Course Outline:  Concert Choir

Instructor: Dr. P. D. Finley

Maximum class size: no maximum

 Prerequisites: Students must be able to match pitches, determined in a brief and friendly audition.

Description: Concert Choir is an arts elective for students who enjoy singing and desire to study a wide variety of styles. Repertoire includes concert masterworks, as well as Broadway, jazz, rock, folk, and multi-ethnic works.  The choir performs two concerts annually, in December and May.  Select members will also participate in the annual Teen Arts Festival of Bergen County.  Students may also participate in competitions, festivals and arts-related field trips to concerts and operas.

Number of Trimesters: 1,2,& 3 (Note: students are strongly encouraged to enroll in choir all three trimesters.  However, students must be enrolled in choir trimesters one AND two, or trimesters two AND three, in order to accommodate the December and May concert schedule.

Learning Objectives

Upon Completion of this project the students will be able to:
Personally assess and engage in the practice of standard group vocal technique; the process of warm-up that will enable the student to:
Produce a well-supported, properly projected vocal tone with appropriate musculature
        Discuss and demonstrate proper vocal technique,
perform a variety of concert works from the standard choral repertoire - in their appropriate styles - in a variety of specified languages.

Assist in the preparation for concert performance as conductor, accompanist, speaker (i.e., presenting the background, historical or otherwise, of a piece of music to an audience), soloist, backstage manager (all of these for selected students only).

Identify, discuss, and/or present material that demonstrates a knowledge in the history of at least two selections from the concert repertoire, in terms of composer, country of origin, stylistic trends of the era, composer's contribution, and parallel events in art, architecture, and history that correspond and amplify their correlative expressions in music

Demonstrate a working (i.e., performance-caliber) knowledge in the pronunciation ,and phrasing, diction, and projection with proper phonics the language of English and at least one other language (examples will include but may not be restricted to: Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Swahili, Zulu, Japanese, Korean.).

End Product

The end product will be in the form of a concert and presentation during project presentations week, and in the form of an actual evening concert, demonstrating all of the above proficiencies.

Methods of Evaluation

Grades will follow the grade point system of the current faculty and student Preparation- if practice CD's are used, students are expected to come to class with assignments from CD's prepared. Students will come to class with folders. At the later stages of rehearsal, students will be expected to have memorized the works to be performed.  
Participation/Effort- every student is obviously expected to participate in all activities. You will be asked to demonstrate, perform and/or present your work. Teamwork skills are essential. Each and every student is expected to make a viable contribution.  (Important: see "Choir Rehearsal Attendance Policy" below).
Cooperation- Students are expected to cooperate with each other and maintain a positive attitude; especially in areas concerning safety, team work and mutual respect. Although these aspects cannot be measured objectively, negative displays of cooperation, attitude and safety are not acceptable in. When someone's consistent negative attitude, lack of safety, respect or cooperation affects other students or the progress of this course, the question of whether the student merits a passing grade becomes the issue, and an appointment with his/her program director and/or parents will be suggested. This instructor works hard to ensure you a safe, respectful and encouraging environment.
Proficiency-Although concert choir rehearsals are worked "en masse"; much can be determined by the conductor in terms of individual progress and attentiveness to detail in the course objectives. Choral members rarely fall below the highest standards of the group artistic endeavor, and consequently, A's are common. However, when a student is not performing to appropriate standards, it is the conductor's responsibility to observe such shortcomings. These are discussed in the rubric below. Students who begin to show signs of earning a grade lower than a B- will have a conference with teacher. Additionally, the instructor will have a teleconference with the parents.  

Weekly Activities

Introductions, brief description of rehearsal format, warm-up techniques introduced, and music handed out, folders assigned and numbered. Time permitting, a brief play-through of some of the selections. 

Warm-up 1 (10-15 minutes every week) to address: range extension, development upper register, lower register, breath control, martellato singing, messa di voce, Warm-ups will vary from week to week, and these cannot be planned in advance as they are tailored both to the needs of the students as they arise and to the material to be presented, which varies each trimester. Hence, the warm-ups here cited are among the various warm-ups that may be employed, but are by no means all-inclusive. staccato and legato as means to obtain greater breath control and consistency through the registers. At this point, incorporation of language studies will commence. The introduction of language studies may occur earlier or later as the rehearsal format dictates. Difficult language problems will mean more training and practice sooner, easier pieces will demand less practice and can be offered later, as the easier pieces are often (but not always) introduced later. The same will be true of the History and theory portions, and for the same reasons. But earlier or later, the students will always be presented with this material and held accountable for it. The instructor simply wishes to point out that he wishes to reserve the privilege of places these instructional elements where they will provide the maximum benefit to the student. This will include - but not be restricted to - basics of pronunciation, fine-tuning of phrasing and diction, and the application of foreign language text to music. Deviations from classic pronunciation to suit the purpose of the text (as happens, e.g., in "church" Latin over "classic" Latin, and the idiosyncratic applications of Italian to match the quantitative and qualitative structures of music) diaphragmatic support and centering the body for a relaxed and well projected sound,, crescendo and decrescendo 

Introduction, new piece: play recording, break into rehearsal segments, point out rough sports, and invite student evaluation of run-throughs. Play and rehearse each part separately, try a section S, A, T B.
    Intro - second piece, proceed as above
    Third piece same as above
Warm-up, introduction to fundamentals of sight singing 
    introduce next piece and proceed as above

Music History: At this point, after the students have been introduced to the concert literature, one of the pieces is selected for historical discussion. The student will be introduced to the work's historical context in the following manner: 1. Composer's birth [and death] dates; 2. Historical setting (inventions, sociopolitical background; 3. Painting and/or architecture and/or sculpture of the period and its correlation to the music; 4. How the selection typifies the style of composing of that era and how it might differ from other concert selections.

Music Theory: At this point, too, the class will take at least one piece and approach its performance in terms of form and structure (phrase and section), harmonic language, the marking off into phrases, and compositional procedure 1-The overall sections of the piece will be delineated in terms of form and phrase. 2-Key changes will be marked. 3-significant thematic and motivic characteristics will be defined. 4-The application of these procedures and formal characteristics to the performance of the work will be discussed and applied to the performance.
    Review first piece
    Ibid. second piece
    Introduce new piece, repeat as per above.
    Introduce remaining pieces for upcoming concerts as per above.
    Begin systematic review of previous works; complete parts work.
    Begin working from memory; same systematic part-by-part review, make adjustments in terms of articulation and dynamics and phrasing.
    Music History II. (See above)
    Selection of most difficult pieces for initial review and polishing, working down to easier works
    Evaluate memorization
    All concert material learned, continue working with memorization, diction and refinements as they apply. Discuss final rehearsal times, issue schedules, hand out assignments (robes, line-ups, presenters, etc.
    Complete run-throughs of concert material. Assess rough spots, Refine details; students now completely memorized.     Concert Performance:  the choirs perform two concerts annually:  one in December, and one in May. 
    Project Presentation Week. . when they occur, presentations will be student-prepared, and therefore will vary in terms of length and content However, they will include (but will not be limited to) at least three items:
    Performances of concert pieces,
    At least one brief historical background of a composer, and
    Fundamentals of choral rehearsal technique.
    Recently, the Holiday and Spring concerts have counted as "culminations", or project presentations.

Choir Rehearsal Attendance Policy

The following rehearsal attendance requirements are an effort to strike a balance between fairness and the need to have each student participate in a way that warrants giving them an A as their final grade. Students are required to attend all rehearsals from beginning to end.  Students should plan ahead of time so that early dismissals are not necessary.  Choir calendars are given out well in advance of these rehearsals so that students can plan accordingly. Furthermore, because rehearsals and the concert are the equivalent of tests and a final exam, if a student misses one of these, compensatory work must be submitted in the form of a written assignment:

Missing 1/2 a rehearsal requires a one-and-a-half-page paper    
Missing a rehearsal requires a three-page paper.
Missing a dress rehearsal and/or concert requires a four-page paper.

Missing a dress rehearsal means that the student may not be permitted to perform in the concert.
           An exception might be made in the case of an emergency medical
Missing both the dress rehearsal and concert will require a six-page paper.

The director will issue the assignment topics shortly before or shortly after the concert, and the student will have no less than two weeks to complete the paper, provided they pick up their topics promptly.  

A student may miss a rehearsal and be excused from doing an assignment if:
1. The student is under a doctor's care.  A note from a physician is required.

2. The student is involved in more than one AVPA activity.  Since the AVPA does not wish to operate at cross-purposes, students performing in a BCA theater, art exhibit, or instrumental program will report to their directors, who will decide which event the student is to attend on any given date.  


Class Participation/Effort

A: Demonstrates a superior knowledge and practice of the rigors of warm-up technique, works diligently to take notes in the score (as needed) on language studies of text, notes on music history presentations, and music theory presentations and demonstrates an internalization of this knowledge during reviews and on quizzes (if given). Shows a grasp and proficiency in the concert literature at whatever level is expected over the course of the project (has music memorized, has retained individual instruction pertaining to vocal technique if given, demonstrated enthusiasm for the best possible execution of passages of works, or entire works in rehearsal, and attends all rehearsals and performances.

B: Demonstrates the above qualities most of the time.

C: Shows lack of study in memorization of texts, appears to lack proper vocal technique during warm-ups and rehearsals in terms of posture, breath control, eye contact with conductor; shows through low scores on quizzes (if given), i.e., a lack of historical backgrounds given.

D:Seldom Demonstrates the above qualities.

Plus or minus grades will be determined by the instructor on an individual basis.

 A-Demonstrates willingness to operate as a team player, accepts whatever role is assigned and carries it out in a courteous and enthusiastic manner, always shows respect for conductor, peers and property, works efficiently and quietly, does not engage in any outside conversation or activities during project time. Is never corrected for problems of preparation, class participation or effort. 
B- Demonstrates the above qualities most of the time, has been corrected for problems with preparation, participation/effort, cooperation, or proficiency at least once.
 C- Demonstrates the above qualities some of the time 
D- Seldom demonstrates the above qualities, has been correcte