Observing honor choir rehearsals is always a highlight of ACDA conferences for aspiring choral educators. On Wednesday evening, my friend Lauren and I had the pleasure of seeing Joan Gregoryk in action as she worked with the Children's Honor Choir. When we entered the ballroom, the students were seated "criss-cross applesauce" on the carpet, and Ms. Gregoryk was encouraging them to maintain excellent singing posture while breathing into the carpet beneath them. She amused the students by continually reminding them to "sing above the tush," but of course this terminology did more than just entertain the students; it was clearly helping them to connect with their head voices.
As always, I was moved by the pure, natural beauty of the children's voices as they sang. For the portion of the rehearsal that Lauren and I observed, they were working on a lively piece by Andrea Ramsey. Today was only the first full day of rehearsals for these young people, and they were already able to sing the piece from memory with nearly perfect accuracy. Because their heads were not buried in scores, they were able to keep their eyes on Ms. Gregoryk and respond to her expressive gestures. With each run-through, their singing improved.
At one point, Andrea Ramsey, the composer of one of the compositions, came in. Ms. Gregoryk invited the composer to join her on the podium and coach the children on their performance of her piece. The students witnessed a brilliant collaboration between composer and conductor. As Ms. Ramsey sang through the melody of her piece - demonstrating the articulation, tone color, and text stress that she wanted - Ms. Gregoryk stood beside her and skillfully translated Ms. Ramsey's impassioned singing into clear physical gestures. The singers gained a deep understanding of the music by applying feedback from both their conductor and the composer. How fortunate these children were to get to work closely with a composer in this fashion! This happens more and more as contemporary works are performed, and I appreciate conductors who invite composers into the rehearsal process. This rehearsal was educational and fulfilling for all in attendance.
-Juliana Joy Child, IC ACDA President-Elect
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