Proudly providing  financial support since 1999  for 
The Rockbridge Choral Society  and  The Rockbridge Youth Chorale

   October 2015                                                                                                        Vol. 4
ONLINE        ONLIINE         ONLINE           ONLINE           ONLINE


Like us on Facebook RCS FaceBook 
RCS WebSite
Mechanics - How Do They Do It?
   Some years ago, as the RCS was in its final week of rehearsals for our Christmas concert, we were working on a piece of music which had a solo part. Of course, we all knew there'd be a soloist at some point. It's not unusual that we don't know who it will be until that last week. During this 'run-through' the soloist emerged right out of our midst. It was stunning! Many of us stared at the origin of this voice. She had been amongst us all along and we never knew. This voice so obviously belonged to a soloist. How had she been hiding in plain sight?! Can you guess who it was? Read on.
   How do solo singers learn to "blend in" with a group? 
   Alla Breve On-Line
asked a couple of them who regularly sing with us, and what follows is a synopsis of their thoughts.

Christine Fairfield
      Christine Fairfield (soprano) has been singing as long as she can remember. She was raised by musical parents who sang at home. She began cello lessons in the first grade and then sang in choirs throughout her youth, starting voice lessons in high school. Through college she continued playing the cello in the orchestra, but focused on voice for her music major. She says she never went into music with a solo career in mind. "I just loved to sing. I thought I'd be an elementary school teacher until about half way through college, but then switched to music performance... and decided to pursue graduate study in voice."
       When we asked how the mechanics of solo singing are different from choral singing, if they are, here's how she answered. "This is a tricky question. As my focus growing up was rarely on solo singing, I actually had more technical issues leaning to sing with a 'solo sound'. Now that I've mastered that, I can more consciously choose which voice to use. The easiest way to describe the difference, for me, is focus. The sound is more forward ...adding 'bloom or ring' to my sound through vowel placement for my solo sound... but when singing with the choir, I soften or mute the harmonics to create a tone that blends more easily. It took many years to feel comfortable moving easily between solo and choral singing. Switching back and forth within a single performance is more difficult because I have to switch mentally and change how I am focusing the sound." Christine thinks that the best choral singers are those who are conscious of both their role as individuals - knowing the notes, counting, concentrating, following the conductor - and as part of the group - listening actively to other parts, being sensitive to the nuances of the whole group. In many ways, the soloist and the choral singer have much in common - good posture, good breath management, clear diction, follow the director. Good advice!

Barbara Hollinshead
       So, we thought we'd ask an alto, and who better than Barbara Hollinshead? She most often solo with the RCS as a mezzo soprano. Like Christine, she didn't start out as a soloist. "I avoided singing as a career for as long as possible -my mom was a gorgeous opera singer and I simply didn't want to compete with her. So I started my work life as a budget analyst at the Congressional Budget Office where I worked for 12 years. I studied voice, went to workshops on Baroque music, sang in many choirs, and was called upon to do solo work throughout those years. I solidified my baroque style knowledge on a sabbatical which allowed me to study in Amsterdam with Max von Egmond. After that, I did much more solo work and less choral work."
     We asked - Do you find singing with a group difficult because of your voice training for solo work? Barbara replied. "Not really, I think in large part because I'm an alto, it is easier not to stick out in the lower ranges. Also, I think I'm fortunate in that my voice blends with just about anyone. A conductor once said to me, 'Barbara, your voice is like the color grey, it goes with everything!' I think this quality makes it easy for others to feed into my core sound and create a unified section sound. I regularly sing as the alto section leader in a church choir of 35 people. I find in these rehearsals that I occasionally over sing to help the other altos find our notes, or I'll sing a little on the high side of the pitch to discourage flatness. Mechanically, I spend a lot of the rehearsals reminding myself to relax and release from the collarbones up, and to work harder from the collarbones down (with breath support). "
     "In the end, nearly all artistic singing is about making music with other people. As a soloist, I have to consider what the oboe, violin, piano, orchestra, or continuo is doing. In a choir I need to be aware not only of what my section is doing, but how that relates to all the other parts. Listening is everything!"
     Well said. Thanks to these wonderful partners for sharing their insights!

The Work of Singing!
Singing is a joy! And, singing is work. Ever wonder how it comes together? It's harder than you think.

Listening with  Helfrom 
One of Our Own

David Biddle
    Believe it or not, singing requires listening - listening to the conductor, the music, each other. As rehearsals begin for every new season, we singers are presented with a packet of music to digest and bring to life. For those who are good sight readers, it's no big deal. Others who have key board skills can just go home and "go to the wood shed", that is to say, bang out their part until they get it. But, how does it all come together?
    Lucky for us, we have a choral music audiophile in our midst - David Biddle - member of the bass section (and sometime tenor II) who, like many in our group, is a long-time choral singer. David grew up in a musical household. His mom played classical piano and his dad was a singer. David sang in church choir through high school, but then took a long hiatus until 1980 when he moved to Rockbridge County from the Philadelphia area and joined the RCS. He's also been a member of a small group which sings music from the Sacred Harp, known as shape note music, for 17 years. This, he says, has helped him improve his 'relatively poor sight singing skills'.
     For several years now, David has volunteered his time to find recordings in the public domain which he finds helpful in learning the music we are charged with performing. He then creates a CD and passes it along to the RCS singers. As he says, "the better we know the music the more beautifully we perform", and "for me, and I assume others too, hearing the music once a week is simply not enough. So, I hunt for recordings to listen to. And, so for myself and the greater good, I prepare recordings of the music and find learning CD's." David describes having his laptop open, inserting CD's, in the kitchen while he cooks. "I take the view that the recording process is a part of my singing hobby, and since I believe that it makes me and others sing better, it makes me happy."
    How does he find all the material he passes along to the singers for their learning pleasure? Well, he "Googles it". It's rather time consuming. Rapid changes in technology and in copyright challenges over the years often dictate his process in coming up with all the music that he finds helpful. He's always looking for "something free that suits" and is successful most of the time. "Eventually, I either find something or tire and give up. If I don't find anything that works, then everyone is responsible for deciding whether they need to purchase a commercially available CD or MP3."
    Once David has compiled his learning CD, he generously makes copies available to the RCS singers at a mere $5 per CD. He keeps enough of that to offset his costs in producing the CD and then gives the rest to the Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society. It's clearly a labor of love. "The people, the music, our director, Bill McCorkle, and our gift to the community as performers of choral music - that's why I return to sing year after year. This chorus is a big and important piece of my life."

Thanks David!

Getting the Word Out
     What good is all that prep work if nobody comes to hear? As many of you who are public radio listeners know, every year, twice a year, our local public radio stations - WVTF and WMRA- conduct their spring and fall fund drives. Many years ago, Virginia Lloyd-Davies (soprano) began coordinating contributions from the RCS members for the purpose of funding an on-air advertising presence for the RCS. Largely, this program advertises our concerts each season and not only exposes the RCS, the Chamber singers, and the Youth Chorale to a world of people within and beyond the borders of Rockbridge County, but keeps our name on the front burner of our local audiences when it comes to choral music.
     In 2010, David Biddle, who gets the title 'Busiest Singing Volunteer', inherited management of the NPR advertising program for the RCS. To say it has grown is an understatement. He coordinates the donations, now made through the Friends of the RCS, and budgets and schedules the contributions to maximize the number of on-air announcements during our concert season. It's complicated to say the least. In general, here's how it all shakes out. For a donation of $300, WVTF provides a day sponsorship - five on-air announcements in one day. For $21/ad (called spots) WMRA gives the Friends seven 35-word spots in a day. In addition, WMRA gives one "trade spot" for every paid spot, valued at $23 per spot. In return for trade spots, the RCS advertises WMRA in all of our programs and promotional materials for a season. Ever wonder about that WMRA presence in all of our programs and posters? Now you know. Finally, for $200, WMRA also provides five on-air spots for a day.
        David prepares the budget for a calendar schedule which targets advertising for specific days for each concert in a season. After getting approval for his budget and his advertising copy from the director and the Friends board, he submits his plan to the two radio stations. Contracts are then generated and signed and the fundraising begins for the fall and spring campaigns. In the 2014/2015 season, this donation program raised $2660.
      Really, we need to get this guy a plaque! Who knew?!

And It's Good for You Too...  Click here        
Check out how the work of singing works for the singer and the listener!
October Birthdays and Quotable Quotes  in Music                          
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt - B. 
Hungarian born composer, conductor, concert pianist, teacher and writer. Considered by many the greatest virtuoso pianist ever.
Quotab le Quote -"
You cannot imagine  how it spoils 
one to have been  a child prodigy."
Camille Saint-Saens
Camille Saint-Saens
- B. 10/9/1835 
Composer, p ianist, organist, writer, teacher. Gabriel Faure was a pupil.
Quotable Quote-  
"There  is nothing more difficult than talking about music."

Ralph Vaugn Williams
Ralph Vaugn Williams
-B. 10/12/1872
20 th century English composer and 
folk music collector, student and conservator. This music heavily influenced much of his work.
Quotable Quote-
"No, its a B-flat. It looks wrong and it sounds wrong, but its right."

Giuseppi Verdi

Giuseppi Verdi - 
B. 10/9/1813 
Italian born Opera composer!
Quotable Quote - "You may have the universe if I may have Italy."

And the Winner Is...   

      Back in August, Alla Breve On-Line took a Singers' Choice poll to choose a secular tune to be performed at our 2015 Christmas concert. The winner is Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian Christmas Carol), a popular Christmas carol  composed by  Mykola Leontovych  in 1904 with lyrics by  Peter J. Wilhousky . The song is based on a folk chant known in Ukrainian as "Shchedryk" . Wilhousky's lyrics are copyrighted, although the original musical composition is not. Thanks for voting!    Listen here

October/November Music Happenings
The Rockbridge Chamber Singers are working hard and are pleased to present  
November Lights
 on November 8, 2015 at 3 PM at Lexington Presbyterian Church.   Do not miss it! 

      The renowned male chorus,  Chanticleer , will present "Over the Moon" in Lexington on October 27, 8 to 10 PM, at the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts, and in Charlottesville on October 29 at the Paramount Theatre  (215 E. Main St.). Come and greet RCS alum, Nate Pence (soprano), after the concert. Details and ticket information here: 

Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society | | |
Rockbridge Choral Society
PO Box 965
Lexington, VA 24450