Walter Bitner

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Category Archives: Choral

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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Off The Podium Debuts on ChoralNet

I’m thrilled to announce that today I begin a weekly blog on ChoralNet, the professional networking site for the global online choral community. ChoralNet is operated by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), which I’ve been a member of for years. It’s a distinct honor to be invited to share my work with choral musicians through this forum, which reaches thousands of members, all over the world, every day.

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The 2019 Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival

The Nashville Symphony presents The Third Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival, Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, director. March 25, 2019. (click images to enlarge)

 

On Monday, March 25, 2019 the Nashville Symphony was thrilled to host The Third Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival at the hall under the direction of Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, Director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and Director of Choral Activities at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. Six choirs from Middle Tennessee public high schools gathered for a day of music making with each other and Nashville Symphony musicians, which culminated in a performance for family and friends at the end of the afternoon.

A wonderful time was had by all!

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BACHanalia 2019

click images to enlarge

 

Nashville’s 13th annual Bach festival – our beloved BACHanalia – will be held:

Friday, March 29, 2019 from 4 – 10 pm
Christ Church Cathedral
900 Broadway in downtown Nashville.

This event is one of the highlights of the musical year in Music City.

A broad spectrum of musicians from our unique community come together at this time each year to present this one-of-a-kind six-hour concert-without-pause devoted to Sebastian’s music, generously hosted by our friends at the cathedral in their beautiful sanctuary.

For the last several years I’ve had the privilege of learning of the program and schedule ahead of the event and voila! here it is. It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by.

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How Great is the Pleasure

or, Love and Music

 

directing the Nashville School of the Arts Chamber Choir, May 13, 2013, Ingram Hall, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville (click images to enlarge)

 

This lovely eighteenth century canon was a staple of my school choirs’ repertoires throughout my entire teaching career. I came across it in a songbook when I first started teaching at Blue Rock School in the early 1990s, and I believe I taught this to every choir I directed until I left teaching in 2014. I taught it to every age group: elementary, middle school, high school. Over the years, How Great is the Pleasure became a kind of unofficial choir theme song for my vocal ensembles, and although it was not something we often sang in performances (especially with older groups of children), we sang it on a regular basis, often as part of our warm up or to close a rehearsal. I never met a child who did not love to sing this song.

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Voices of Hope

 

On March 26, the Nashville Symphony in partnership with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission presented Voices of Hope, the Second Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival. This special, free education and community event was designed and presented this year as part of Violins of Hope Nashville.

Voices of Hope convened student choirs from local public schools, private schools and religious organizations under the direction of Dr. Tamara Freeman, an internationally acknowledged Holocaust ethnomusicologist. Dr. Freeman worked with each choir and director individually in the weeks and months leading up to the event. All of this preparation culminated in the festival: a day of rehearsals and a free performance open to the public.

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BACHanalia 2018

The 12th annual BACHanalia – our city’s annual Bach festival – will be held on Friday, March 16 from 4 – 10 pm at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway in downtown Nashville. Once a year, musicians from many parts of our community come together to present this unique six-hour concert-without-pause devoted to Sebastian’s music, generously hosted by our friends at the cathedral in their beautiful sanctuary.

BACHanalia is one of the highlights of the musical year in Music City.

Once again this year, I was given a special glimpse of the program in advance of this year’s concert, which I leak to you here, Off The Podium readership. We’re in for a tremendous evening of music-making!

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Christmas Oratorio at West End United Methodist

West End Chancel Choir and Orchestra, Matthew Phelps, conductor, perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Part 1, BWV 248 ~ December 3, 2017, West End United Methodist Church, Nashville (click images to enlarge)

 

When I first met Dr. Matthew Phelps nearly two years ago, one of the first things he shared with me was his desire to present Sebastian’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 at West End during the advent season. I was excited to hear this, since the Christmas Oratorio is rarely performed compared to Sebastian’s other large scale choral works like the Passions and the B minor Mass, and I had never heard it performed live before. So when I found out earlier this fall that it was happening this year, I marked my calendar and made sure I could be there. (more…)

Martin & Sebastian

Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the church door ~ 1878 painting by Julius Hübner (1806-1882) click images to enlarge

This week marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This protest against the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church led to the social, cultural, and philosophical revolution we now call the Reformation – which in turn led to many changes in the abilities of governments and religions to control the personal lives of individuals in Western Civilization, among other things.

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Two Brahms Portraits

this print cropped from “Brahms at the Piano” by Willy von Beckerath (1868-1938) has hung over my piano at home since 1986

Johannes Brahms was born on this date 184 years ago: on May 7, 1833. The Brahms Bicentennial is only 16 years away!

Like Sebastian, Brahms is a composer whose music has been a deep and abiding presence in my life. Yet I have so far avoided writing much about his music here on Off The Podium. Beyond a reflection I wrote in 2015 after attending a performance of his Requiem, I have merely mentioned Brahms a few times in other articles. So far.

Today, in honor of Brahms’ Birthday, I offer these personal anecdotes:

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