PSALLAM! RSCM America News & Info
June/July 2012 

Here is a combined two-month edition of PSALLAM! for June and July!

Last month I suggested finding some time to be still and quiet after all the rushing around of the school/choir year. For many of us, summer is also a time of learning and growth: attending conferences, learning a few new organ or piano pieces for next year, brushing up on our playing technique and other skills, and so forth.

May I suggest some resources that I have run across over the years that you may find useful, plus an idea for some creative fellowship:

  1. Working with choirs and the voice

  • You really cannot go wrong in studying the work of Andr´┐Ż Thomas and Rodney Eichenberger; their video "What They See is What You Get" is excellent.
  • A book from an author you may not have run across that has some excellent advice, exercises, and techniques is How to Train Singers by Larra Henderson. In the early years of the Phoenix Boys Choir she was one of the vocal coaches and much admired for her work. 

  2. Playing at the keyboard/organ

  • This next book is primarily for pianists, but the first 30-40% that I managed to find the time to read many years ago dramatically changed the way I play in terms of a relaxed/no-tension approach to the keyboard. Worth a look: On Piano Playing by Gyorgy Sandor. It's rather expensive on Amazon, but a Google search turned up some other options, though some looked a little fishy in that they were free--always makes me suspicious of what else might arrive on one's computer!

  3. What about getting a group of 4-8 together for a few

       evenings during the summer, bringing along a favorite  

       beverage or snack, picking out some choral pieces and  

       organ or piano pieces, and playing/conducting for one  

       another, followed by constructive comments from all?  


Then there is always contacting the local university or college, if you are lucky enough to live near one that has a good organ and/or choral department, to sign up for a few lessons.


On the other hand, if you are looking for some lighter reading while sitting on the back porch, in your favorite chair, or on the beach, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • If you have not yet come across Mark Schweizer's Liturgical Mysteries (St. James Music Press), you have missed an opportunity for some thoroughly entertaining and hilarious reading! To make it even better, if you own a Kindle or have the software on your laptop or smart phone, Amazon has the early novels for $0.99 downloads! 
  • I have almost finished a most delightful book by RSCM member Brooks Firestone, entitled Evensong (again, available on Amazon.) His book details his account of discovering a passion for choral singing following his retirement from the wheeling-and-dealing of upper-level management in the business world, and the marvelous experiences he and his wife have had singing with various groups around the globe. This is a great inspiration for all of us approaching that time of our lives.

Also, you may now actually have the time to call that non-member colleague and invite him or her to lunch for a little RSCM America recruiting session! The challenge remains: if we each manage to recruit just one new member, our membership would go from the low 600s to above 1,200! Talking points, lists of membership benefits, and other helpful suggestions are all available on our website


"Be still, and know that I am God," plus some learning and growth in the skills we all use for our individual ministries: an admirable way to spend a summer! Whatever you end up doing, give yourself permission to do something different from your normal daily grind, and do it with passion!


Soli Deo Gloria,

Andrew's signature
Andrew Walker
President, RSCM America


In This E-mail
How the RSCM Fits Into Our Church/Organization
Carolina Course Still Accepting Registrations
Follow Along with the 2012 Course Websites
Recent Past Issues of CMQ and Sunday by Sunday
In the News
How the RSCM Fits Into Our Church/Organization
by Betsy Calhoun
St. John's Episcopal Church, Tallahassee, Fla.

This is the fourth article in a series that will feature each of the Board's nine Directors.

Although I had worked with RSCM programs, first as assistant to Frank Boles at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, and then as music director at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Tampa, it wasn't until I attended my first RSCM summer training course with James Litton in Atlanta, a truly mind-expanding experience, that I was ready to bring it all home to Tallahassee.

St. John's nave and organ St. John's nave and organ
RSCM America set down its first roots in Tallahassee at St. John's Episcopal Church in the fall of 1990 when I began directing the Children's Choir. There were 16 choristers at my first Wednesday rehearsal, and they had been accustomed to singing only occasionally for worship, and expecting a snack of candy or cookies as part of the rehearsal routine. When no snack appeared, and after a rigorous rehearsal at which they were not allowed to talk without permission, six choristers quit the choir.

St. John's choristers
The combined First Presbyterian and
St. John's choristers
Soon the program began to grow, and the choristers at one point numbered as many as 60; now there are about 25, still without sugar or sugar-coating in rehearsals. In my second year at St. John's I was asked by First Presbyterian Church (which, like St. John's, is a downtown church) to work with their children's choir. I agreed, and soon there were two RSCM-based church choirs within two blocks of each other. We frequently combined to sing services at both churches: 9:00 at St. John's family service, and 11:00 at First Presbyterian. Between services the choristers would process behind a crucifer from St. John's to the front door of First Presbyterian. We occasionally combined for Evensong services, and also took spring break choir trips to a variety of churches and locations.

Early on at St. John's I implemented the ribbon/medal scheme for chorister achievement; it took a year or two to convince the Presbyterians that this was not idolatrous! One of my Presbyterian boy choristers worked very hard to obtain his light blue ribbon (and "jewel," as he called it.) That same chorister went on to sing in the St. Olaf College Choir, then to Presbyterian seminary, a pastorate in northern Minnesota, membership on the new Presbyterian Hymnal committee, and currently a position with the ELCA Lutherans in development of ministries. His RSCM roots have branched out with great ecumenism!

St. John's choirs
The choirs at St. John's 
Currently at St. John's the choristers sing weekly at the 9:00 service with the SATB adult choir of volunteers and a few staff singers. At the 11:15 service the choir consists of adults and staff singers. The choristers rehearse weekly for 1-1/2 hours in one of three rehearsals: boys, junior girls, or senior girls. The adults rehearse for 1-1/2 hours weekly. There is also a 45-minute weekly Beginner's Choir rehearsal for grades 1-2. In addition to the Sunday services, the choristers sing with the adults at Advent Lessons and Carols and at three choral Evensongs per year, as well as Christmas Eve and Holy Week services.

For me, the strength of the RSCM program has always fallen into two areas: the summer training courses around the country, and the educational curricula (such as VOICE for LIFE) with their incentives, those ribbons and "jewels."

From my first experience at the Atlanta course, to taking choristers to courses in Atlanta, Mobile, and Charlotte and sending others to the St. Louis, Hartford, and King's College courses, to being on staff as a house master and eventually to managing two courses, I have found that being in the midst of so many church musicians that are striving for the same high standards in liturgy and musicianship is both encouraging and stimulating. The exchange of ideas, singing under renowned choirmasters and with great organists, and fellowship with kindred spirits is incredibly rewarding and uplifting. The opportunity to speak with fellow church musicians and hear how their programs work has been invaluable.

For the choristers, it is a revelation (especially for first-timers) that there are other choristers from all over the country that, like them, work hard every week and sing beautiful and challenging music. The RSCM experience they bring home and share with their fellow singers is like a boost of energy for the whole program. Countless times in rehearsals a chorister will say "We sang this at RSCM with Mr. Webster! [or Mr. Neswick, or Uncle Gerre...]." And they remember far better than I when, where, and who was there! They then proceed to mentor those around them who have never sung that particular Mag, Nunc, etc.

I cannot stress enough the impact of these summer courses on my program at St. John's. To that extent I have committed a large proportion of my resources, both budgeted and special gifts, to providing scholarships for choristers to attend summer courses. And because many of the courses are open to adults as well as children, I have been able to send adult choir members and a few of my music staff as well.

Over the years I have varied my approach to working with the choristers on their various levels, as schedules change and demands on young people increase. I have held mid-week and Saturday classes; before, during, and after rehearsals; one-on-one sessions; and so forth. I currently have a college student pursuing a degree in choral music education who is a "graduate" of several RSCM courses helping with ribbon work at St. John's. She is a great mentor, and, having been a head chorister at her home church, is able to relate directly to the younger choristers.

The beauty of the RSCM approach to choral singing and choir training is its adaptability to any and all situations. Those who have read other articles in this series will realize that no two programs are quite the same, but that the goal is always the same: Psallam spiritu et mente.

Choristers' shoes

Psallam Spiritu et Mente!
RSCM America promotes excellence in church music practice and choral singing, is part of the worldwide network of The Royal School of Church Music, and works in collaboration with Westminster Choir College of Rider University.
Carolina Course
2011 Carolina Course
Have you ever wanted to be in a movie?
The Carolina Course for Girls and Adults in Raleigh, N.C. is still accepting registrations! Join us at St. Mary's School from July 9-15 for a week of music-making with director David Briggs and organist Rob Ridgell as we begin our RSCM Documentary Film Project. Visit
for all the details, including registration forms, and register today!
2012 Course Websites 
Eight of our 2012 Summer Training Courses have their own websites, and several have interactive Facebook pages as well. Click below to learn more about each and follow along this summer!

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast Course is first out of the gate, beginning today, June 25,
in Houston, Texas!

Past Issues of CMQ
CMQ coversSbyS covers  
Are you missing any recent past issues of Church Music Quarterly or Sunday by Sunday? Is there an issue that you lent to a colleague or misplaced and would like to add to your collection again? Our office has several extra copies of each magazine available, dating back to March 2005.
Contact Kevin Radtke with requests.

In the News
Many of you may have watched the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II, a patron of the RSCM. Here the former King's Singer Tony Holt reminisces about singing as a boy at the coronation in 1952.

An RSCM festival in Brussels, Belgium! (See the item posted on May 17, 2012)

The Scots invade England--again!...this time to sing!

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