The Sweetest Day of the Year

Get Ready, Here it Comes…Valentine’s Day!

Island Chordsmen Plus will be delivering Singing Valentines and a rose for the romantics on San Juan Island on February 12 AND on February 14.  By special arrangement, if you plan to wine-and-dine your Valentine on Saturday, February 13, we will schedule late afternoon and evening appointments.  Look for us soon at Friday Harbor Market Place grocery (2/6/16 and 2/10/16) to schedule your Message of Love to either someone you know OR someone you don’t know.  If you don’t have a sweetheart, send a gift to someone shut-in, or someone you’d like to gift with a little special attention.

Join Us for an Evening of Holiday Cheer

Grange Event pix

Tuesday, December 15 at 7:00pm at the Grange

Enjoy a generous helping of a cappella Christmas music, mixed with a good measure of sing-along caroling, topped off with cookies-and-cocoa. The casual concert begins at 7:00pm, reception to follow. Fun for young and old (no pets, please–service animals only). Open to the public. Donations gratefully accepted at the door.

Imperfect Harmony

imperfect harmony

A Webmaster Recommendation

For Stacy Horn, regardless of what is going on in the world or her life, singing in an amateur choir never fails to take her to a place where hope reigns and everything good is possible. Her voice is not exceptional, but like the 33 million other chorus members throughout this country, singing makes her happy. Imperfect Harmony is the story of one journey into a choir and strength in the weekly ritual of singing and in the irresistible power of song.

Available in Friday Harbor at Griffin Bay Bookstore.


5 ways to practice by yourself

New music…Yay! Now you have to learn it. Rehearsals only occur once every week. What can you do, by yourself, to make progress?
1- Look at the words. Get familiar with them, reading them as a poem and then reading them in rhythm. Are there sections that repeat? Do they repeat exactly or do some words change with each section? Do you understand all the words, or all the references that are made in the song?
2- Tell a story. To sing a song with any kind of conviction, you need to know what you are singing about. If there’s no story obvious in the song, make one up that works for you and sing THAT story, convincingly.
3- Find a recording. There is a wealth of recorded material on the Internet and on cd’s. Find one you like and listen. Focus on the total sound while looking at your music. Then focus on your part while looking at the music.
4- Audiate. Once you’ve learned your part, sing it in your head. If you’re not sure of your part yet, recite the words in your head.
5- Mark your music. Write down what is discussed about the songs in rehearsal, so that you can refer to it when you practice alone. Circle the parts you have trouble with in rehearsal so you can go through them slowly in your own practice.

Sing with a smile and you’ll enjoy your practice and be practicing for a great looking performance too.

Competition: Been There, Done That, Now What?

Congratulations, everybody!  It was a great competition, a fun weekend together, and everyone got home safely. Wow! What just happened?

Practice, practice, practice. Go on stage for 10 minutes and then it’s all over.  But is it?  The practice was good and the applause is always nice to hear, but are there more benefits to a competition than immediately meet the eye, or ear?  Yes!  Let’s consider…

To master something, you have to practice it.  The trick to making progress is “good practice,” vs. “bad practice.”  Whether you’re perfecting a tennis serve or a great sauce or ringing a perfectly tuned chord, good practice = (practice + goal) + assessment (repeat until satisfied). Imagine playing darts without a target:  you’re throwing that dart somewhere, but are you winning, is your aim improving?  Practicing without target and evaluation becomes boring pointless. (Self-assessment is possible, but it can be tricky, a topic for another time.)  At a barbershop competition, peer assessment is provided quickly, clearly, and professionally. Plus, the next practice “target” is set up so that you can improve your game, or in this case, your singing.

Competition also provides an opportunity to sharpen our understanding of Barbershop singing (i.e., seeing and hearing what makes a great performance).   For example: Choir 1’s tenor section went off-pitch — we thought we could hear it, and their Singing score confirmed it. Or: Choir 2 sang a great song but it didn’t touch us, and their Music score was low. Right again!  Choir 3, on the other hand, had the smoothest, cleanest phrases and smiles on their faces and they thrilled us with their music and it was clear they should get First Place.  These things are easy to see and hear and become easier (with practice!).   Even the solutions become clear when you have the luxury of seeing and hearing the problem, and thinking about it without any performance pressure.

Back home, the Afterglow is fading and we have a list of Things to Do (as a result of our coaching sessions with the judges).  Oh Boy! We want to do tackle them all, Immediately!!  Instead, let’s take one target at a time.  Let’s set a goal for each practice and work on THAT until we begin to hear it, or feel it in our music.  How about breath management?  Breathe deeply, let that belly expand… see you at rehearsal.  Let’s have some fun and take our “game” to new heights…and higher scores.

Why Workshop?

Another Saturday, indoors, when there’s all kinds of other stuff to do!  So why spend it on risers, singing songs over and over?  Here’s a few good reasons:

Practice really does make perfect.  There’s no other way to get a song into memory, both mental and muscle.  Good practice makes for good performance.

Breathing the same air.  Spending most of a day together gives us time to both work and  relax together and get to know one another better.  While working on a project–singing, preparing a meal, any project–we talk, laugh, sometimes argue, and along the way, learn what to expect from one another under various circumstances.  All of that information, whether it is conscious or unconscious, contributes to being able to sing and perform better.

Getting expert advice.  It’s easy to fall into our own comfy ruts.  The director becomes “used to” what the ensemble does and doesn’t always hear the improvements that can be made.  The singers get used to giving the director what’s being asked of them, when maybe they could be more musical or more expressive if they were allowed to proceed on their own.  A coach can provide perspective, new insights, new ideas…well, can move us out of our comfort zone…and possibly into more wonderful musical experiences.

Every voice counts.  If even one person is missing from our merry band, it makes a difference in our energy and our sound.  You are important, whether you are a “veteran,” or the newest person in the ensemble.  Believe it.

Please come this Saturday.  I promise you’ll be glad you did, for one reason or another, or maybe one I haven’t even thought about.     —Angel


Sing Your Way Home: Background on the “Going Home” theme

Antonin Dvorak (September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904), a Czech composer, gained international attention for his compositions based upon the folk songs Moravia and his native Bohemia. At this time, composers in many countries were likewise developing national musical styles that used traditional themes as the foundation for music that could be uniquely identified with their own countries. This era in musical history has come to be labeled, “nationalism.”

In 1892, Dvorak was invited to move to the US to become the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, a position he held until 1895. It was his belief, and that of his benefactors, that the United States was uniquely positioned to create a new musical style, and a nationally supported music and arts movement. The Conservatory was was open to men and women, of all ethnicities–quite unusual in that day and age.

As he traveled the US, recruiting students, he heard Native American music and African-American spirituals. He was quoted in a newspaper article as saying: “I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.” To Dvorak, these melodies and the Native American songs he heard both shared the same earthy qualities. In fact, both share a strong use of the pentatonic scale.

The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” Op. 95, B. 178, popularly known as the “New World Symphony,” was composed in 1893. It is by far his most popular symphony, and one of the most popular of all symphonies. “Goin’ Home,” the melody quoted in “Sing Your Way Home,” is based upon the Largo melody in the 2nd movement. It is an original melody, not a traditional spiritual, as is sometimes believed. It was adapted into the spiritual-like song by one of Dvorak’s students. William Arms Fisher wrote the lyrics in 1922 to his teacher’s melody, and a new American traditional song was born.

Singers’ Health- tips from Angel

As singers, we spend a lot of time standing and sometimes, the legs begin to protest, loudly and painfully.  Here are some possible ways to alleviate some of that leg pain (bear in mind these are coming from a singer, not a PhD):

1-Make Micro-movements.  Instead of standing absolutely still, keep moving, in micro-increments.   Shift your weight, move slightly forward or back; keep the movements easy & natural, and small (unless you want to call it “choreography!).

2-Drink water.  As one very experienced singer/doctor once told me, “Sing wet, pee pale.”   If you get very dehydrated, you may need to replace electrolytes as well (a “sports drink” may be needed as well as water).

3-Some foods that MAY help alleviate leg cramps are quinine (in tonic water) and potassium (in bananas, for one).

4-Stretch out with a good walk or with toe-touch exercises before you know you will be standing for long periods of time.