Over the weekend, IC ACDA went down to Baltimore, MD for the 2014 ACDA Eastern Division Conference! We also had the opportunity to hear some incredible speakers, listen to some tantalizingly talented ensembles, and check out a couple of local hotspots. I can't recommend going to these conferences high enough to anyone interested in choral music. Well worth the money and travel.
Because of inclement weather—a blizzard that actually caused delays at the school, a rare occurrence in Ithaca—we left not at 10am on Wednesday morning, but at 4am on Thursday morning. Suffice it to say we were extremely tired the first day, and we unfortunately missed the workshop our choral director Dr. Janet Galván was giving. Still, we made it in time for several concerts, including one by the illustrious Seraphic Fire. They sang about two hours-worth of Monteverdi with incredible musicality, vocal endurance, and attention to performance practice. The singers employed tons of vocal embellishments specific to the late Renaissance, many of which I'd never heard before. They also had a small period-ensemble consisting of continuo organs, lutes, and violas da gamba of varying sizes.
After a well-deserved ovation, we headed back to the hotel, which was situated right on the waterfront. After having an extraordinarily long day (4am to 10:30pm, so 18.5 hours) we were exhausted (but in a good way!). But there was no time to sleep quite yet! There was a joint reception in the hotel that night for the ACDA Eastern Division student chapters.
Turned out to be great! I met a whole host of new people—students from Syracuse and Westminster—and caught up with some old friends. I eventually went back to my hotel room bed where I slept like a proverbial infant.
The next day, as it turns out, the Baltimore Waterfront Marriott—where we were staying—is situated extremely close to Baltimore's Little Italy, so my friends Adriel and Emily and I decided to check out the area to see if we could find a nice place to get some food. We stumbled upon the most adorable Italian pastry shop I'd ever seen—and what's more, they also sold sandwiches!
We then decided to attend the next concert session at Old St. Paul's Church. If you ever have the chance to attend an ACDA conference, make sure you go to as many concert sessions as you can. Not only is it a great way to hear what other composers are doing—a real treat if one of the ensembles is premiering a work—but you also get to hear different styles of choirs who value different aspects of the music they sing. I encourage you, both as a conductor and composer, to go out and listen to as many groups as you can, and then choose for yourself what aspects of each ensemble you value most. I would implore young musicians to go these concerts, and listen to the various groups with an critical yet open (two sides of the same coin when you think about it) mind.
After the concert session, we headed back to the hotel to check out some of the exhibits that were on display. If you've never been to an ACDA conference before, they basically have a bunch of organizations with booths all in one big room, promoting whatever it is they're selling. These groups include music publishers who hand out free octavi, music distributers, grad schools with notable conducting programs, organizations that allow you to perform abroad, organizations (like DCINY) that help you conduct in prominent venues, manufacturers of choral paraphernalia such as batons and black folders, the list goes on.
I decided to head on over to a booth selling all sorts of choral scores and books, from enormous volumes of definitive translations of Latin texts to simple choral octavi. After wandering around browsing the various shelves and bins, I hit the mother load: two cardboard boxes, emblazoned with the word "imported." Some pieces I stumbled upon were: "On Leaving" by Galina Grigorjeva, "The Dazzled Eye Lost Its Speech" byRytis Mažulis, "Summer Rain" by Toivo Tulev, and "Aufführn / Act up" by Manfred Länger. Some really cool pieces! Later that evening Adriel and I, plus an incredibly talented Music Education student named Hannah Abrams, had a little sight-singing party in our room, attempting to read through the various pieces we'd all purchased.
Later that day, Adriel and I headed to an interest session dedicated to the art of overtone singing in a choral setting. One thing that I found absolutely incredible was the concept of being able to use overtone singing as a medium for counterpoint. One of the speakers there, Stuart Hinds, an incredibly adept overtone singer, demonstrated some of the songs he's composed by creating two-voice counterpoint between his normal singing voice and his overtone sound. To clarify, it wasn't just an overtone melody over a drone. He was manipulating both the overtone and the fundamental to create two independent melody lines. Absolutely incredible. He has a whole host of pieces published for solo voice written in this style, for anyone interested in performing them. This sort of technique is something I'd love to see more of, both in ensemble and solo vocal literature. Very cool!
Saturday rolled around, and I got the chance to hear some great new works performed by Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and other choirs. The music involved, among other things, some hushed speaking under layers of singing to create a really cool texture. This was in a church called St. Ignatius. Some friends and I then caught lunch a really great deli/pizzeria that was close to the hotel. They also have these delicious mini-cannoli that come in sets of three. Great place to go for both a quick lunch and a heartier dinner if you're in the area.
Later that evening, the whole group headed to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to see the honor choirs perform. The highlight of the afternoon for me was an incredibly fresh and edgy piece by conductor/composer Jing Ling-Tam entitled "Yang Guan Farewell." I'm looking forward to hearing more performances of this work in years to come!
All in all the trip was a wonderful success! Baltimore is a beautiful city, and hopefully, I'll be back to enjoy it even more some time soon! So happy to have met all the new people I did on the trip and to have reconnected with old friends! If you ever have a chance to go to an ACDA conference, don't pass it up. It's truly a wonderful experience.
-Miggy Torres, Ithaca College '15
Welcome to our site!