May 8, 2008

Friday, May 2nd: "Rejoice in the Lamb"

Considering this was the first time conducting this difficult piece in class, I think it went pretty well. I was pleased that I was able to show the different dynamics; it sounded like the ensemble really responded. I was also pretty confident with the different conducting patterns. This was something that I was concerned about and I think I will get more confident with this with more time and practice.

For things to work on for the next run through, I can make the "3" in my gesture bigger. Dr. Mehaffey and Andrew commented that they were not as large as they should be; they were actually looking like the other beats. I am glad that this was brought to my attention because I am currently working on it. Also, I need to learn when to listen and when to not listen. This piece is tricky and sometimes you need to just get out of the way and just conduct.

April 29, 2008

Friday, April 25: Les Etoiles

I believe this was the second time that I conducted "Les Etoiles" and I think I improved. I think I was able to clearly represent the duple and triple meter. My gestures seemed clearer this time around because the ensemble really seemed to follow me. I struggled last time with the final page (with the ritard and alto movement) but this was a lot smoother this time around. I also think that I was much more comfortable with the active and inactive beats. This is a great piece to practice this on and I think it went well

With things to think about before conducting this at Central High School, I will need to monitor what is happening with my left elbow. I didn't even realize I was doing this but hopefully I can remember this while practicing. I have already worked on keeping my left hand under control. I have been rehearsing "Rejoice in the Lamb" with Matt Culloton and I am already making sure it is only used when necessary. I think this was a good week and I look forward to conducting the ladies at Central High School.

April 24, 2008

Rehearsal Observation

For my rehearsal observation, I chose to observe Emilie Sweet conducting The Alchemy Singers for The Alchemy Project. (The rehearsal was help at 7:00 on Thursday, February 21.) While I have worked with Emilie this past year, I found it very interesting to sit back and give all my attention to her as a conductor and teacher. So often I am focusing on my own part; it was helpful to watch her work with all voice parts and the instrumentalists.

For this rehearsal, Emilie was working with an ensemble comprised of professional singers. This was quite different then working with the University's Chamber Singers so her style changed. She was able to give more directions to the singers more often and because of her concise statements, the ensemble was able to respond quickly and solve most problem spots. Furthermore, this is one of the only rehearsals that this ensemble had ever met. The singers came from many different areas so it was clear that Emilie was taking it upon herself to have them connected in some way. To do this, Emilie always made sure that everyone new what the goal of each piece. Emilie created a very nice atmosphere within this new ensemble and the music improved because of it.

In a particular part of their music, two soloists were having a very difficult time executing an entrance. To fix this, Emilie tried multiple things: making a bigger conducting yesterday, quietly singing along, and using very strong eye contact. However, what ended up working was putting another singer in to assist on the entrance. This was a great moment to watch because Emilie did not give up and tried multiple tricks until the problem was fixed. I learned during this observation that while you might now a particular conductor, they are always able to transform themselves for different ensembles and different settings.

April 10, 2008

April 4, 2008: Wood River

I was unable to run the ending of this piece the first time around so that is why I wanted to get another go at it in class. When dealing with the soloist and choir, I got a little turned around and I was not ready for that. Honestly, I didn't think it was going to be that difficult but it did present some challenges. For instance, I was trying to do too much at once. Dr. Mehaffey pointed out that I really only have to conduct the choir and then let the soloist "do her thing." This helped but I was still a little "hand tied." I will have to work with this a little more before we go back to Central for the final.

On another note, I think I was very clear before and after the soloist section. I was able to prep all beats and be true to the dynamic markings. Also, I think the final few measures went smoothly because I think I was clear and everyone was looking at me. This week went well and I was pretty pleased.

March 30, 2008

Concert Observation

On March 29 at 8:00pm, I attended the concert "My Soul's Repose" which was presented by "The Singers". The ensemble was conducted by our very own Matthew Culloton. It was very interesting to view a conductor I know well working with different singers. The groups seemed extremely connected to Matthew and there seemed to be wonderful communication from both parties.

From the beginning with William Byrd's "Sing Joyfully", Matthew was able to establish a exciting, buoyant sound. It gestures were extremely round and he traveling in a very smooth, circular motion. This was visible in the choir because the singers seemed to use their bodies to feel and experience the music. Through the entire concert, Matthew was very relaxed but in complete control. This allowed the singers to seem more relaxed and able to express more extreme dynamics. Furthermore, Matthew had fabulous releases on every piece. I have never performed in the Basilica of St. Mary but I have performed in similarly large spaces with insane acoustics; I know how easy it is to have the sound sink immediately following a piece. Also, releases were lifted and soared to the back of the large space.

The repertoire for the concert was incredible and I enjoyed every piece. I have to say, I was extremely excited to hear Rachmaninoff's "Vespers (All-Night Vigil)"; it has to be one of my favorite choral works. Matthew was able to fully express the gorgeous extremes throughout the entire concert but I was especially impressed with this particular set (more specifically "Rejoice, O Virgin/ Bogoroditse Devo"). For the larger moments, Matthew took advantage of his circular, sweeping motions. For the intimate, sensitive moments, Matthew quieted down his gestures, brought them in closer to his body, and sometime influenced the sound/dynamic with a simple change in his hand position.

As we all know, Matthew Culloton is an extremely dynamic individual and last night, he was able to bring that energy and knowledge into his conducting. I learned a lot from this concert observation: active versus inactive gestures, sweeping motion, conductor-ensemble interaction, and learning when a conductor is needed versus simply letting the singers do their thing! Great concert!

March 24, 2008

March 14, 2008: "Cross the Wide Missouri"

Considering this conducting lab was my last class right before spring break, I think it went quite well. I stayed focused which is always a good step! After Dr. Mehaffey commented on my "broken wrist", I think I was able to execute the legato clearer. The ensemble responded really well which allowed me to experiment with different gestures and ideas. I took past advice about incorporating my left hand into this conducting lab. I only used it when I wanted to add a certain dynamic or style marking. However, I over extended my arm too soon so I was unable to move the ensemble exactly the way I wanted to. This is something I will focus on for next week. Overall, I felt pretty grounded throughout the entire lab and I felt my patterns and cut-offs were clear. I was really pleased!

March 8, 2008

February 29, 2008: "Hotaru Koi"

Overall, I think this conducting lab went pretty well. I was familiar with the piece because I performed it my sophomore year of high school. I was surprised to see the challenges this piece presented. While the conductor must stay out of the way for the most part, I was challenged with this lab; I learned a lot! One thing that I think I did really well was getting the ensemble started and then just getting out of the way. That is necessary for this piece. Also, I think I did pretty well with the extreme dynamic changes within the piece. I struggle with forte but I think it went well this week.

While there were things that I did well, Andrew brought to my attention a few things that I can improve on for next time. For instance, I was prepping the beat early when transitioning between dynamics. It was a beat early and he brought to my attention that I need to prep the beat at the last possible moment. I will practice this for the future and I think I will get it right next time. Also, when I was finishing the piece on the pianissimo, etc., I was lowering my beat pattern. Andrew suggested that it might have a stronger affect if I raised up the gesture. This was confusing for me because I did not practice it that way, I had to focus more on my elbows/entire arm, and my center of gravity is lower than a mans. While it was a little uncomfortable, I gives me other options for future pieces. I learned more on this piece then I thought I would; it was a productive conducting lab.

February 25, 2008

Friday, February 22: Wood River

Over all, I was pleased with this conducting lab. As you all know, I am more comfortable with smooth, flowing pieces so I felt that I was able to handle this piece well. While we all can agree that this piece was extremely corny, I think it presented some interesting challenges for a beginning instructor. As Dr. Mehaffey mentioned, I started off a little "sharp" and "choppy" with the pattern at the beginning but I think as I continued on, it improved. I felt it was a hundred times better when I got to run it again. That is usually the case for me so I need to start doing what I intend on the first try! During the second run through, I was able to come to a clear balance between smooth beat patterns and clear rhythmic cues. I really felt that the singers were with me so that was comforting! They responded to my shaping; I hope I have the confidence to do more of that in the future. I have been working on standing more solid and grounded; I rhink am moving in the right direction after this lab. It is something I am constantly needing to think about so I would love it if people would remind when I move around too much. Thanks! Finally, I think I am had a greater contrast with my "piano" and "forte" this time around but I am still working on. You all know I struggle with the "big moments" in the music so I appreciate you being patient!

February 5, 2008

February 1, 2008: Las Amarillas

While I was conducting "Las Amarillas" I felt ridiculous and that was confirmed after I watched my recording. I did not realize that I was moving around so much (especially my head and legs) so that is something I really need to monitor. Also, I have been trying to work on my facial expressions while conducting but that did not go as well this time around. I thought overall it was okay but I really struggled with the initial entrance. I did not really understand what Dr. Mehaffey was asking for so I think that was part of the problem. If you wouldn't mind, could someone explain exactly what I was doing with my face and what I should have been doing? I am still struggling with this but I know you will all be patient.

While there are things that I need to improve for next time, I was pleased to see while watching my video that I connected with each voice section. I think I could look up more but I think for the first time, I did pretty well in this area. I also felt that I had a good amount of energy throughout which was nice to see. However, this manifested itself in my entire body so like I mentioned before, I need to work on that. Finally, I felt pretty confident which is important when dealing with a difficult piece. Hopefully I will improve for next time and I would greatly appreciate any comments!

December 9, 2007

Friday, December 7th: Psalm 100

I have to apologize for this week's conducting lab. I was in a horrible mood and this was a horrible day at the end of a horrible week. I know that is no excuse but I was really trying my best. I was not professional and I am sorry.

After watching the recording, I realized that my conducting wasn't as bad as I thought it was. With accuracy, I think it was pretty solid and I think most things were pretty clear. I really practiced all the beat patterns and after I watched the recording, I think I had pretty solid transitions. Also, I think I was able to make a clear distinctions between the repeated sections and the verses.

As you all know after watching me conduct, the main thing I struggled with this week was getting into the spirit of the piece. I was trying my hardest to get past my emotional block but easier said than done. I promise it will be BETTER for the final conducting lab. Also, I thought I looked up more but obviously I was pretty glued to my score. That is another thing I will focus on before next time.

December 2, 2007

I just wanna to dance!

I performed this piece in high school so I was very excited to be working on this again. Like Claire, I was intimidated by the constant meter changes but it was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I thought I was able to transition between simple and compound pretty smoothly which was nice. I think I brought a nice energy to the piece and it was very exciting when everyone responding to my shaping gestures. I felt that I got the swelling and energy that I wanted which made me happy.

After watching my recording, I did see what Dr. Mehaffey was mentioning about my 3/4 gestures. I did not think it was as obvious as he mentioned but it was noticeable. It was nice to see that over the course of my conducting excerpt, I improved on this. I think Dr. Mehaffey nailed it on the head that the reason I was curving in was being I was using too much space; I had no where else to go. This is something I will keep in mind for future conducting. Also, I think I was pretty relaxed physically throughout my conducting. My face and my legs seemed really comfortable which was nice to see. I am glad this piece went well this week!

The Most Happy Fella

I attended a semi staged performance of "The Most Happy Fella" on Sunday, October 14th. It was performed by VocalEssence and conducted by Philip Brunelle. It was a very enjoyable performance but it was very hard to actually observe the conductor's involvement with the vocal ensemble. Much of his job was conducting the instrumentalists and making sure that all entrances were clear and together. When the choir/chorus was involved (which was very infrequent), it seemed that he only cued their entrances. I did not see much shaping or articulation that was appropriate for singers because much of his energy seemed focused on the instrumentalists. It seemed that he had a difficult time conducting both the "pit" and the vocal ensemble simultaneously. However, he was a very "accurate" conductor. For certain musical events that popped out of the texture, he was right there with the instrumentalist or singer. He also brought a playfulness to the performance. It was clear that he knew the work very well because he was not glued to the score and was able to connect with the musicians. He had a wide range of gestures which really made for more interesting sounds. Overall I enjoyed the performance but I did not think it was the best example of a choir performance setting. His energy seemed more focused on the instrumentalists and the solos and therefor my attention was there as well.

December 1, 2007

Augsburg College Rehearsal Observation

For my choral observation, I went to observe the rehearsal for the Holiday concert "Advent Vespers". This was not a typical rehearsal because not only were they rehearsing in the actual concert space but also multiple choirs with multiple conductors rehearsed. The first piece was "Chanticleer" by the Riverside Singers, conducted by Nancy Gundahl. She seemed to have a really strong connection with the women in her ensemble because she was able to politely organize all the students but clearly had their attention and respect when she stepped on the podium. Her gestures were very appropriate and she was able to get certain sounds from each section (soprano or alto) but making strong eye contact and articulating clear gestures. However, at times she seemed to be pulling the singers along and there was a little bit of a drag. Her gestures did not match the sound for much of the run through. It think a large part of that problem was the combination of a new space (with different dynamics) and combining with an orchestra. The choir responded better as time continued.

The next part of the rehearsal was a section of combined choirs: the Riverside Singers, the Masterworks Chorale, and the Augsburg Choir. This was a much larger ensemble with older and younger singers. The first piece was conducted by Dr. Peter Hendrickson and it was quite refreshing from the previous segment. Although it was a much larger ensemble combined with an orchestra, Dr. Hendrickson was able to articulate verbally and with gestures everything that he needed from the rehearsal. The strings were struggling at parts but he was able to show how he wanted specific sounds. Also, there was a moment in the rehearsal where all the women were supposed to enter with great energy but being a late rehearsal, it did not have the spark that Dr. Hendrickson wanted. He stopped and really expressed verbally what the emotion should be. Because he was excited, the ensemble responded and the next run through was much more exciting! I was very impressed on how Dr. Hendrickson was able to balance the orchestra and choir. He was more rhythmically conscious with the instrumentalists but was still able to conduct shaping and articulation for the singers. It was very impressive and enjoyable to observe.

The final piece I observed was a spiritual entitled "He Came Down" which was conducted by Nancy Gundahl. I am always nervous with spirituals because with large ensembles, it can be rather difficult to get everyone into the same "groove". Ms. Gundahl did not have this problem because she conducted with extreme rhythmic accuracy while still moving freely on the podium. This enabled the singers to loosen up more and really sing out. She also explained the significance of the piece in a more cultural setting which gave the singers an idea about what they are actually singing about. It was a very fun piece to watch and what a way to end an observation!

I am really glad I chose this day to observe because you can really learn a lot from observing a dress rehearsal. It was very well organized because clear instructions were given at the beginning and it ran very smoothly!

November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16th: Locus Iste

I was pleased with my conducting this week because I think I was able to improve on things that needed work from previous weeks. I did not ask Dr. Mehaffey or my classmates but I think my conducting was a little more clear than last week. I think I was able to show the ensemble where to place the consonants a little more clearly. I am just afraid that by showing these articulations, I will disrupt the vocal line/legato. I felt a strong connection with the singers this week which was nice. I was able to get out of my score a little bit more which makes all the difference. Finally, I think my body was more connected this week; I felt more relaxed.

As Dr. Mehaffey pointed out, I need to step out of my comfort zone and really show the different dynamics. I agree that my piano looked almost the same as forte and there was no indication that at one point I wanted to conduct fortissimo. Sometimes I feel my gestures are already big but I just need to experiment a little more. I am very comfortable with legato and soft music so now it is time to get some things in gear! I need to get more comfortable with more robust music. Also, conducting 5 singers on Bruckner is pretty much impossible so I think this week went pretty well all things considered.

November 11, 2007

Friday, November 9th: Locus Iste

Locus Iste is really different than the other music that we have worked on this semester. I am really glad we worked on it because it combines things that we have already looked at but it also presented new challenges. For what I thought went well, I think I expressed the right mood through my facial expressions. Sometimes I get a worried look on my face when I am concentrating. I think I looked comfortable and that allowed the ensemble to get a better sense of the piece and what I was striving for. Also, I think I am able to show which words and notes should have the proper stress. I think my body moves that way naturally and with what Dr. Mehaffey mentioned, I can just incorporate my legs a little more.

What presented some difficulty for me is having a smooth gesture but showing the ensemble where certain beats are in the patter, especially beat 2. I have to remember what Andrew said, that I can show a clear beat on 2. I won't injure the ensemble because they don't do anything on that beat. I am just afraid that I am going to do a gesture that will create a big jump/glitch in the vocal line that I am trying to create. Also, does anyone have any good ideas on how to conduct a smooth line but showing the ensemble where to place their hard consonants? Any exercises I could do to practice? I have ideas with the "l" on "Locus" and the "d" on "Deo". I would love it if we could discuss this in class a little bit!

October 28, 2007

Friday, October 26th: Welcome ...

This conducting lab was such a sharp contrast from last weeks! I was extremely pleased and I felt very prepared which makes all the difference. I finally got the cue right for the accompanist which started me off on a strong foot. Thanks Andrew for the advice because while I play piano and know the accompaniment very well, I was not breathing with the accompanist which made everything go wrong. I was very pleased I got this right this week. Also, I was able to look happy which made the experience more enjoyable for me and the ensemble.

I really worked on the feeling of compound meter and getting that sense of "dance" and I think that worked well for me this week. My legs got a little too involved but again, that is something that I am continuing to work on. Finally, I was really surprised that I was able to subdivide the ending! That was something I didn't really practice but it just worked out. I think it worked because I didn't hesitate at all and actually sped up to get the ensemble to follow me. Thank you everyone for singing what you see because that makes all the difference!

October 20, 2007

Friday, October 20th: Cantate Domino (mm. 53-66)

Out of all of the conducting exercises, I was the least pleased with this week! I wasn't able to communicate with the accompanist, follow through with proper cut-offs, and really stay focused. I was thinking about the triplets and tempo changes so all dynamic shaping went out the window as well. I was VERY thrown off by Dr. Hamann's comment about having a proper prep so I felt that I was unable to truly focus on the rest of the conducting exercise. I think that was evident throughout! Does anyone have any advice on how to properly communicate with an accompanist? It is evident that after these last two weeks, I have no idea! (Which makes no sense because I play piano!)

While I was frustrated with most of my conducting this week, I was proud that I accomplished smooth transitions between the different tempos. That is something I focused on when practicing and I think that was able to shine through everything else! Thanks everyone!

October 14, 2007

Friday, October 12th: Cantate Domino (mm.1-53)

While this piece is pretty easy to perform, it defiantly presented some challenges for a young conductor. For things that I thought worked well for me, I knew the music very well. I feel that I acknowledged all important entrances for the voice parts and gave appropriate cues. I also feel that I lightened up my facial expressions a little more since the last time I conducted which is a good change. My leg movement seemed a little better so that I something I am still working one.

However, there were some things that I did not expect and want to happen. First off, I had an issue with communicating with the accompanist. Honestly, I didn't even think about having to talk to my accompanist so when I got up there, we were unable to communicate clearly. I will for sure have to fix that for next time. Also, I had some issues with conducting in 2. I constantly feel that I should be showing more so I added in unnecessary motions which only confused me and the ensemble. As Andrew mentioned, I need to get used to the smooth, effortless motion. It is just something I will have to get more used to. I have a question for Dr. Mehaffey and Andrew: Are there times where you can go between a four and two pattern if there is a part in the music that you need to show certain cut-offs? For example, I found mm.39-46 rather difficult to conduct in 2. I was hoping you would have some ideas to fix this. Thanks everyone!

October 6, 2007

Friday, October 5th: Fermatas

I was very curious to see how today was going to actually go for me. I have felt pretty comfortable with fermatas in the past but I never realized that I was only comfortable with a few of them (stop completely, brief pause). This exercise was extremely helpful because it forced me to actually think about the fermatas and what I want them to accomplish! I was very pleased that I was able to accomplish the "roll-stop" fermata. I got the ensemble to do what I wanted them to do which was very encouraging. I think we all can agree that that has to be one of the hardest kinds of fermata so I will continue to work on it!

I felt that I knew the music very well which enabled me to make more eye contact with the ensemble. By having more eye contact, the conductor is able to connect to the ensemble and ensure that everyone is on the same page! It is great that you all perform what you see because it allows all of us conducting to hear how we are conducting. It is such great feedback!

For the future, I hope I can take what Dr. Mehaffey mentioned and not wait for the group to catch up to me. I really need to find that balance of being a little ahead of the ensemble but not waiting around. If anyone has any suggestions or feedback, it would be much appreciated! Thanks!

October 1, 2007

Friday, September 28: Mendelssohn Sop/Bass

I felt very prepared for this conducting lab and I think it could be seen through my conducting. I was able to get the sound that I wanted (rich and sustained) from the ensemble which was very encouraging. As Andrew mentioned, I did get a much different sound out of the singers then other conductors and while that is a good skill, I could still get that sound without having such a serious face. After a multiple times, I was able to get an even better sound of them while having a more pleasant expression. The facial expression of a conductor has such incredible power and I need to remember that along with what my arms are doing.
Compared to last week's conducting lad, I think I maintained a much stronger stance throughout the excerpt but as my peers pointed out, I started to bend my knees. I was unaware for most of the time that I was doing this because I think it was my body's natural response to incorporate my whole body into my conducting. This is defiantly something I will need to focus on in the future. Overall I was very pleased with my conducting but I was even more pleased with the great feedback that I received from Andrew and my peers! Thank you!

September 24, 2007

Conducting Soprano Line

I enjoyed the format of conducting on Friday. I have not had conducting in about 5 years, so I was initially intimidated by this class. I really enjoyed Andrew's help with my section. He was excellent at both encouraging us to comment on our peers and sharing very insightful tips and observations. I also feel like class members really do want to help each other become better conductors. What a wonderful learning environment!

As far as my conducting went, I think it went as well as it can right now. I am considering Friday a baseline for my improvement. My biggest challenges right now are encouraging an easy breath and preparation for singing and also harnessing my energy. When I get in front of a crowd, I have this desire to please people and make them excited about life. As a conductor, I want to make them excited about music. I am going to try to pull in this energy a little so that people are easily welcomed into my conducting/teaching without feeling overpowered by my energy. This way, I will be able to use this energy more strategically.

Now about the blog...I would love to read other people's entire comments, but I can only read a compact version. (The first few sentences.) If someone thinks of this and I forget to mention it, could you please tell me how I can read other's comments. They seem very interesting.


September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21st: Mendelssohn Soprano

Overall I was very pleased with my conducting for the soprano line of the Mendelssohn. I felt that had a strong grasp on the legato 3/4 pattern. It felt very connected and I believe I was using my entire arm with shoulder because I did not get tired at all. I was pretty surprised how independent my left arm was and I think I was able to shape a lot of the sounds. There was defiantly an emotional connection to the piece and I felt that I was connected to the group and exhibited good eye contact throughout.
While I breathed on almost every entrance, it was pointed out that I need to take the appropriate breath for the kind of sound I want to create. I also need to release that breath. I focus so strongly on breathing with the group that I forget to exhale and the sound of the group then suffers. I also need pay attention to my stance. It was addressed that I need to establish a well grounded position before I begin conducting. Then I will be able to have a more solid foundation which will allow me to move around a little bit more throughout the piece. Finally, I really need to work on not trying to make things perfect. I am a Type A person and this is something that I will need to acknowledge while conducting. Music is not supposed to be "perfect".
Thank you to my group and Professor Mehaffey for their great feedback!

September 14, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

I conducted poorly today, b/c sjklhkjhskljhkjhgkljhdfglkjhdfg