Monthly Archives: November 2015

In Response to a Question

I love it when members of the choir ask me about something in the lyrics of the song they are singing. Today I was asked about a line in “Sleigh Ride”:

“It will nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives…”

Nathaniel Currier was a Massachusetts printer who specialized in lithography ( in the 1800’s. He started out printing many things, including sheet music, but specialized in prints illustrating people and events of the day. He is credited with publishing the first illustrated newspaper, the New York Sun.

New Yorker James Merritt Ives started as a bookkeeper and illustrator for Currier but quickly progressed to partner and general manager for their new firm, “Currier & Ives.” The men set up one of the earliest production lines in the country in their three-story print shop, with artists, lithographers, stone grinders, printing presses, and colorists all in the same building. The self-described “Publishers of Cheap and Popular Pictures” produced over 7500 different titles and over one million prints between 1835 and 1907. Anything from disaster scenes to sentimental images and everything in-between was illustrated and printed by the company.

Every print was first drawn on lithographic limestone (later replaced with metal plates) with oil, fat, or wax. Then the stone was treated with acid to etch the parts of the stone that were not protected by the grease. The etched areas would retain water, allowing oil-based ink to be applied to only the original drawing. Then the printing press could transfer the ink to paper, duplicating the drawing. After that, each print was hand-colored, with an assembly line of colorists each responsible for applying a single color before passing the print to the next colorist. By the way, Nathanel’s brother and employee, Charles, invented and patented a new kind of lithography wax crayon, a little something he called the “Crayola.”

Many of Currier & Ives’ prints depicted scenes from everyday life, and many winter scenes of sleighs and riders may be found in their collection. You can see some of these in the Print Galleries on The Currier & Ives Foundation website.

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Opportunity Basket Raffle Donations Needed

At the December 8th concert with Poway High School, there will be the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for five different gift baskets. Each choir has been asked to provide a basket for the raffle. TPMS has selected the theme “Gift Card Bonanza” for its basket. We are asking for donations of gift cards, in any amount $5 or greater, to any store or service. It could be to a favorite restaurant, a music service, a local store – anything!

Please send in all donations to the choir rehearsals this week or on December first. And be sure to purchase your raffle tickets in the lobby at Poway Center for the Performing Arts for your chance to win!

We thank, Susan Bandrup, our parent representative to the Poway High School Choir Boosters, for coordinating this effort.

New Performance Added!

I am very excited to announce that the TPMS Choir will be performing at Poway’s Christmas in the Park!

This event, held at the charming Old Poway Park on Midland Road, features train rides, horse-drawn hay rides, a tree decorating competition, a craft boutique, food vendors, and lots of entertainment! The highlight of the event is the lighting of the Christmas tree followed by Santa’s arrival by train.

Christmas in the Park has free admission (nominal charges for activities and food) and runs from 3:30 – 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 12th.

The TPMS Choir will perform from 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. on the Green Park Stage, followed by the TPMS Jazz Band. This will be the first year TPMS groups are participating in this very popular community event.

We hope you will come out and join us for what promises to be a fun evening full of holiday spirit! More details, including information about parking and free shuttles, may be found on the City of Poway website.

Santa's arrival, 2013
Santa’s Arrival at Old Poway Park, photo by Pat Whitson ©2013

Update: PCPA Rehearsal Times and Call Time

Our dress rehearsal with Poway High School is on Monday, December 7th. Please arrive at Poway Center for the Performing Arts for a 6:00 p.m. on-stage start. Choir members are to use the performer’s entrance door. We will run through our numbers first and then join the combined choirs to rehearse the opening and closing numbers. Expect to be finished around 7:00 p.m.

This rehearsal is critical, so please make every effort to attend.

The call time for the concert on December 8th is 5:45 p.m. at Poway Center for the Performing Arts. Choir members only should use the performer’s entrance; all ticket holders must use the main entrance, which should open around 6:30 p.m. The Box Office and Will Call should be open at 6:00 p.m. to pick up tickets.

TPMS Choir members report to the Green Room. We will have only a few quick minutes to run through entrances/exits on the stage again before the concert starts.

Choir members will be seated in the audience during the concert when they are not performing. Do not plan on doing homework or other things during the show. The concert is expected to end around 9:00 p.m.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets! Click here for ticket sales info.

Winter Concert Information Updates

Just a month away until our winter concerts! You can find this information on our “Calendar” tab.

Twin Peaks MS Lunch/RAM Concerts:

Friday, December 4th, 2015 – two performances

12:15 – 12:45 p.m. and 1:00 – 1:25 p.m. (approximately)

in the Twin Peaks Middle School Theatre (Room 608)

Free, family welcome – sign in at front office

Concert with Poway High School Choirs:

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

7:00 p.m.

Poway Center for the Performing Arts

$10 adults & $6 child/military/senior

Click here for ticket purchasing information

Hope to see you at one or more of our performances!

Polishing a Performance

There are just 7 rehearsals before our first concert, and I’m not quite panicking, yet.

I know the choir is going to sound great. They have learned the songs well and know all the words and notes. There are still a few more pieces of music to learn, but I know they will do that easily and beautifully.

The hard part is making them understand they also need to LOOK great. And that they will sound better if they look better.

How does that work?, you may ask.

Starting with some basics: standing on the risers. They walk in, stand in a row, and sing. Sounds easy, right? Well, first they need to be arranged by height so they can all see me. Then they need to space themselves evenly so everyone can see them. Harder than it sounds when attendance fluctuates wildly and people have to come and go during rehearsal. Throw in there the fact that these are middle schoolers, and while they are much more mature about these things than I was at that age (cooties, anyone?), there still is a whole world of little issues about who won’t stand closer to each other, who needs to not stand next to someone because the giggles never stop, and who would absolutely die of mortification if they were forced to stand in the front row. Everyone needs to be positioned so they can see the conductor, who is supposed to keep them together, and also positioned so that they are singing out to the audience and not into the back of someone else’s head.

Okay, we get that worked out. Now, how to stand: arms straight at sides or held in front? Feet together or apart? Stand up straight or lean slightly forward? Good posture ensures good breathing which then ensures good sound.

Add some choreography. Does everyone have to move exactly the same way? Right hand, left foot – no,no, your other left! Or is there some artistic license to their performance? Depends on the song, so the rules change with each piece of music. Movements can’t block the sound coming out of their mouths. Props? Oh, yes, don’t forget about those. Who carries them out on stage? Can they be used correctly and conveniently? Does everyone know their cue when to pick something up, put something down, or pass it down the row? Everyone needs to have these things in their head, practiced to the point of not having to think about them, so that they don’t interfere with their singing.

Between songs, you can’t just relax and start talking to your neighbor. There may be some repositioning needed as different songs have different mixes of parts to sing. How do you get those singers in place, quickly, quietly, and without looking like chaos? Moving bodies to keep voices together is a necessary evil in a beginning choir, but it keeps everyone singing the right notes at the right time.

How do they get onto the stage? How do they exit? And how do we fit the time to practice this into the super-tight 50 minutes we have each rehearsal? And, the most difficult question, how do we convince the students that all this really IS necessary and important and that it is not an invitation to chatter or goof around?

Because, having been through years – dare I say decades? – of performances, I also know there is one thing that happens to the majority of every group on stage: stage fright. Ranging from mild butterflies in the tummy to knocking knees to flat-out panic, it is a normal reaction to suddenly finding yourself in front of a large group of people all awaiting to hear and see what you can do. Knowing how you are supposed to walk, stand, breathe, sing, move, sing, and finally walk off the stage again reduces the nervousness, by taking away the question, “Am I doing this right?”

The confidence that comes from looking good transfers to the voice, and focuses the mind on singing well. Q.E.D. they sound better by looking better.