Monthly Archives: December 2015

Magic Choral Trick #351 Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth. What if 2016 was the year that choruses and choirs all over the world made peace break out?

Don’t know about you – but I’m ready for a bigger game.

Just as our sound is carried by the vowels – and the cleaner and clearer the vowels, the more powerful the sound, Peace is carried by intention. It’s created by the intention to create peace in each moment. Each small, intentionally peace filled moment.

When a rehearsal has gone really well – ringing chords, a few really beautiful phrases, some great moments of laughter, and several attacks of full body goosebumps – we leave rehearsal as more expansive versions of ourselves.

What if we were then to add intention to that.

The intention to carry that joy out into the world with us – and have it infuse all our interactions.

When a group of people is clear about their intention – miraculous things happen.

In 1993 the Transcendental Meditation organization decided to prove this. About 4,000 TM practitioners were flown in to Washington DC to practise there for 8 weeks. Not all took part initially, in order to see if there was a correlation between the size of the group of practitioners and the drop in crime rate. Here are the findings.


TM experiment

“Analysis of 1993 data, controlling for temperature, revealed that there was a highly significant decrease in HRA (homicide, rape and assault) crimes associated with increases in the size of the group during the Demonstration Project.”*

TM is a technique for allowing ourselves to be fully present, moment by moment – without mental chatter.

Which is exactly what happens when we are making music – when we are fully “occupied, not preoccupied.” (Thank you David McEachern for that one) Peace can spread one chord and one phrase at a time – one perfect intention at a time. One fully flat out human moment at a time.

When rehearsals are completely about making wonderful music (not power struggles, not impressing anyone, not denigrating anyone, not about standing out from the crowd), powerful peace breaks out. And peace brought on by harmony, cooperation and striving for a huge goal is an overwhelmingly brilliant and wonderful thing – light years beyond just the absence of conflict. It feels like superhero power.

Peace on Earth is something worth turning yourself into a superhero for.

Here are some concrete suggestions (learned the hard way)

Directors – Work on your leadership and directing skills harder than you expect your chorus members to work on their singing skills. What are your strengths? Get even better at those first.

Music team leaders – Lead, teach, follow up and be compassionate (and be compassionate)

Chorus members – take care of each other, volunteer for as much chorus work as your life will allow, hone your singing and presentation skills.

Make rehearsals fun with excellence and love and laughter – then get out and recruit, recruit, recruit. The more people with bold intentions, the greater the superhero power.

Become aware that every single one of us is responsible for creating powerful peace and powerful love – Peace on Earth – during every phrase, at every rehearsal.

Go out there and sing for everyone who will listen!


Magic Choral Trick #350 Making a Difference

Almost Christmas 2015 and I’m thinking about the difference made this year by all of the singing groups that I’m privileged to direct.

Their performances helped to raise $6000 for the local food bank, $55,000 for an organization that fosters projects that create hope and joy in our priority neighbourhoods, and $3,000 for local churches. They donated funds so that a local woman could get a cochlear implant and raised funds for a local soup kitchen, and a women’s addiction recovery centre.

The community breathes just a little easier because of these efforts.

There’s the singing itself. Our audiences have been moved, cheered, comforted and entertained – which all on its own would make it worth doing.

There’s the difference made to each group of singers as they work together towards the common goal of excellence. Not many places where there’s such an opportunity for moment by moment excellence. Until we all first stood in the middle of a powerful ringing chord infused with emotion, it was an unimaginable experience. Some chorus members are living this for the first time, and the veterans keep coming back week after week to recreate the experience – with even more intensity – as technique improves, awareness increases, and hearts are more open.

That makes a difference to all of us.

And for me – well, I have wonderful enthusiastic friends who want to play this game with me. And that makes a huge difference in my life.

Thank you to those of you sing with me – and thank you to those of you who honour the work I’ve done by reading these posts!

Magic Choral Trick #349 Singing Musically in 3/4

Staying in time and singing with the appropriate word or syllable accentuation seems to be tougher in three four time.

It hasn’t been enough for me to tell my groups that the weight of the beats is Strong Light Light, Strong Light Light.

In fact when that’s what they’re thinking we get an accented first beat, and beats two and three that are dragging as badly as ever. In addition to this we have the added questionable bonus of a hearty glottal attack every time a vowel begins the word on beat one.

I’ve even asked them to waltz while singing to get the feel of three four into the body. However, as soon as they stop waltzing they revert quickly when I don’t give more specific instructions to occupy their brains.

I think I’ve discovered a better way to say what I mean.

I ask the group to form the target vowel very clearly on beat one, then use a completely neutral mouth shape on beats two and three.

Form (the vowel) Mumble Mumble, Form Mumble Mumble – is now beginning to become a habit with my groups. I tell them that there’s no need to even reduce the vocal volume if the mouth is less open.

Most of the best songs in triple metre are set up with the most important syllable in the bar on beat one, so the lyrics and meaning are still clear.

The beauty of the neutral mouth shape is that we also are now free of the messiness of many jaws moving at different speeds and distances – so the dragging on beats two and three becomes much less of a problem.

And I’ll still be asking them to waltz!

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