The Road Home

The Road Home 

Michael Dennis Browne

Tell me where is the road I can call my own,

That I left, that I lost, so long ago?

All these years I have wandered,

Oh when will I know

There’s a way, there’s road that will lead me home?

After wind, after rain, when the dark is done,

As I wake from a dream in the gold of day,

Through the air there’s a calling

From far away,

There’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.

Rise up, follow me, come away is the call,

With love in your heart as the only song;

There is no such beauty as where you belong.

Rise up, follow me,

I will lead you home.

This poem is the text to Stephen Paulus’ The Road Home. My Chamber Choir will be singing this for a concert in a week. Each singer is digesting these beautiful words and working on musical phrases. The music sounds simplistic, yet provides so much depth; the text seems so straight-forward, yet so profoundly reflective and vulnerable.

There is no such beauty as where you belong…

May the love in my heart be the only song…

Dear Mr. Dengler…with much love

Two weeks ago, I called my dear high school music teacher, Mr. Dengler, to tell him that I have been appointed as the new Director of Vocal Music at the Hill School. Instead of the usual lively greeting, “Hello?~”, I got the answering machine. I left him a message. Four days later, I heard back from Mrs. Dengler; she said Mr. D had been sick for the past seven months. She paused and said, “He is really sick.” After our brief conversation,  I contacted several of my classmates who were part of our singing group and we decided on a date to go visit him. 

A day before our visiting day, we found out he had passed. Tomorrow, I will be driving to Mr. Dengler’s memorial service to join Mrs. Dengler and many people who had been touched by his life. I am writing a letter to my dear teacher and friend. I wanted to say these words to him… 

 

Dear Mr. D,

As I drove home today, feeling a little numb and thinking about the drive tomorrow to your memorial service, I saw a car with the plate, “BUD5734” (OK, I can’t remember the 4 numbers, but the first three letters spelled out your name). Yes, I have been thinking of you – a lot. And missing you. I know that you are alive and well in heaven, conducting choirs of angels. Although my heart is heavy and sad, the thought of you makes me smile.

When we first met at AIS, I was an awkward new 7th grader (by the way, today’s teens would use the term, “fetus” to point out how young a student is), you immediately became my fan. Hearing my piano playing, you gave me opportunities to accompany the Upper School Glee Club and the Bel Cantos. Although I was in middle school, you let me mingle with the big girls to make serious music. It wasn’t a big deal that there were schedule differences in the two divisions – made the schedule to work for me. Who does that? Seriously, what did you see in me back then?

You let me learn through two different major tours with the Bels, one in Ohio and the other in Texas. How did you manage the logistics and bring Mrs. Dengler along to travel with a group of teenage girls? How did you deal with girl-dramas and keep your cool? How did you make such beautiful music every day? How is it that we ALL learned to love music and sing as much our hearts can possibly experience?

My favorite memories of you are the times you talked to me. Remember how I was the only student in AP Music?  You sure talked my ear offand thank you, I got a 5 for that exam because of you… But more than many classes or music theory discussions (or even the analysis of the most intricate classical piece you and I loved), I remember our conversations. I was surprised when you made a series of dot matrix paper banner that spread across the whole side of the music room that read: “The Pursuit of Excellence”. You knew I was falling apart as a passionate, but naive perfectionist. You listened. You let me make mistakes, and showed me how to keep working.

I don’t know if I ever told you: I loved every early rehearsal we had. You were dedicated to the music you introduced to us. You were more dedicated to us as young people and that drew us in. I loved that Bach, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, and the hottest pop songs of the 80’s were our repertoire. You set the bar high, so we were never bored. And you let us know that you were proud of us.

I loved that we met up at an ACDA conference when I was in grad school as a conducting major. Although you didn’t see me conduct, you saw me singing. You said that I improved in my breathing and that my posture got better! I felt so grown up hearing you said that.

I am so thankful that my family got to meet you and Mrs. D. I loved writing you letters or telling you our family updates over the phone. It was such an honor to tell people how you, my high school music teacher, still called me on my birthday. That’s a lot of birthday phone calls!

I am sorry the 93′ Bel Canto girls – Jenn, Meredith, Kelly, Meggin, Laura, Ellen, Tanya – and I missed visiting you. We wanted to sing you a song or two. The spiritual, “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” would have been one definite selection. We remember how vibrant and full of life you were – smiling, directing us, convicting us. But the lyrics to “Every Time We Say Goodbye” lingers in my mind right now and will not go away…

Mr. D., I hope I make you proud. I still feel like I need to learn so much as a teacher – to give selflessly, to always care for more than what is required, to love people boundlessly. I know that many will come tomorrow to pay tribute to you. You shared a beautiful life with us. Thank you so much, we celebrate you.

 

I hope you know that you will always live on in the music I make.

God bless you, Mr. D!

With much love and appreciation,

Yoon

Finding New Choral Music – Ola Gjeilo

Lately, I’ve been longing to hear great new music. New choral music to be specific. Sometimes, you just need to hear a beautiful SATB choir to fill you heart. I am excited to share my discoveries with you.

Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo

Norwegian-born composer who moved to the States to study  composition at the Julliard School. As a pianist-composer, he features the piano often as an equal partner to the choir much like how Schumann or Strauss set vocal-piano pairing in lieder. Take a listen to Ubi Caritas II with Piano Improvisation sung by the Central Washington University Chamber Choir (Gary Weidenaar, director), with an improvised piano accompaniment played by the composer:

As a choral conductor and singer, this music makes me want to  conduct, sing, and play it! Gorgeous harmonies and lyrical lines float on top of such well-written piano part. I think it was originally conceived as an a cappella piece; this particular version with piano works wonders. The music is uplifting, reverent, yet free, joyous, and moving. Being a pianist, I was really curious how the accompaniment is written, and how much of the video recording was Gjeilo’s improvisation. Gentle, but stylistic jazz piano licks are very nice. I found him on Twitter, so I mentioned him:

There you go! I’d love to see that transcription!

I also love Luminous Night of the Soul, scored for SATB, piano and string quartet; lyrics are by Charles Anthony Silvestri (lyricist for Eric Whitacre’s Sleep) and St. John of the Cross. I feel like I’m watching a movie when I listen to this piece. Like good storytelling, this music builds well into an epic symphonic ending.

 

And let me say that although I never heard of Central Washington University Chamber Choir before, I am now a fan. Kudos to its director, Gary Weidenaar, and music faculty! These students are musical. How fortunate that these students had the chance to work with a prolific composer!

I think any collegiate or adult choirs would love Gjeilo’s music. Perhaps, they will also suit some ambitious high school choruses.  You know, those choirs who love challenges and sing great  music. If you conduced Gjeilo’s music before, let me know which ones you have performed with your group. If his music is new to you, which one would you want to give a try?

Interesting fact: The Phoenix Chorale’s 2012 album, Northern Lights: Choral Works of Ola Gjeilo, featuring was voted “Best Classical Vocal Album of the Year” in iTunes Best of 2012. Way to go, Charles Bruffy & The Phoenix Chorale!

I am grateful for composers like Gjeilo who fill our world with compositions that make our hearts dance. I look forward to learning more about his music. I’m calling his style Neo-Romantic. What would you call it?

Check out his site or look him up on Spotify.

Be well & see you next timego and discover some new music!

@Doremigirl

 

Happy Birthday, Herr Mozart!

Today is W.A. Mozart’s 258th birthday!

What Mozart said here speaks volumes to what kind of master musician Mozart was:

It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.  – W. A. Mozart. Mozart: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words

What’s a birthday celebration without music?

Here’s a great video of Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 D minor, K. 466 with the Camerata Salzburg, directed by Mitsuko Uchida. Ms. Uchida, an acclaimed pianist and a Grammy Award winner, is renowned for her interpretation on the music of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. Here, she is directing and performing as the soloist. The entire performance is brilliant!

Happy Monday!

@Doremigirl

 

So it goes…

A couple of days ago, I posted a post about a project I started that combines daily photo journal with a song to go with it. I have to say that it’s been a great personal project because 1) I’m getting back to taking pictures (with my new camera) and 2) I’m researching for songs and listening to music more than usual 🙂

I invited some friends to join me in my journey and some of them have started on their blips!

@Scott_Watson tweeted
Owly Images
with a perfect song, “Walk Like an Egyptian”.

@TriToneJones started blip here with “O Christmas Tree”.

@Reed_man’s blip here with “Simple Gifts”.

Here are the pictures I posted. For the stories behind them and why I chose these songs, you’ll have to check out my blips!

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I started a playlist for my sound illustrations. I think it’ll be fun to see pictures with the music. There are 5 pictures and only 4 music selections because I started pairing songs on January 2.

Here’s to making memories and music!

~Doremigirl

Sounds of Music #2 – Celebrating December Songs

I have to trek back.

2013 Thanksgiving + Hanukkah  = Thanksgivukkah happened simultaneously.

Hanukkah ended in the evening of December 5th, 2013.

So here are my favorite new Hanukkah songs I found on Spotify. I used most of these with my students (to perform or to listen to).

Happy listening!

For non-Spotify users – here is the list to Google for your pleasure.

  • Swingin’ Dreidel – Kenny Ellis
  • Rock of Ages (Maoz Tzur) – Artaria String Quartet
  • Hayom Chanukah – Shira Kline
  • Hanukkah is Here – Joe Nelson
  • Happy Hanukkah – Matisyahu*

*Artist Hilli Kushnir created a beautifully illustrated storybook of Matisyahu’s “Happy Hanukkah”. Check it out. It’s great for teaching the song to students.

~@Doremigirl

Sounds of Music #1 – Celebrating December Songs

red-robin

Happy fourth day of December

I still have an hour and a half to wish you this 😉

So what music have you been listening to? Since my last post, I’ve been rehearsing with my students for many performances that will take place in the next two and a half weeks. I’m trying hard to enjoy each day – the challenges and the joys that come with teaching.

I’m posting two versions of Angels We Have Heard on High. One song, two different styles and pacing. I love both renditions by these great musicians.

 

Music teachers, this type of music making would be fun to do with students – play a song taking turns at the piano! Would we dare to open our grand piano at school to experiment using the strings and the soundboard so that just one piano will be “the” band? Yes!

This is an unlikely duet (two guys!), but the color of the their combined voices is like butter. Who would have thought Brian McKnight and Josh Groban? Awesome. I like that these singers reached the song’s climax without compromising the feel of the song. But then again, we are talking about Brian McKnight and Josh Groban! 

Did you like either of these renditions?

I will post more music recommendations for Christmas,

~ @Doremigirl

(Now I say, “Happy fifth day of December!”)