Harmony U Day 6, Friday: Putting the Package Together.

Today is show day as the Parade of Quartets showcases the quartets and choruses that have been coached at Harmony U. 
We skipped General Session to work on our choreography package with General Carlos. I've got to admit that I am very confused as to which moves are in and which are out. We're on version 3.45.6a (rev2) I think. This is normal and expected but still overwhelming. Key thing is to put overwhelmed in your back pocket and take it out again when you have time. 
I got personal coaching from the vocal techniques class singing 'All the Diamonds' by Bruce Cockburn. Key of E cause it's Friday. I remembered to keep my chin down, breathe, sustain tone to the full length of the phrase, keep the low notes light and in the same resonant space as the higher ones. I was commended on expressiveness, richness of tone and the undertones some people heard in my voice. Then the instructor taught me the value of singing one phrase with a lean toward an 'ah' vowel and the next with an 'ay' space behind every vowel. And I actually understood what he was saying. So I sang it with that in mind and it really did improve the sound even though some other technique stuff fell off the overloaded cart. Putting the whole package together is, to use a common phrase around here, like riding a unicycle while singing baritone, juggling flaming batons through a rugby scrum, while changing a baby and fending off a shark. It's a very common expression. I'm surprised you haven't heard it. 
The afternoon was more of the same at chorus level. Breathing breakthroughs, expressiveness. A very moving inspiration for our interpretation of hallelujah. Kirk actually caused me to entirely reinterpret Cohen's second verse. But everything added to the cart is causing something else to fall off. Harmony U Is the start of a journey not the end. I'm having sync problems, tuning and movement and expression problems by the score (see what I did there?). There will be much to consolidate into my normal automatic singing over the next months. I am aware of my voice and presence in aspects that I never saw before. So much to attend to and still a song that needs to be sung, a story that needs to be told. 
On Friday evening we did our part in putting on a fantastic show. I think we all felt the thousand opportunities we missed but we need to step back and look at the product we presented. I have, and it was great. And it will be even better by contest. 
I'm missing a session right now so I'm going to sign off and get overwhelmed again. What a great week.

Harmony University Day 5 (Thursday):

Today was shaping up to be just another day at Harmony U. We got the great news that Andy Young was being discharged from the hospital. We're looking forward to seeing him on Friday. The morning was uneventful. Lunch was much appreciated after missing breakfast. And I can't overstate the enjoyment of meeting amazing people at every meal. Today it was Roger Lewis a former BHS president. Someone told me who he was after lunch. Somehow it just didn't come up in conversation. 
The afternoon was just another day of the chorus bringing their A game. Yes we're tired but yes we're still drinking from the fire hose. Gary Steincamp and Brent Graham continued to help us connect phrases together and help keep the song moving forward. Gary helped us realize that we CAN combine the particular things judges want to see/hear with the goal of entertaining our audience, but that we have to think about HOW to combine both goals. 
Brent let Teresa ?? (From Nova Scotia and a top three presentation specialist in women's barbershop) teach on breathing: the urgency breath, which moves us into the next phrase, and the intimacy breath, which anticipates the emotion of the next phrase. Every breath in the song plan should serve the presentation of the song. We singers only breathe for the audience's sake. Our physical need doesn't even rate.  
The Tune It Or Die class was its ordinary mind blowing revelation about harmony: the way that every tone contains harmony within its overtones. Specifically the barbershop seventh! 
Brain overloaded with new stuff, so just another day at Harmony U, right? 
Then I met Steven Cornwell. Steven is learning a form of throat singing ( I'd say he's mastered it, but I defer to his humility. ) listen to him sing heart of my heart: http://youtu.be/5z89oEFVfr0 
Does that blow your mind? Steven is looking for three others to throat sing in four part harmony. Start practicing today. I'll be posting a clip of his instructions soon. 
The day ended, for me, with the barbershop bash -a barbeque and show with quartets and a First Timers Chorus contest. The Gold Ribbon Chorus was best, but I guess that since we already had a gold ribbon they gave first place to the Green Ribbon Chorus. They clearly needed the encouragement.
Buses took most of Harmony U To downtown Nashville for a free evening. I used my freedom to sleep. Have another listen to that throat singing.
No doubt Friday will be just another day at Harmony U.

Harmony u. Day something. Four I think Wednesday?

Yeah, the tiredness sets in. 
The day started innocuously enough, Andy Young sleeping in. Next thing I know Judy Panter is called to the principal's office out of our vocal techniques class to give Andy a ride to the hospital. Turns out atrial fibrillation - there are a lot of atriums on campus and Andy must have told a falsehood in one - got his heart going at 50,000 BEATS PER MINUTE ( I forget the exact number) which is much too fast for a ballad. 
Andy tells us that atrial fibrillation is much less serious than perjury so I'm taking a light tone with this. Turns out Andy is not going to die, so guys, please return his stuff to his room. 
After two amazing days of progress in chorus today felt a little slow but I was mostly expecting that. A) I was tired and wasn't bringing my A game. I would guess I wasn't the only one. B) we have gotten into what Latin scholars call ' the nitty gritty'. Latin is such an expressive language which we should illstay eachtay inay oolschay, ehay?
Nevertheless we made progress. Emoting at the best of times is tough for our chorus. Expressing passion on sore feet while singing bar two the ninety second time on much too little sleep is a hard victory, yet it was achieved by General Carlos and the 39 men of the Capital City Chorus Commando division in the afternoon of whatever day this was, 2014. (I actually can't confirm the commando designation. I had MY briefs on. ) 
The evening brought some great rhythm work by Kirk Young, whose son, Connor, I met just earlier that day. Kirk helped us find the strongest ever rhythmic performance of our up tune. The triplet timing of Love Me transfers to the ballad Cohen's Hallelujah, so two birds and all that. 
The 10 pm gospel sing was, by and large a clinic in abandoning good vocal technique, but was a very fun time. Papa's friends brought a top notch rendition of SSWT and some beautiful blue shirts to the mix, while the only other performance, Motet, sang a beautiful medley of unfamiliar hymns (Possibly from the LDS tradition.) any quartet that can sing that well while still not off tablet (smartphone, paper, whatever) needs to be taken out and stoned for contributing to covetousness. JK, I think. 
BTW, Dad's new quartet with Richard Frennette, Bill Vermue and Bruce Marchant: it's called On-Q. Tell me when you get it. Hint Richard is from Montreal.
Need to head off to General session. I skipped breakfast to write this update. Ok, Truth is I slept in. I don't want to catch this fibrillation thing.

Harmony U Day 3 (Tuesday)

(photo: Barad'ur at night. ) Denis Laflamme called in some favours, I think. We got two extra hours of coaching from four top guns tonight. This was after the three hours earlier in the day. The focus was sectional practices to enhance unity of sound. For us leads this meant eliminating ' scooping' on notes. It is amazing how much we do this for emotive effect. It is also amazing how much we sound like one voice when we get rid of it. We also focused on keeping the same tone throughout our range, bringing our high voice into our lowest notes to keep everything clear and light. The chorus and coaches were rewarded for the time spent by an unparalleled improvement in our sound. You should have been there. The sound! The excitement from chorus and coaches alike! 
The chorus is retaining so much of what we're being taught, and transferring what we've learned in one song to the rest of our singing. What great coaches and what a great bunch of guys on the risers. Denis is in seventh heaven (not the incomparable gospel quartet, but the emotional state) and well he should be. He has brought the chorus to this place wherein we can get such a great benefit from this opportunity. 
Rodney McGillivray, always looking out for Papa's friends, got coach Gary Steincamp to stay behind to work with our gospel VLQ. We sang our best ever 'Still, Still with Thee' using everything we'd learned in chorus and then Gary (already very positive about our sound), by identifying diction as an issue and reminding us to move this meditative hymn from inward reflection to outward presentation, was able to help us make an even more beautiful and, dare I say, holy moment in singing. One of the questions we must now ask of every song is, "Who is there?" Still, Still with Thee is overtly addressed to the presence of God. In a pietistic way it is easy to sing the song to oneself as an enjoyment of the feeling of God's presence. But rightly it is directed outwardly to 'an audience of one,' and only as such do we really share, with an earthly audience, the rapture expressed in the song. 
Back to the Cantina (after yet another rehearsal, this time (10:00 pm) with the Gold Ribbon First Timer's chorus.) 7th Heaven rehearsed there till they closed the place. I am very privileged to be supported by the rich tight vocal mesh of Rod, Bill Hawken and Andre Carriere. Also kudos to Neil Rask who sat in after Bill went to bed. Always a pleasure to hear Neil's voice. 
My voice is feeling better after all the singing of Tuesday than it did after the first evening of Harmony U. Must be doing something right.