Our house stands in the midst of a small grove of mature oak trees. A family of white oaks and a family of willow oaks intermingle: more than a dozen of these giants share the little suburban forest on our property with many smaller post oak, holly, cedar, sweetgum, tupelo, maple, crepe myrtle, dogwood, and pine trees. Squirrels and songbirds, rabbits and deer frolic about under them. I’ve also seen a raccoon, chipmunks, and signs of moles underground. Owls and crows are regular visitors and there is a giant hawk’s nest in one of the white oaks in the front yard – she can be heard screaming there from time to time, terrorizing the smaller birds.
Chances are good that if you’re a choral director, you already have a choice selection of canons in your bag of tricks, ready to be brought out at a moment’s notice to fill out the last few minutes of a rehearsal, or to keep the students from getting too restless and rowdy on a long bus ride – or simply because “we haven’t sung this one in a while”.
It’s been some time since I posted an article to Off The Podium – exactly ten months today, the longest break since I began publishing my writing here in March 2015.
Although he is little recognized today, the English composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 – 1924) was one of the most prominent musicians in the English-speaking world at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and he had considerable influence on the work of many composers and musicians whose work is better known.
Thursday, November 12, 7 pm
A discussion with Walter Bitner, Dr. Ronald Crutcher, and Alex Laing
Music plays a unique and important place in our culture and an understanding and appreciation of music is a hallmark of the educated person. Beyond the content of the music curriculum however, there is something fundamentally different about the process of music-making from the way most other subjects are taught in school that is of immense value to the successful education of dynamic, flexible, and responsive individuals. Music students must simultaneously perform a complex set of operations that call on more aspects of the human being than any other activity they face in school.
At its best, musical performance demands a wholehearted attention from the participant, a complete absorption in the moment in which all other thoughts and concerns disappear.
Read the original article here.
It’s a rainy October Saturday. This week under the pandemic has been insufferably dystopian, with all kinds of preposterous news. After slowly making my way through Saturday morning I manage to drag myself out of the post-workweek daze for a walk under the trees, despite the rain.
I’ve taken some time away from posting to Off The Podium. It’s my habit to do this each summer in any case, and these times have brought great challenges to all of us. I have been busy working with my colleagues in Richmond to adapt to our new situation, and respond.
And now the time has come to share what we’ve been working on.
This article posted today, April 21, 2020, on my ChoralNet blog.
* * *
I have read the New York Times every morning for much of my adult life, although lately there have been mornings when I have put this activity off until later in the day…there just hasn’t been much good news. It’s difficult to find articles that aren’t directly or indirectly related to our current shared situation.
During the eleven-day period from March 21 – 31 it has been my practice for many years to spend some time each day reflecting on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, as I have written about here. Our friend Sebastian was born this time of year in 1685 – on March 21 or March 31, depending on whether you recognize Old or New Style (Julian or Gregorian) calendar conventions for commemorating things that happened centuries ago.
Now under quarantine, this annual period of concentration brings a heightened sense of immediacy, of what G.I. Gurdjieff called “The Terror of the Situation”. People around the world are dying, the pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, and the reality is: some of those close to me may die, or I may die myself. This is in fact the reality of everyday life, but our drastically more uncertain times underline the certain fact of our mortality. (more…)