Making Arrangements

Entry By Yang Chen, Marc Garneau CI, Guest Blogger

These past few weeks have been even more busy than usual. With the Christmas Show and Music Night coming up, rehearsals have been super intense. But for this blog post, I’ll be talking about something a bit different.

I think a key to a happy show choir is having good song choices. When the members are able to lose themselves in a song they really enjoy singing or dancing to, they’ll always be hungry for more. If they are comfortable with the song, they’ll also be excited and confident to perform it for others. Of course, new songs every once in a while keeps things fresh. However, the problem is that not all songs have ready-to-purchase choral arrangements. And so, I arrange my own. It isn’t too hard – all you just need a little determination, a vision, and some free time.

The basics are simple: you want to create an arrangement where there’s three or four part harmony a choir can sing. I usually start off by listening to the song over and over again, and trying to find pre-existing arrangements for piano and voice. Since I don’t have perfect pitch (if I did, I could name what a note is just by hearing it), I have to find the vocal melody line first. Once I see the piano chords and the vocal melody, I add them to a new score on Music Notation software. (I use a free program called MuseScore, musescore.org) .

Then, I start playing around with the harmonies by using the piano chords, and following them. Should the Sopranos get the melody here? Should the baritones sing a countermelody? I love playing around with the notes. Most of the time I just go with whatever my gut feeling is on how it sounds. Also, since I’m arranging with my choir in mind, I always think about the difficulty of actually singing it, rather than just trying to create the “ideal” harmony. This is a very big benefit to custom arrangements. In our case, not all of our members are necessarily strong singers, so I try to not make the harmonies too difficult.

Once I finally get a draft done, we take it for a test run! With a couple of members from show choir, we sing the parts together. Usually there are some tweaks to be made, such as an odd-sounding chord, or a note that’s out of range. Once the arrangement is finalized and photocopied, the end product sounds glorious. It’s very rewarding to hear your own arrangement translated into live and beautiful music.

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New year, new name.

Entry By Yang Chen, Marc Garneau CI, Guest Blogger

It’s been a productive few weeks since the show choir first met! Now that we’ve determined the skill sets and vocal ranges of every person, we’ve split up into groups and started rehearsal. After doing movement and vocal exercises for a week, we are now really kicking into high gear and trying to chip away at the beats of choreography and bars of harmony during our 3 weekly lunch rehearsals. We take the songs a couple bars at the time, letting each section learn their part, then combining at the end. It’s difficult to get a lot done at each rehearsal, since our lunch is very short and usually we can only fit in 30 minutes a lunch at best. Nonetheless, we are moving full-steam ahead.

We wanted for our set this year to really reflect the culture of our school. Situated in one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Toronto, our school is comprised of students from many different backgrounds and cultures. An overwhelming majority are first and second generation immigrants from the middle east and eastern Asia. Even though we have many different races, religions, and backgrounds, we are united under our school. To celebrate our diversity, we decided to have an international theme to our setlist. We also renamed our show choir – that’s right, revealed to the world right here at showchoircanada.com: D-VERSE.

It’s still a difficult, but interesting juggle for me between school work, my other extra-curriculars (including a literacy initiative I lead: spellingbeeliteracy.co.cc), and scholarship/University applications. However, show choir continues to inspire me to pursue all of my passions, regardless of what they are. I hope to wrap up our first song (dancing and singing) in the next 2 weeks. Can’t wait to perform it at December Music Night and Christmas Show!

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Growing our Show Choir Family

Entry By Nicole Segal, Richmond Hill High, Guest Blogger

I Googled “show choir” and this is what I found.

A show choir is a group of people who sing in choirs and dance, sometimes within the context of a specific idea or story.

I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve got a completely different definition in mind. My experience with show choir has been so much more than just a group of people singing and dancing. Sure that may be what the audience sees, but months of sweaty t-shirts and sore throats tell us different. The time spent rehearsing, the practices and all of the behind the scenes work, that’s what brings us to our final product. That’s what the definition’s missing, but I’m here to fill it all in.

I’m fortunate enough to be one of the original members of Vocal Fusion, Richmond Hill High School’s show choir. Three years ago, my vocal teacher and choir director Mrs. Christopolous pulled me aside and let me in on her plan to start a show choir. I have to admit; at first I was unsure about the idea. It seemed pretty impossible to pull off considering our lack of resources: one vocal teacher and a vocal room smaller than the English classrooms across the hall. Luckily as Vocal Fusion progressed, incredibly talented students joined our group. Singers, dancers, actors, instrumentalists, choreographers, composers, beat boxers, you name it!

As the school year was approaching, our executive members got together to plan out how the audition process was going to happen this time around. Our first goal: advertize as soon as possible. Posters to the left and right of us everywhere we walked, flyers and performances on grade nine day, announcements every morning leading up to the week of auditions. We wanted everyone to come out.

Vocal Fusion Warms Up

Our audition process is very… us. I know that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but Vocal Fusion isn’t all that traditional. We tend to do everything family style. Originally, only three of our executive members and our director were supposed to be judging the auditions. The student would sing a song of their choice, sing a simple pitch test, and answer a few questions. The first day of auditions went as planned. The second day, let’s just say we had previous Vocal Fusion members everywhere! Six of us judging the auditions, four of us sitting just outside the door, another four just around the corner and down the hall, but all so excited to meet our potential new members.

After the solo vocal auditions, we had a group dance audition. Everyone who made it through to the dance audition came out and learned a routine from one of our performances last year. Being one of our two choreographers, I got the chance to teach, work with, and get to know the students auditioning. It’s always really neat making connections with so many people so quickly.

Now, we’re at 28 incredible Fusioners. That’s right. Fusioners. We might not be the biggest choir, or have the best facilities, but we definitely have the biggest hearts. We put our all into every rehearsal, we arrange our own music, and we teach our own choreography. We’re not just a group of people singing and dancing. We’re a family, and I can’t wait to tell you all about how fantastic each and every Fusion family member is. I love you guys!

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The start of what we’ve all been looking forward to

Entry By Yang Chen, Marc Garneau CI, Guest Blogger

And so with the end of another summer vacation comes the start of what we’ve all been looking forward to: a new season of show choir.

After much deliberation, brainstorming, and Youtube-ing over the summer on song choices, I presented the ideas to our vocal director and a suggestion for an overall theme. She really liked the concept: it really embraced and encompassed what our school is all about. As this is not only our third year of show choir at Marc Garneau CI, but also my last before I graduate, I knew that this year must be the best year ever.

Reflecting on the past year and looking at what worked and didn’t work, my vocal director, some members of choir council and I planned how we wanted to run it this year. The first week was all about advertising: besides public announcements read every morning, I designed an attractive poster which tried to appeal to singers, dancers, and band members. Then, my vice-president and I went around the school taping 25 of them around the school in “strategic” locations. Although our inner-city school is mainly comprised of first- and second- generation immigrants from the Middle East and southeastern Asia, as well as students who are in a unique accelerated math and science program called TOPS (which I am part of), I knew that there were many students out there with their talent just waiting to be shown to the world, even if individually we may not have the artistic technical backgrounds in singing and/or dancing.

Although I have a full course load with TOPS (comprised of 60 students per grade who have extra enrichment in almost all of the core courses, especially in Math, Science and English) including AP Physics, there will always be time for Show Choir. Our show choir has been traditionally comprised of both TOPS and non-TOPS students – it really goes to show the diversity of our members.

Given the current political situation, I was very pleased that our directors are continuing to run show choir, with daresay even more passion than ever before.

Knowing that the arts are such a worthwhile investment for youth, I was very happy at the turnout for the first meeting: we had around 60 students wanting in on the fun of show choir. We discussed some of our plans for next year, and when rehearsals will be. We decided this year not to hold auditions, and have everyone experience the rehearsal setting of show choir, and let interested members continue in the program, and experience all the benefits show choir has to offer. After creating a new Facebook group, we continued playing around with song choices with a poll.

We hope to move forward with our first actual rehearsal and finalize our set list – I can’t wait to hear everyone’s voices.

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Contest Winner for February

Contest Winner for February 2012 is Nicole Segal from Richmond Hill, Ont.

I’m artsy. I’ve always been artsy. I wouldn’t say being an artsy kid is the most popular thing to be, especially in high school, but then again, I don’t really consider the “popular” kids all that cool anyway. I mean, what’s so great about blending in with the crowd? Being an outcast, being one of the artsy kids, being unique and different and brave, that’s what I consider cool.

It’s never easy being completely vulnerable and sharing your passion with so many others, but that’s what a performer does on a daily basis. I did mention that I’ve always been artsy, but being artsy is a far stretch from being confidant. Struggling with nerves is something I’ve become pretty accustomed to, considering the fact that every time I open my mouth to sing , I think I might pee my pants, but getting up in front of three hundred people, or ten people, or even just one person, and putting everything out there to be judged is always nerve racking. My biggest downfall is my own mindset; my own nerves.
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