Walter Bitner

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Category Archives: Music Education

Warm Up On Canons

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”.

 

The Sleeping Monk, Henry Stacy Marks (1829–1898) ~ Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth, UK

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The Blue Bird

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, 1921

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.

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Introducing the Richmond Symphony School of Music

Dear Friends,

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.

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Meet the Artist, A Workshop with Tracy Silverman

130 students from 22 Richmond Public Schools Elementary Schools participated in Meet the Artist: A Workshop with Tracy Silverman on March 10, 2020, Dominion Energy Center, Richmond (click images to enlarge)

 

On Tuesday, March 10, internationally renowned electric violinist Tracy Silverman visited Richmond for workshops and performances with Richmond Public Schools students and with the students of Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program.

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Making Music During the Pandemic

This article posted today, March 17, 2020, on my ChoralNet blog. I think it’s worth reposting here.

 

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These are uncertain times. The current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, and we are facing a period of time in which much of what we did regularly – our daily and weekly routines – has been impacted.

For choral singers and choral directors, this means the cancelation of classes, rehearsals, performances, services, and the other activities of our lives that involve gathering together to make music. These social activities now on hiatus are in many cases the reason we got into this work – making music with others is a kind of lifeline, a way to connect with not only others and the world, but with the deepest, internal parts of ourselves. (more…)

Man’s Life’s a Vapor

Man’s Life’s a Vapor, unknown artist, early 1990s ~ I found this among other documents from my years at Blue Rock. It was drawn by a student and given to me by his or her teacher (the teacher supplied the title). Note the scissors, and the deep hole that the protagonist is about to fall into. (click images to enlarge)

A miniature, a concise meditation on the precarious and impermanent nature of human existence.

There is not a lot to say about this song. Man’s Life a Vapor is fittingly brief, as are my comments. (more…)

Richmond Symphony Musical Ambassadors Program (MAP) 2020

Richmond Symphony Principal Flute Mary Boodell demonstrates her instrument during a performance by the Principal Woodwind Quintet at Rural Point Elementary School, Mechanicsville, Virginia, February 27, 2020 (click images to enlarge)

 

One of the most wide-reaching and robust programs we produce, the Richmond Symphony Musical Ambassadors Program (MAP) curates, develops, rehearses, and performs over 125 concerts each season in metropolitan Richmond area schools. Although many in our community may be unaware even of the existence of this program, it nonetheless fulfills a vital aspect of our music education mission, introducing more than 45,000 children to classical music and the instruments of the orchestra every year.

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Ho! Young Rider

Image by Dieter_G from Pixabay ~ click images to enlarge

This song, whose origins are shrouded in obscurity, was hands down the most popular song that I ever taught to children.

When I arrived at Blue Rock School to begin my tenure there in February 1991, Ho! Young Rider was already the student favorite, and in my memory, I learned this song from the students themselves within the first couple of weeks I worked there – in a bit of table-turning I asked the students to teach me songs they already knew so I could sing with them. Ho! Young Rider was first on that list. I soon added a guitar accompaniment and through repetitions in my music classes that spring arrived at the format in which I would teach this song to children for the next fifteen years.

 

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As I Went Over Tawny Marsh

Loch Vennachar, Perthshire, by Harold Sutton Palmer (1854-1933) (click images to enlarge)

 

This gem, beloved by my choirs, was one of my favorite canons to teach to and sing with children, and a staple of my children’s choir repertoire for many years. I first came across it the early 1990s in a book I can’t find right now, a little red book of traditional songs in English used for students of English as a foreign language at schools in twentieth century continental Europe. I taught As I Went Over Tawny Marsh to my students at Blue Rock School and at most of the other elementary schools I taught at afterwards.

My students always called this song Tawny.

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Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Side-By-Side with the Richmond Symphony, February 9

Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra, Daniel Myssyk, conductor after a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, November 17, 2019, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Richmond (click images to enlarge)

 

Next weekend, the young musicians of Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra in collaboration with the Richmond Symphony present our annual Side-By-Side concert: the culmination of months of work on the part of the students, and a highlight of the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program (YOP) season. This year’s Side-By-Side promises to be a memorable occasion for all, as 125 musicians gather together on stage to perform Hector Berlioz’s monumental Symphonie Fantastique.

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