’ve found this to be very helpful: Go to a bookstore, see what new books you want, and then borrow them from the library. It’ll save you a ton of money in the long run, and you still gain access to the info you need.

Defeating Your Fears

When engaging in an a creative act, please understand that the middle of the project is the hardest part. This is the time when fear creeps in. What if I fail? Will so-and-so get back to me in a timely manner? Will the right venue open up? Will the singers have their notes learned?

If unchecked, fear can self-sabotage you. You don’t work as hard as you need to, or you give up when victory was within reach. Neither of these things will help you. The nice thing about being an INTJ is that I don’t care what most people think of me. There is that handful of people though, and sometimes I worry that nothing I do will gain their approval.

The trick is to disregard the fear. So what if you fail? You’ve already done more than most people.  You’ve learned something new. You’ve grown as a creator. So what if the failure was your mistake? God still sits on His throne. He’s still controls everything. Stop worrying. It ain’t that important in the grand scheme of eternity.

Conclusion

I recommend some things here that will help you succeed on your next venture. Conquer your fears; expand your skills. Stop worrying and jump in with both feet. It’ll probably go a lot better than you think it will.

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My Celebris Ensemble Concert Is This Sunday, Oct. 21!!!

Celebris is singing in Kazoo! If you are in Kalamazoo this Sunday, Oct. 21 around 1 pm, please come on down to First Congregational Church. It’s a beautiful space with wonderful acoustics. I could not ask for a better place in which to sing. The singers are talented, the music will be fun, and a great time will be had by all! We will not charge for admission, but we will be asking for donations for this nascent ensemble. We need your help in order to grow and create!

Here’s our concert order. As you can see, it’s got a lot of variety. There should be something for everyone. Please Come and Enjoy!

I

Tutte le bocche belle (Claudio Monteverdi)

Blue Moon (arr. Jonny Priano)

My Sweetheart’s Like Venus (arr. Gustav Holst)

My Bonny Lass, She Smileth (Thomas Morley)

II

Danny Boy (arr. Ryan Block)

And So It Goes (arr. Bob Chilcott)

III

My Lord, What a Morning (arr. Harry T. Burleigh)

Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal (arr. Alice Parker)

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (arr. J. David Moore)

IV

Fix You (arr. Philip Lawson)

On Floaters and Burrowers, Or Reflections on My Kalamazoo Ensemble Concert

I’ve been recently reflecting on an old TV episode I watched once. In the episode, one of the characters mentions that another character is a floater—he would float through life and things would just kinda work out for him. We’ve all met people like this. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Others naturally like them, want to do things for them, and give them things/opportunities. And since they are floaters, they probably don’t even know that they are. If you’re this person, count yourself blessed.

Then the TV character mentions the other kind of people—burrowers. These are the people whose faces are always buried in the mud and dirt of life. Any opportunities they get are the ones that they made happen through blood, sweat, and tears, and it’s usually half of the opportunities that the floaters get. Frankly, I’ve always felt like a burrower. I work hard on projects, always going two steps forward and getting pushed one step backward. On the plus side, I always feel like I’ve really accomplished something when the project is finished and I can reflect on a job well done. Wearing the dirt feels like a badge of honor. The dirt makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.

Which brings me to the ensemble concert last night. I remarked to one of my ensemble members how much easier this particular project has been to create than others I’ve done. Sure, there were struggles and the obligatory musician who drops out at the last minute (honestly, guys, we gotta start doing better about that), but overall it went pretty smoothly. The singers came with their notes learned. We got things done in the rehearsals, which were still fun. Everyone pulled their own weight. We created beautiful music.

So I want to thank everyone that helped with last night: the audience that came and enjoyed our hard work, our recording engineer who was willing to come and was easy to work with, the ensemble that worked hard and sang well, the good folks at Bethany Reformed Church who welcomed us with open arms, and those that supported us financially as we try to get this ensemble off the ground. You are all wonderful people. I’m so privileged to make music with all of you.

Here’s some video from the concert!

Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal (arr. Alice Parker)

 

Danny Boy (arr. Ryan Block)

Brand New Choral Ensemble in Kzoo!

Hello Everyone,

I thought I’d take a break from promoting my young adult novel and talk about a new ensemble that I formed! We’ll be singing our inaugural concert at Bethany Reformed Church in Kalamazoo on Tuesday, May 22 (7:30 pm).

I guess I should give you some context. During my time at WMU, I met a bunch of wonderful, talented, and committed singers. It killed me that I could no longer consistently sing with them or at that high level of artistry.

The goals of this small ensemble are to unify the community through love of music, empower musicians young and old through education and presentation, enrich the artistic life of the community through creative collaborations performed at a high level, and enkindle a love of music through engaging performances in new places. I’m open to innovative ideas performed in interesting places!

Though we’ll sing music from a bunch of different eras, we’ll be specializing in early music, jazz, and contemporary music—these are strengths of the music scene in Kzoo, and I think we can add to it. We’ve got an amazing group of singers, including Bri Rigozzi, Melanie Walker, Laura Healy, Libbie Hayden, Max Wagner, Ryan Block, and myself. We’ll be singing music from the Middle Ages (Machaut) all the way to a brand-new arrangement of Danny Boy composed by local jazz pianist and singer Ryan Block!

Since this is a new venture, we really need your support! We’ll be asking a suggested donation of $10/person for the concert. If you want more choral awesomeness in Kzoo and the west Michigan area, you are free to give more! Please support your local artists. Regardless of what you can give, we want you to come and enjoy it! 

BUYC Choir Camp 2017 Recap

Choir camps always prove to be enjoyable, busy, and exhausting weeks. Last week was no exception. We played games, worked hard, learned much, and sang a lot! Our theme this year was Songs of Childhood. We learned about how children are raised in different countries, and we even played children’s song games from all over the world. We will be doing one more this summer in Detroit (July 17-20). If you’re interested, here’s the site you need to visit!

Every year, I am amazed how much the kids can learn in 4 days, especially since some of the children have had little to no musical training! Here’s a quick overview of what I taught them:

IMG_1412Day 1:

First we started out with some fun camp songs. It is a choir camp, after all. You have to start with singing :). We then learned how to sing with good posture and how to sing in tune. We also began working on some songs that we would perform at the concert on Thursday. I made a new arrangement of “A la puerta del cielo,” which they sang pretty well.

Day 2:

We reviewed the words and melody to an Argentinian children’s game called “Caracol.” The game is kinda cool, but it takes a little while to be able to sing and play it at the same time if you don’t know Spanish. The kids played an Indian (from India) game called “Fire on the Mountain,” which they liked a lot.

Day 3:

IMG_1415The kids finally got to play “Caracol.” The word means “snail.” It’s a line game where one side of the line twists the other into “the shell.” Then, the opposite side of the line pulls everyone out again. The group picks up speed, and the children are flung outward onto the ground. Children love these kinds of games; they are played all over the world. Learning these games are a great way for kids to connect with other cultures.

Day 4:

IMG_1418One of our board members also leads a drumming circle at her church. She led a short djembe drumming class. This provided a nice change of pace as we were preparing for our end-of-camp concert later that night. The kids sang four songs. Some had harmony, because it is very important for children to sing in harmony if they want to grow musically. Children need to develop their ability to hold their own part while other parts are happening. This grows their musical hearing and performing skills.

IMG_1416Well, that about sums it up. The kids had a great time. They really seemed to enjoy learning about children from other cultures. They immensely enjoyed playing children’s games from other countries. What a fun and informative trip through the musical world!

 

My Recap of the Composers’ Workshop

Composing has always been a little intimidating for me. I enjoy doing it, but can never escape the feeling that I could be doing it better. Additionally, finding people who are open and honest about the craft can be difficult. For this reason, I was drawn to the John Ness Beck Foundation Choral Composers’ Workshop that I attended last week. The workshop is presented through Beckenhorst Press. This publisher has always been one of my favorites. They strive for accessibility without sacrificing artistry.

Anyway, it was an excellent workshop, and I learned a great deal. There was so much information that I often felt like I was taking a drink from a fire hose!  Consequently, I don’t feel like I am doing the workshop justice by condensing it to a short blog post. However, it would be a greater injustice for me not to try. So here goes nothing:

First off, let me say that Dan Forrest, Craig Courtney, and Howard Helvey are wonderful teachers. Having worked in the industry for years as composers, editors, and pedagogues, they brought a wealth of wisdom and experience to the workshop. Additionally, each participant had the opportunity to present pieces for critique. That can be a terrifying proposition, but Dan, Craig, and Howard tempered forthrightness with kindness. They took a scary situation and made us feel at ease. This is no easy feat!

They also taught us to delve into our compositional process. When are the best times of day for us as individuals to compose? How long should you try to compose per day? They answered these and many other questions with personal anecdotes as well as stories from other composers.

This year, they invited lyricists to join us for a day, and we got to pick their brains and collaborate. This experience was very exciting. Working with lyricists gives you a different perspective. You gain a new appreciation for the craftsmanship of the words, as well as an understanding of how much effort goes into choosing each word.

Lastly, they told us about the composing industry. Specifically, when are the best times for submitting pieces for publication? What about self-publishing? How difficult is it to get published? To which publishers should I submit my pieces? They answered all these questions and more.

Composing was always something I wanted to do better. I had ideas, but they did not always come together into a coherent whole. The composers’ workshop I attended this past week helped me figure this out. I think this will make my future compositions more cogent and compelling.

It also helped me as a conductor. Good conductors must understand why the composers and lyricists made the choices they did. This understanding, in turn, enables conductors to perform pieces precisely and expressively. The workshop provided that insight.

I would highly recommend this workshop to aspiring composers of choral music (particularly church music). The teachers are honest and kind, the fellow participants are talented and affirming, and the sessions were informative and life-changing.

I’m Heading Back to Greenville!

Next Week, I’ll be heading back to a city I have not seen since 2010: Good ole Greenville, SC. I’m going there for a week-long composition seminar with Dan Forrest, Craig Courtney, and Howard Helvey! Over the years, my choirs have sung much of their music, and I am thrilled to finally meet them in person. They are all highly successful composers, their music is frequently published, and–most importantly–they strive for that elusive balance of artistry and accessibility in their pieces.  In particular, Dan Forrest has become one of my favorite contemporary composers. His pieces are beautiful and lyrical.

I am extremely excited and just a little nervous. I’ve done a lot of conducting and a ton of singing, but composing is something I’ve always done on the side. I write a piece every summer for my children’s choir camps. I’ve also composed pieces for my choirs to use in concerts and tours. I am truly honored to be allowed to attend this workshop, and I am hopeful that I will gain a great deal of insight into the composition process. I’m also looking forward to making new friends and meeting with old ones!

Plus, I’ve heard Greenville has extensively renovated its downtown. Greenville is consistently ranked as one of the best towns in the South. It will be fascinating to see how much it has changed and grown. On to Greenville!