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Five Artist Owned SATB Pieces From Five Excellent Composers

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I love finding and sharing great choral repertoire. These five artist owned SATB pieces from five composers would work well in a large number of choral settings.

It is important to remember to use your conductor’s ear when perusing scores and listening to recordings of these pieces. Not every recording is great, even though the pieces are. I have found many terrific pieces that don’t have great recordings by “cleaning up” the sound and imagining them as could and should sound.

***Disclaimer: I am not being remunerated or even asked to promote these composers and their pieces, but I do retail music with MusicSpoke, from which come two of these pieces.***

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Andrew Marshall
Piece: Jesus Is Mine (MusicSpoke: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: https://www.andrewstcmarshall.net/

“Jesus is Mine” is a very skillfully arranged Jamaican Spiritual that would be an exciting concert closer. The piece would work well for college or advanced high school choirs.

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Ethan McGrath
Piece: The Invitation (Swirly Music: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: http://www.ethanmcgrath.com/index.html

Ethan is a very talented composer that is consistently writing quality material. “The Invitation” is beautiful, and sets a compelling Biblical text dealing with the human need of rest for the soul. The universality of this need combined with a lovely setting makes this piece a great fit for variety of performance settings.

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Braeden Ayres
Piece: Song For The Prairie Sky (MusicSpoke: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: http://www.braedenayres.com/

This piece combines famous folk tunes, including “Shenandoah,” but in a very unique way. The effect is of a duet of two lovers separated by great distance, but singing to and longing for one another simultaneously.

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Vahram Sarkissian
Piece: Tribulationes (Sheetmusicplus: partial perusal score and full recording)
Personal Website: http://vahramsarkissian.com/

Here is a very meaty, meaningful, “wow” piece for an advanced choir.  I would say it is appropriate for college level and up in most cases. It has won a first and third prize in two composition competitions.

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Jennifer Durham
Piece: Little David Play On Your Harp (Swirly Music: full perusal score and recording)

This is a delightful arrangement of the Spiritual for SATB and piano four hands. It is fun and accessible, but not at all cheesy and would be interesting for choirs at a variety of levels.

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I hope this has been helpful and informative!

If you have not done so, I would like to invite you to click here to receive to my email newsletter about the latest blog posts and great repertoire!

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Christmas Repertoire In July

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Choir conductors know that planning for the holiday season happens especially in the Summer. I thought I would highlight Christmas SATB repertoire available on this site. Click the title of each piece to access a perusal score and purchase page.

*Conductors may print a complimentary perusal score of each piece.*

Our Lamb Is Born is a lush,  mostly homorhythmic, unaccompanied piece. The imagery of the poem (written by my wife Heidi Sandvik) is stunningly evocative and beautiful. The music serves and evokes the atmosphere of the text.

 

The Angel Chorus is a warm and beautiful unaccompanied piece that climaxes with an “Alleluia” section and “Glory to God in the highest…”.

A Savior Is Born Today is a lively and rhythmic unaccompanied piece that is an invitation to all to come worship the Christ child.

Glory To God In The Highest is a very exciting and lively unaccompanied piece. It makes extensive use of canonic device. The effect is dazzling and jubilant.

Away In A Manger is a tender arrangement of the well known text with piano accompaniment.

 

The Angels And The Shepherds is a lively Spiritual that sets a poetic narrative. My HS Touring Choir premiered this piece several years ago and absolutely loved the piece.

If you wish to view a list of all available Christmas pieces click here.

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I hope this has been helpful and informative!

If you have not done so, I would like to invite you to click here to receive to my email newsletter about the latest blog posts and great repertoire!

 

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Never Upstage The Choir!

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“Never upstage the choir!” I heard these words spoken by Henry Leck to a group of singers during a National ACDA children’s honor choir rehearsal (Chicago, 2011). The choir was incorporating some non-choreographed movement into a particular piece, thus causing the words of caution. One young man, I would guess age 10 or so, did upstage the choir by losing focus and going wild with his movements. Mr. Leck stopped the choir, issued a gentle but firm reproof then resumed the practice. He was forced to stop again by the excited singer, and called him out again. His message was clear, you’ve upstaged the choir twice now, don’t do it again. I don’t remember the young man forcing the choir to stop again.

Many of us conductors are composers also, and frequently write music for our singers. This can be an incredible blessing, but it is important to remember, “never upstage the choir!”

A performance is not about bringing attention to ourselves, although it does reflect positively on us. The key word, in the previous statement is reflect. I suggest the focus should be on the mission of the choir. Maybe it is a specific mission such as bringing glory to God, bringing awareness to a cause, or something more broad such as just having fun, Christmas, Spring, etc…. As the mission of the choir is fulfilled, a positive reflection will be cast on all the participants in the music making experience, including conductor-composers.

Conductors who compose and bring their compositions to their choirs give them a rich gift. But remember, while conductors and composers deserve credit in performance, never lose the mission.

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I hope this has been helpful and informative!

If you have not done so, I would like to invite you to click here to receive to my email newsletter about the latest blog posts and great repertoire!

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Predictions About The Future Of Choral Music Publishing

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Disclaimer: The following predictions are related to current trends in choral sheet music publishing and retailing and their projected extension and influence.  I think the predictions are logical, plausible, and highly likely, but they are not based on scientific data collection, they are my thoughts based on personal observation. Enjoy!

1. Composers will keep at least 50% of the copyright of their own piece.

I think a shift is coming, and in many cases (though not yet mainstream) is here. Composers will retain ownership of their pieces, or at least 50% ownership. Self-publishing is growing fast, in large part because composers want to retain the copyright of their pieces. However, the perks of publishing houses are still appealing to composers. I think a coming change with traditional publishers wishing to stay afloat will feature composers entering into contracts with publishing houses that share the copyright, giving exclusive retailing rights for a set period of time (perhaps indefinitely depending on conditions). 100% of the copyright will revert back to the composer if the publishing house goes out of business or decides to discontinue printing the piece (more on this later).

2. Composer sheet music royalties will increase significantly.

Self-publishing and retailing pieces through music distribution websites are giving composers a much higher percentage of their sheet music sales. Traditional publishing rates have been around 10%, but the alternative retailing options typically award composers 40% or much more (and often all of the mechanical and performance royalties). Additionally, most composers are largely doing their own engraving these days as well and a significantly larger portion of their own promotion, so one of the labor costs to traditional publishers is being reduced. With these factors playing in, composers are increasingly likely to seek out options that give them a higher percentage of the cut.

3. Permanently Out Of Print will cease to exist.

With the digital age, this should be a obvious. If a publisher decides to discontinue a piece, the copyright (and thus ownership) will revert back to the composer, who will be able to sell it personally. Publishers and composers may have an agreement that a piece will be sold digitally even if the publisher chooses to no longer print the piece, and so pieces should never disappear.

4. There will be a continued increase of self-publishing composers.

The composer advantages for self publishing are obvious including: composers own the copyright; composers get high percentage of the payment for sheet music sales; compositions never go out of print; composers receive performance/mechanical royalties as the publisher as well as composer.

Self-publishing is relevant and here to stay. In the past, the disadvantages to keeping one’s music artist owned have been significant, including the inability of most composers to get many pieces in connection with large amounts of conductors and performers. This is being mitigated largely by the interconnections of choral musicians through ACDA and other organizations, the internet, and music distributing websites.

The internet has given composers the ability to more easily connect with conductors, build relationships, and possibly have pieces performed. Composers can easily retail pieces from their personal websites. However it can be extremely tedious for conductors to visit dozens, if not hundreds, of personal websites to purchase repertoire.

There are fast growing solutions such as the concept of a composer consortium. In it, a group of composers band together and pool resources to promote their pieces to larger audience than they could reach on their own. A great example of this (and perhaps the model for the future) is the Northwest Choral Publishers, which features four excellent composers who have a mix of artist owned and traditionally published works. I think the future will see an increase in the composer consortium concept.

Music distributing sites that sell artist owned music especially mitigate this drawback (inability to reach large swaths of conductors rapidly). Online distributing companies/services like MusicSpoke, Swirly Music, and even JWPepper and Sheetmusicplus are creating hubs of artist owned music that conductors can search to find quality repertoire. I believe we will see more and more high quality composers retailing their music through these venues. Below I give a more detailed description of these four distributing websites and their relevance to the future of music publishing.

5. Composers will need to market their own music.

This is already true for almost all successful composers, but the need will continue to increase. I think the major factor besides the obvious increase of self-publishing (artist owned music must largely be artist own promoted) is the fact their are so many good composers these days. To be able to get one’s music into the hands of conductors, composers will have to be intentional about making connections. It will be important for us composers to have a personal code of decency and polite conduct when making connections with conductors. It will also be important for us conductors to be open to personal connections with composers, as this may be the only way to find some of the great repertoire that will be available in the future.

A Review of Four Artist Owned Distributing Sites Relevant To The Predictions

***Disclaimer: While I am not remunerated for these reviews by any of these websites, I do have scores retailing with MusicSpoke and Sheetmusicplus.***

In my opinion, MusicSpoke and Swirly Music are the two best distributing websites for artist owned repertoire. The quality of scores on these sites parallels that which I find from highly reputed publishers.

MusicSpoke is a for profit distributing company that is highly innovative and I believe is the leader in setting many of the future trends for sheet music distribution. It provides vetted music for it’s buyers, but it does not vet compositions, rather the vetting takes place on the level of the composer. Composers demonstrate their quality, and then control which pieces are retailed through MusicSpoke. They also regularly have booths at conventions, have reading sessions of their music, and make connections with conductors on behalf of their composers.

Swirly Music does not technically vet their composers, rather they are a not for profit service that composers use. Composers upload a few pieces for free, and then pay a very small fee per title after that. It is a very composer friendly system that is used by a high number of quality composers. Their service allows for digital score purchasing and quality printed scores. They also promote their composers at booths during music conventions.

JWPepper and Sheetmusicplus have some incredible artist owned choral pieces being retailed through their website services, but it is not vetted music. This means a person may have to sift through a lot of poorly written, poorly edited, or poorly presented music to find the gems, not dissimilar to sifting through loads of junk on cpdl (although more efficient). I think JWPepper and Sheetmusicplus are ultimately hoping that quality pieces will sift themselves up in the search rankings on their sites by virtue of the number of sales they incur. In theory, this should eventually leave a mix of traditionally published and artist owned pieces whenever someone searches for music on the sites.

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I hope this has been helpful and informative!

If you have not done so, I would like to invite you to click here to receive to my email newsletter about the latest blog posts and great repertoire!

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Five College Level SATB Pieces To Program This Spring

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I love sharing excellent choral repertoire! Here are five artist owned SATB pieces that would make great additions to one of your choral programs.

Remember to use your conductor’s ear when perusing scores and listening to recordings of the pieces. Not every recording is great, even if the piece is. I have found many terrific pieces that don’t have great recordings by “cleaning up” the sound and imagining them as could be.

***Disclaimer: I am not being remunerated or even asked to promote these composers and their pieces, but I do retail music with MusicSpoke, from which come three of these pieces.***

 

 

Joy Decoursey-Porter
Piece: Miserere Mei Deus (MusicSpoke: full perusal score and recording)

Miserere Mei Deus sets portions of Psalm 51. It is not the usual beautifully morose interpretation that focuses on sorrow expressed in repentance. Rather, this piece seems to musically focus on the idea of joy in forgiveness which gives way to praise (an aspect also shared in the Psalm’s text, but often overlooked musically). The piece is thoroughly triumphant and joyous, though not bubbly, in a deep and almost solemn way. It would make a great festival piece (such as an all-state) as well as being a dynamic addition in most choral programs. I personally find this piece very moving.

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Kevin Padworski
Piece: The Cloud (MusicSpoke: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: https://kevinpadworski.com/

I met Kevin at the 2017 TMEA convention. We both had a pieces included in the MusicSpoke reading session for advanced choirs (he with a treble piece titled “Pine Needles,” me with “Soon One Day” – links at the bottom of this post). After the convention, I checked out his music and became acquainted with his piece, “The Cloud.” It is scored for SSAATTBB + celesta and piano. I find this piece to be very effective in idea painting (akin to word painting, but creating an expression of the meaning of the text in its totality). One could easily picture an afternoon looking at the sky, watching clouds drift by. It would be a great fit in a nature themed program or in a days of creation themed program.

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Ross C. Bernhardt
Piece: The Gift Disguised (Swirly Music: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: http://www.bernhardtmusic.com/

I encountered Dr. Bernhardt’s writing while perusing Swirly Music’s mixed choir titles. He has several compelling pieces on that website. “The Gift Disguised,” which won the 2010 Ithaca choral composition competition, is a sensitive, homorhythmic setting of a meaningful text. With good intonation, choral balance, and diction, this piece could be the deep/profound piece in a program that really makes listeners think.

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Emily Feld
Piece: Ubi Caritas (MusicSpoke: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: https://composersforum.org/members/directory/emily-feld

The “Ubi Caritas” text is usually set in a beautiful, solemn way, often hearkening back to the feel of the original chant. The text, however, fits a variety of interpretations. Emily chose a jubilant and dance-like interpretation, which I find delightful and effective. Precise intonation is key for the choir that includes this piece in a program, especially in the staccato sections (of course every piece demands precise intonation, but choirs should know their limitations, and good intonation may be more difficult for some choirs on this one). However, the choir that does this piece well will delight their audience. I think this piece could fit many places in a program, including being used as a concert opener.

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Alexis Renee Ford
Piece: Christus Factus Est (Swirly Music: full perusal score and recording)

Here is an absolutely gorgeous setting of the “Christus Factus Est” text (Philippians 2:8-9). If your choir will perform in a cathedral or in a church or concert hall with excellent live acoustics, do this piece. Performed well, it has an almost crystal glass quality. Every program should have a piece that is just beautiful (or several pieces). This piece is just that, stunningly beautiful.

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I hope you have found this insightful and helpful. If you like one of the pieces, be sure to peruse other works by that composer!

If you have not done so, I would like to invite you to click here to receive to my email newsletter about the latest blog posts and great repertoire!

***Pine Needles, by Kevin Padworski; Soon One Day, by Michael Sandvik – featured in the MusicSpoke reading session at TMEA 2017***

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Top Five Pieces 2016

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  1. One Thing Have I Desired, SATB – first time in the top five!
  2. My Prayer, TTBB – in the top five for the third year in a row! 2015 = 1, 2014 =1
  3. Hold On For A While, SATB – first time in the top five!
  4. A Savior Is Born Today, SATB – first time in the top five! (number 6 in 2014)
  5. Soon One Day, SATB and TTBB – in the top five for the third year in a row! 2015 =3, 2014 =2

To see the “Top Five” posts from the previous two years click here: 2014 Top Five, 2015 Top Five

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Counting the Blessings: Composer Highlights from 2016

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Happy 2017! I wanted to start the new year celebrating some of the finest blessings of 2016 as a composer.

Highlight #1: Having “One Thing Have I Desired” sung by the Walla Walla University Touring Choir Reunion in the Spring.

Highlight #2: Having “My Prayer” recorded by the Mennonite men’s group, Proclaim, and released on their CD, titled “My Prayer.”

 Highlight #3: Premiering my new piece. “Run To The Manger” for elementary children’s choir with 100 children at Christmas time. I hope to make this piece available on the website soon!

Highlight #4: Having performances of “Soon One Day” in Indonesia in both the TTBB and SATB versions. Thank you to Ricky Recky for choosing this piece and performing it beautifully with your choirs. To God the Glory!

 

      • TTBB version:

    • SATB Version (Soon One Day Begins at 2:40):

I wish you all a wonderful new year!!!!

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Three Fantastic Artist Owned Choral Pieces and One Major Work – Featuring Four Composers

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habits-of-effective-music-teachersThere are so many pieces and works being written for choirs these days that it can be difficult to find great pieces. This has especially been true of artist owned music (self published music). However if a piece or work is great, it is worth finding it. Here are three worthy pieces and one excellent work.

The Rising, SSA accompanied (also available for TTB)
Composer: Andrea Ramsey
Personal website: http://www.andrearamsey.com/

This is a positively moving setting of Sara Teasdale’s poem, “Like Barley Bending.” The piece comes across as unaffected and allows the text to lead the music. Like many modern pieces, “The Rising” uses musical suspensions to create affect, however, when sung with innocence, the use of the device seems ideal for the music and does not seem overused. I think this piece is best suited for middle/high school age singers and would be great in festivals/all-states. This piece is available perusal, listening, and for purchase from musicspoke.com here: http://musicspoke.com/downloads/rising/

Nomina Animalium, SATB unaccompanied (advanced level)
Composer: Linda Kachelmeier
Personal website: http://www.lindakachelmeier.com/

“Nomina Animalium” is an exciting piece about Adam naming the animals for advanced level SATB choirs. In it she incorporates rhythmic modes from Notre Dame polyphony, and yet within a context that is thoroughly fresh and doesn’t eliminate her personal voice. “Nomina Animalium” is available for perusing, listening, and purchase from her personal website here: http://www.lindakachelmeier.com/works/nomina-animalium-adam-naming-animals

**This is the second time I have featured a piece by Linda Kachelmeier (as well as Kurt Knecht and Michael Kaulkin) on this blog (the first is in this post here) and I should give the disclaimer that I receive no remuneration from any composer for sharing their music, rather I just enjoy connecting musicians with great pieces.**

Drop, Drop, Slow Tears, SATB accompanied 
Composer: Kurt Knecht
Personal website: http://kurtknecht.com/

“Drop, Drop, Slow Tears” is built on a nine measure ground-bass theme in the bass line of the accompaniment (similar idea as the “Crucifixus” from Bach’s b minor mass). The piece is neo-baroque, but does not seem formulaic or dry. The climactic build up is extremely effective as the piece slowly unfolds. The piece is available with keyboard, strings/harp, or keyboard/violin/cello accompaniment. Concerts are enriched when they include a piece that is exquisitely beautiful and even emotional. “Drop, Drop, Slow Tears” would fill that niche. The piece is available for perusal, listening, purchase from musicspoke.com here: http://musicspoke.com/downloads/drop-drop-slow-tears/

Cycle of Friends, Solo Soprano, SATB, Orchestra, 5 movements (approx. 25 minutes)
Composer: Michael Kaulkin
Personal Website: http://www.michaelkaulkin.com/

Here is work that could be the principle work for a choral concert. The work is a survey of various aspects of friendship. The work pivots on a short a cappella third movement for SATB that features the Emily Dickinson poem “Are friends delight or pain.” Opening the work is a jubilant movement celebrating friendship (soprano solo, choir, orchestra), followed by a more contemplative 2nd movement for chorus and orchestra featuring the meeting of two friends. The fourth movement is somewhat mournful and beautifully lyrical piece dealing with two friends parting (soprano solo and orchestra). This runs attacca into the final movement for chorus and orchestra which adds chorus to the instrumentation and once again celebrates friendship, but with a more solemn treatment than the opening movement. It grows to a grand climax and then gently fades away over the last couple of minutes.

I think this work is relevant and very well fitted to the times in which we are living. Some may say more serious topics should be explored, but I think with the great divisiveness currently existing in our world, a reminder to celebrate our common humanity and to cherish those we love and appreciate is just what is needed. The subject is treated skillfully by the composer, so including the work in one of your programs would be meaningful musically as well as being uplifting to musicians and listeners. Nearly every musician I know wants to make a positive impact on those around them. This is repertoire that helps accomplish that goal.

Michael Kaulkin has a nice blog write up of the work, movement by movement, with quality audio here: https://changingnotes.swirlymusic.org/an-old-favorite-cycle-of-friends-turns-20-4f490acd88a6#.cr8vw2q3r

“Cycle of Friends” is available for perusal, listening, and purchase from swirlymusic.org here: https://www.swirlymusic.org/music/choral-music/michael-kaulkin-cycle-of-friends/


I hope you enjoy these works as much as I have! God bless you this choral season.
-Michael Sandvik

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Busting Vocal Tension In A New Choral Year

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Busting Vocal TensionIn A New Choral YearTension!

Vocal tension is generally a bad thing, often even a VERY bad thing. It is bad because it hurts voices. In graduate school I had some great teachers that helped me overcome some significant vocal tension issues. To them I will be forever grateful. I don’t claim to have arrived in the vocal freedom journey, but I have become a tension buster for my vocal and choral students, with highly effective results. I want to share three tips that can help you make sure your singers/students are progressing vocally in the area of tension/freedom.

Here are three things choral conductors and voice teachers can do to encourage and promote free singing in their choirs and singers.

  1. Promote Physical Awareness
  2. Hit The Reset Button
  3. Insist on Good Posture

***Note: I am assuming that those who will utilize the information in this post are already teaching proper placement, breath, support, and basic vocal techniques to their singers (or insisting on it with more advanced singers).***

Promote Physical Awareness

A major cause of vocal tension I have found when working with my singers (ages 5 to 19 in a variety of choirs as well as voice students) is a lack of physical awareness by the singers themselves. Many singers are desirous of pleasing and succeeding so much, that they will power through vocal tension and pain to their own detriment. Many need to be told that vocal pain is a bad thing, and if they feel pain, it is not ok. Furthermore, they need to know that the muscles around the voice and in the face should feel relaxed (there is engagement of facial and other vocally related muscles of course, which I will address later), and if it isn’t, something is not right. Awareness is not a specific fix for a problem, but it can often prevent little vocal issues in amateur singers from growing into titanic issues. Also, many individuals are incredibly adept at relaxing themselves or specific muscles, and having the proper awareness may be what they need (or mostly so) to prevent muscle tension from causing vocal tension.

Hit The Reset Button

A primary place of tension I have found working with developing singers is in the jaw. Muscles tighten and move or lock the jaw in unnecessary ways. I find this to be the culprit most of the time for the chin lifting, neck-tie tenor phenomenon. Another common place of tension is the tongue and the swallowing muscles (they often work together to negatively impact the voice). The last common place I will mention is the muscles of the neck.

For all of these areas of tension, “hitting the reset button” has proved effective for my singers. If they are aware of the tension, they can stop singing, relax the muscles and start up again. If the tension comes back, they reset again as often as necessary. This prevents habits from forming where the body associates certain pitches, dynamics, vowels, etc… with vocal tension. A person can insist on their own voice being tension free by “hitting the reset button”. The result is that they never allow themselves to sing with vocal tension (to the best of their awareness).

Many things we as conductors and voice teachers are prone to correct not issues of tension in and of themselves, but are rather symptoms of tension. We need to advance ourselves and address the cause, not just the symptom. Chin lifting is one such symptom of tension (almost always caused by jaw tension in my experience). We tell the singer not to lift the chin, but if we don’t address the cause, we may only be hiding the problem and never resolving it. In the case if chin lifting, remind your singers to use the “reset button” as often as necessary along with specific reminders about relaxing the jaw. Coupled with reminders not to lift or thrust the chin, and with the constant training (reinforcement for advanced singers) in proper vocal technique, the issue generally resolves.

Make sure that your singers understand the difference between engagement and tension. Engaging the voice, jaw, tongue, etc… for sound, movement, and articulation can be done with freedom and without tension. A great image that has worked for me in explaining this seeming dichotomy is that of a good batter in a baseball game. To effectively hit a pitch, the batter must be relaxed. However, there is a tremendous amount of engagement of many muscles to produce the swing. Though engaging muscles, the batter is always relaxed, never locking up any muscles which would create a hitch in the swing and perhaps an injury. The jaw, tongue, and other body parts will likewise engage when necessary, or sound will not be shaped and formed properly. But like the batter, there should be no locking up and unnecessary tightening of the muscles used.

A question could be asked, why is there tension in the jaw, tongue, neck, or swallowing muscles? I generally find it to be a compensation for vocal placement and/or support. It is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” dilemma as to which is causing which. Is the lack of support or improper placement causing tension, or is tension causing a lack of support and improper placement?  My best results have come when addressing tension and support/placement together. Many singers find proper support when they successfully hit the “reset button” and eliminate vocal tension. Likewise, focusing on proper placement and support often helps many singers eliminate vocal tension.

At times I encounter a singer that has good support and placement concurrent with vocal tension. Stopping and restarting a sound once relaxed as often as necessary can be very helpful to this singer. Often they have physically associated the support and placement with tension. Using this technique of “hitting the reset button” greatly aids in disassociating the good physical habits from the unhealthy habits. They can thus be retrained to experience vocal freedom quickly and form habits conducive to a lifetime of vocal health.

Use the “reset button”!

Insist On Good Posture

Poor posture when singing negatively impacts the breath and support of a singer. If quality support is lacking, the body will find a way to compensate. The compensation nearly always involves tension, That tension, even if minor, can quickly become a habit which magnifies over time.

Standing or sitting with good posture can be tiresome at times, because often singers have been sitting poorly with rounded shoulders for extended periods of time in front of a computer, at a desk, etc…. Using some stretches to release and relax the muscles into feeling comfortable in good posture may be necessary. One such stretch involves bringing your arms behind your back, holding your hands together, lifting the arms, and then attempting to pull ones elbow together for a full 30 seconds. Be sure that the shoulders are relaxed and that one does not lean forward. A person way also wish to tilt the head back and look up during the stretch (if one has been looking down a lot during the day, such as at a tablet, phone, or book on a desk). This stretch is just one of many that work to pull the shoulders back, expand the chest, and relax the neck . The goal is that good posture will feel comfortable.


I hope these three ideas will prove helpful in promoting tension free singing and good vocal health with your choirs and singers. Remember to “promote physical awareness” of tension with your singers, “hit the reset button,” and to “insist on good posture.”

 

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Six Pieces for the 2016-2017 Choral Year: SATB, TTBB, SSAA, and Elementary Children’s Choir

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Six Pieces for the 2016-2017 Choral YearTo date, I have made 38 choir pieces available on my website (with many more to come). I recognize that most conductors do not have the time to visit, peruse, and listen to every piece on my website. So I have decided to recommend six of these pieces for conductor’s special consideration.

The recommendations are for Elementary Children’s Choir, Advanced SATB, Church Choir, SATB, SSAA, and TTBB Chorus.

*Composer’s Choice #1: “Swing Low,” arranged for Elementary Children’s Choir and Piano*

For more details and a full perusal score (printable for further review) click here: Swing Low

I conducted this piece with my combined Elementary Children’s Choir and it was super loved by the students and well received by listeners. I think the piece maintains the dignity of the Spiritual while still being very fun. This piece is ideal for singers age 7-11.

*Composer’s Choice #2: “Are You Ready?” for Advanced SATB unaccompanied*

For more details and a full perusal score (printable for further review) click here: Are You Ready?

This original Spiritual fits in a program as an excellent closer or a climactic piece that energizes audiences. Though very exciting, I think it avoids becoming showy, rather maintaining its spirituality. It is intended to portray the feel of a camp meeting revival.

*Composer’s Choice #3: “Lord Have Mercy” for SATB Church Choir unaccompanied*

For more details and a full perusal score (printable for further review) click here: Lord Have Mercy

This piece was written to be used in the church service. It is a choral prayer that can be used as a choral response to a sermon, prayer, or even as a short anthem (about 1’45”).

*Composer’s Choice #4: “Set Me As Seal” for SATB unaccompanied*

For more details and a full perusal score (printable for further review) click here: Set Me As A Seal

This setting of the famous Song of Songs sacred love text fits in many performance scenarios. When writing this piece, I envisioned a chamber or medium sized chorus that sang with careful attention to choral balance and precise intonation (as opposed to a lovely grand sound with fuller vibrato). When sung this way, with excellent dynamic build up, I think the middle section featuring the words “many waters cannot quench love” and “neither can the floods drown it” would be profoundly moving as one hears the the swell and subsiding of the proverbial waters. This is immediately followed by a simple duet of two soloists on the original tune, the contrast of which is lost in the wonderful demo recording done by Matt Curtis (one voice, however skilled, can’t create the intended contrast of 30+ voices and two voices). I think this piece could be a capstone “heart” piece in many concerts.

*Composer’s Choice #5: “Magnificat” for SSAA unaccompanied*

For more details and a full perusal score (printable for further review) click here: Magnificat

This Magnificat setting renders the biblical words of Mary in English. It is elegant, declamatory, sweet, reverent, and beautiful. Rather than making a grandiose musical spectacle as many “Magnificat” settings have aimed to do (and often quite beautifully), I aimed this piece to capture the wonder, simplicity, and sacredness of the moment shared by Mary and her aunt Elizabeth when she first spoke the words. This piece is the only SSAA piece from a larger SATB work depicting the life of Jesus.

*Composer’s Choice #6: “Soon One Day” for TTBB unaccompanied (SATB also available)*

For more details and a full perusal score (printable for further review) click here: Soon One Day
click here to view SATB version: Soon One Day SATB

Langowan 4 Male Choir, 2016

A bit of history: I wrote “Soon One Day” for SATB choir in 2010. The TTBB version was commissioned a couple of years later by the Naperville Men’s Glee club for their 25th anniversary concert. The SATB version of the piece was later featured (two different times) on choralnet.org, and then both versions were featured by ACDA Minnesota in their publication Star of the North (Spring, 2015) in a repertoire write-up by R&S Chairs titled “Pick Six.”

“Soon One Day” is a thrilling Second Coming Spiritual that contrasts trials of life with the hope of the better life when Jesus comes. It builds slowly, but relentlessly, until it reaches a climactic, but stormy section proclaiming “hold on to Jesus.” This has been my most decorated and one of my most loved pieces by singers, conductors, and listeners. It is not a short piece, but is a moving and powerful addition to a choral program.


I hope these recommendations are helpful and useful!
God Bless,
Michael Sandvik

 

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