Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are Times Changing?

Last weekend I was able to attend a wonderful concert where I heard Chanticleer. If you are unfamiliar with this group, it is an all male ensemble consisting of only 12 voices. They have been called "an orchestra of voice," and they truly are. Sitting in the concert was an amazing feast for the ears. The harmonies produced by only 12 men was amazing. Many times you could hear lush harmonies that were so thick and complex that you wondered how they could ever tune the chord.

As an audience member you should know that Chanticleer is a group of classical singers and they do a wide range of music from Renaissance and Classical to Gospel and Contemporary. However, this group is the direct opposite of the Straight No Chaser. The first half of the concert that I attended was full of wonderful classical music and the second half was filled with classic holiday favorites. Overall a wonderful mixture for any lover of choral music.

When the concert was over, I had to rush out before the encore in order to get home to relieve the babysitter. This allowed me to walk out with an interesting group of people. I could tell that they went to frequent concerts and were very well educated individuals. However what happened next caught me off guard. When we entered the elevator they asked me if I enjoyed the concert and I said, Yes. They immediately said how disappointed they were with the concert. I could feel my jaw drop! WHAT! They concert was amazing. Not one note out of place. How could they feel this way? The conversation continued. "I thought this was suppose to be a holiday concert!" one man said. Another said, "They could have at least done something with the lighting." Yet another said, "I wanted more pieces that I knew. What about Jingle Bells and others like that."

Once I got to my car I started to think about all of their comments. Did they have a legitimate point or did they not know what kind of concert they were going too? I have come to the conclusion that it is a mixture of both. They were not too familiar with what kind of group Chanticleer was and since it was on the Carmel Center for the Performing Arts Holiday Concert series, they expected more holiday favorites.

In a world on instant gratification, fast paced media, and shows like Glee, The Sing Off, and The Voice where do we fit in? Is choral music being left behind or is it time to do a little face lift on choral music? Is it wrong to have some interesting staging and to change the lighting to highlight different pieces or to change the mood? As directors we also need to remember who our audience is and sometimes a piece of cake after eating the vegetables is not so bad.

I feel very torn on the subject. But as we look to the future of choral music I think a face lift may be just what we need to help keep it alive and interesting to the next generation.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Choral Community

So how many of you have seen the virtual choir? Were you amazed or petrified? The project was the idea of composer / conductor Eric Whitacre. He took singers from all over the world, had them audition, learn the music, and then record themselves singing it. He then mixed all of their recordings together and created a virtual choir. Not only did he do this once, he did it twice.

My first thought was, WOW! This is really cool. Then I got very nervous. You may be asking yourselves why this would make someone nervous. The reason is simple. It took away the one element that makes music making so wonderful, personal connection. The virtual choir members had no interaction with one another. However, is this a wonderful project that bring so many people together from many different countries? Yes. But with the world of virtual schools, skype, texting, e-mail, video games, and so much more, we need to make sure that our children do not lose the ability to socialize with others and the skills needed to interact with others.

It reminded me of the movie WALL-E. In the movie you see how the human race has lost its ability to interact with one another without the assistance of electronics. It went so far as to portray humans losing the ability to walk. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when two people are talking to each other, but they are doing it through a television screen and they are floating (they can’t stand) right next to each other.

As we move farther into the 21st century and the next generations become more reliant on technology, let’s make sure we keep our rich choral heritage alive. Choirs have always been a haven where people come not only to make great music, but also to have fellowship. I see it before and after every rehearsal. I see singers who want to be together and share with one another.

Here’s to keeping human interaction alive!!

P.S. Here is the link to the video if you would like to watch it.