Thursday, December 15, 2011

I just considerd converting to Mormonism

just to join this a cappella group. I just downloaded the sheet music, kids. Hold onto your hats.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Greatest Place On Earth

is Interlochen Arts Camp. I went to Interlochen. I am pretty sure it's the awesomest place on earth. I am 100% sure it's why I grew up and became a musician. It's why a lot of people become musicians, and actors, and dancers, and artists. (More than 10% of profesional orchestral musicians went to camp there, which when you think bout it, is pretty crazy.) My friend Jeannie, who lived in my cabin my first year, was the first person I ever met from Massacusetts- from an obscure town whose name I could only remember because it was the same as tasty Fig Newton's. My friend Mary, who I concinced to join me there our senior year, now teaches oboe at North. I'm still friends with both of them- it's that kind of place.

But it's kinda expensive- unless you win this contest.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Cacrazy

This fellow is a friend of Jackson's sister. So basically, we all know him. Or something. He is an excellent arranger of a capella AND a master of the green screen as well (which is how he manages to replicate himself.) He doesn't do the beatboxing- that's his friend.

Thanks for the tip, Jackson!

By the way, the world's most (possibly only) famous a capella group, Rockapella, will be in town next Wed, Dec. 14 at symphony hall. Tickets are very expensive- $40- but I'm sure it'll be awesome... (Hat tip to Linda T for the heads up!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Deck 'Em

Three of my favorite things: Choirs, Flashmobs, and Holiday Music (for Ethan and Liana.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tomorrow A Whole Lotta Famous People

This looks awesome. I hope I can go!
The Cambridge Public Library and the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance present:
The Exquisite Conversation: An Adventure in Creating Books!
A discussion with
Katherine Paterson, M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Susan Cooper, Timothy Basil Ering, Steven Kellogg, Patricia MacLachlan and James Ransome.

Saturday, December 3 at 1:00 PM (books available for purchase at noon)
Kresge Auditorium
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
48 Massachusetts Ave. (parking available at West Garage on Vassar St.)

For young people (grade 5 and up) and adults
Free and open to the public. No tickets required.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

These Kids Are Awesome

Two videos of the most famous choral piece of all time (and GREAT fun to sing), the Hallelujah Chorus, from Hande's Messiah. This first one is from a tiny village in Alaska. Maybe we should make them a video answer. What would the right response be? From Handel's Judas Maccabeus?

And similarly, but live and fabulously synchronized:

I especially like the "of" that goes up and down. And when they hold the signs higher for the sopranos.

(This much-too-early holiday music post is in honor of Ethan, who I think starts listening to Christmas music in September.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I always say Swedes are the best singers

This just proves it. Solid, synchronized, super in-tune a cappella. One on a part. That is HARD.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You Were Just What I Needed

Seriously, you guys don't know the Cars? The greatest Boston band ever (besides Aerosmith, the Dropkick Murphy's and Boston, who might tie)? Seriously? Well, it is time to get some EDUCATION. And rock out.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dry Your Tears, Afrika

7th/8th Grade Chorus: your homework is to listen at least once to both versions. Leave a comment explaining: which you prefer? Why?

Version 1:

Version 2:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

And a Marvelous, Mighty Monday Morning to All!

Greetings singers! Welcome back! I hope everyone's first week went well. My 2 music classes and 2 drama classes both seem pretty good, and all 3 choirs are ready to rock, I can just tell!

A gentle reminder to 6th grade singers to get their chorus forms signed, money in an envelope with your name on it, and see me to sing individually. Getting your form signed SHOULD involve:
-making sure your parents mark their calendars for our concerts and dress rehearsals
-a closet check for concert attire
-and a quick phone call to sign up for a Treble Singers audition if you're interested in that.

ALL singers who have not yet done so need to come see me 1st lunch or after school for a 2 minute singing check-in.

Exciting news- we have a new accompanist! You'll get to meet her starting Wednesday- keep an eye out!

See you soon,
Ms. A

Sunday, June 19, 2011

You Should Know, I Was Talking About You Behind Your Back

I sent home my 2nd annual attempt to communicate to chorus parents on Thursday. Here's what I said...

Dear chorus parents,

This afternoon was the annual recognition ceremony. Students get recognized for all sorts of things- leadership in sports, excellence in languages, participation in drama, citizenship in cluster classes. As I watched my 8th grade singers stand up over and over again, though, I couldn't help but think about the fact that while the right students were recognized, perhaps we recognized the wrong things. All the things your children were receiving awards for were just manifestations of their interior qualities that make them such wonderful people: dedication, kindness, caring about others, positive attitudes, commitment, the pursuit of excellence, leadership, and the ability and desire for self-expression.

Some examples of things students did without hope of recognition, but simply because they are wonderful, caring members of their community: This year, chorus students created a school-wide campaign to raise money for UNICEF at Halloween. They gave up lunches to participate in a fundraiser for victims of violence in Darfur. They spent long afternoons practicing for junior district auditions, without promise of getting in, and they gave up the last free days of their middle school career to rehearse for graduation chorus. They helped the students around them deal with angst, anxiety, arguments, and music. They spent evenings mastering tricky fingerings, drumbeats, and piano chords to accompany our singing. They were silent in protest of oppression of gays and lesbians. They were supportive of each other in times of unspeakable tragedy. They were jubilant in song. I learned a lot, because they taught by example.

In a week or two, you'll get your child's report card, and there will be no grade for any of the things I just mentioned. So you can consider this their 'letter' grade. Congratulations on having a child who deserves recognition every day for their capacity for kindness, and thanks for lending them to me for an entire school year.

Have a wonderful summer,
Jaime Alberts

Are your ears burning? Flushed with pride, I hope. Great job, rock stars.
Ms. A

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rachel Jayson Is A Way Better Rapper Than Will Schuester

File under "totally awesome music teachers I know" one Rachel Jayson, orchestra conductor and rapper. Check out the Lexington High School Orchestra's version of Palladio, mashed up with Jedi Mind Trick's song that sampled Palladio. The rapping starts at 2'00.

Mr. L, the gauntlet has been thrown down.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Jobs I Didn't Know You Could Aspire To

So, this weekend at Pride there was a singer doing dance music, grooving out, and 3 backup dancers, rockin' behind her. And also this random other girl who was kind of dancing by herself in the corner of the stage. And I started watching her, trying to figure out what her deal was, and then I realized: she was the sign language interpreter. And she was signing while dancing to the music. Well, the signing was part of the dance. It was awesome. I think if I were deaf, I'd still have gotten a terrific sense of the beat and the mood (and, of course, the lyrics) from watching her. Which is a great thing to think about even when performing for a hearing audience. How can you embody the music so that you show it as well as hear it?

Anyway, here's my favorite Internet Sign Language Guy. Watch how he embodies the song, not just the word- he's performing, not just signing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guitarists, Violinists and Cellists, Take Note!

In August there'll be a bluegrass/appalachian/folk music camp in Newtonville. Any 8th grader who focused on guitar, and any string player in orchestra meets their guidelines to attend. Check it out here!

(For more music and drama summer camps, see my webpage.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Arms, They Hurt

This weekend I went to Brown University's graduation. I was not, obviously, graduating, nor was anyone I know. But anyone who was ever in the Brown band is eligible to return and play at graduation, and so most years, I and a few of my friends go back. I march down the hill, I play my cymbals for four or five hours in the sun, I lie on the grass and drink frozen lemonade (state drink of Rhode Island!) and then I go home.

Which is why my arms hurt. YOU try carrying cymbals for 5 hours. They're heavier than they look.

I do not expect that any of my students will grow up to the music teachers. Nor do I hang my hat on the idea of one of you growing up to be a famous professional musician. Whatever you grow up to do or be, if you are happy and good at it, I will be thrilled.

But this I will admit: I will be really, really, really excited if someday a student of mine grows up to join the Brown University band. For whatever reason, that's my happy place. In fact, every class I teach and ensemble I direct is modeled on the Brown Band ethos: that a group of nerdy people hanging out and playing music for fun while making a lot of silly jokes is pretty much the most fun you can have.

Hope you all had wonderful weekends!

Friday, May 20, 2011

6th Grade Homework

Comment on this post with an intro to one of the 3 songs we're singing at the concert. Good intros TELL THE AUDIENCE SOMETHING INTERESTING, such as the background of the artist/composer, a story about the song, insight into our process of learning the song, or something interesting to listen for when we sing the song.

Alternate Homework option: Draw a beautiful cover for the program.

Good luck!

7th Grade Homework

Comment on this post with an intro to one of the 3 songs we're singing at the concert. Good intros TELL THE AUDIENCE SOMETHING INTERESTING, such as the background of the artist/composer, a story about the song, insight into our process of learning the song, or something interesting to listen for when we sing the song.

Alternate Homework option: Draw a beautiful cover for the program.

Good luck!

8th Grade Homework

Comment on this post with an intro to one of the 3 songs we're singing at the concert. Good intros TELL THE AUDIENCE SOMETHING INTERESTING, such as the background of the artist/composer, a story about the song, insight into our process of learning the song, or something interesting to listen for when we sing the song.

Alternate Homework option: Draw a beautiful cover for the program.

Good luck!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sixth Grade Soloists

As it turns out, I had just enough solos for everyone. That worked out well. See me Monday or Tuesday 1st lunch 4th block or after school to rehearse your solo.
The Newt- Sofia
The Carp- Katy
The Plaice- Liana
The Bass-Fin
The Chub-Ali
The Fluke- Everyone
The Ray- Grace
The Lings- Camila
The Trout-Tamara
The Blackfish-Natalie
The Smelt- Lauren
Blowfish- Everyone
The Trumpet- Annabelle

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Remember those hot singers we heard on Friday? Wish you had such a sexy blue polo shirt to wear?
Well, being a Troubador just got a little bit easier, because guess who just got appointed the new director of Troubadors?

No, not Spongebob. Try again.

No, not Mr. Livingston- he's already busy Wednesdays with All City Orchestra.

Ah, 3rd try's the charm! 'Tis I! Indeed! So clear your Wednesdays, because TROUBADORS IS COMING TO BIGELOW!

Under the Sea

Due to technical difficulties, the mp3 for Under the Sea auditions is here:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Former Bigelow Student's Video

Jonny is now a junior at North, a musician and an actor (you may have seen him playing a woolly mammoth in Skin of Our Teeth). He wrote this song about his experience with Asperger's Syndrome for biology class, and it's really neat!

Never has a commercial been so effective

in encouraging me to build a giant wooden xylophone. Too bad it's supposed to be making me want a new cell phone (which also looks cool.) Bach's never sounded better:

Thanks to Ms. Daly for the link!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back to the Future

True story: part of the trip I was most excited about prior to departure was today's destination: the Oracle of Delphi! I've read my whole life about the Oracle, and had a vivid image of what it would be like. A sure recipe for disappointment, and true enough, it was nothing like I'd imagined.

It was a million times better.

Basically, the town and temple of Delphi are located on the most gorgeous hillside on earth, overlooking the Aegean Sea. My initial reaction was this:

Delphi is related to word dolphin, both from the Greek word for womb. Delphi was also known as omfalos, the bellybutton of the world (we saw the rock that was the 'bellybutton' too- check the photos!) In short, Delphi was the center of the world,  and I can tell you- it felt that way. It was an amazing feeling.

Then we went to  the site of the oracle. Indescribable. Luckily,  you can see for yourself!
While at the theatre, my friend Claudia, a grad student in ancient Greek,  recited the first lines of the Illiad, a very famous epic poem/song/story about the Trojan war. In Greek. She recited from memory in Greek.

THEN we went to the museum where they put all the cool stuff they dug up at Delphi. And we saw the COOLEST THING. Watch:

Delphi, we had far too little time together. I'll be back.

Oh, and students, I got YOU a present there. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

video issue

should be fixed. let me know if they still don't work, though we may not have internet tomorrow.


Finally got my photos uploaded to Picasa. You can view them here:



Acropolis Now!

Acropolis Now!
Wednesday morning- we were up and out the door to be the first ones at the acropolis. Acro- meaning top- and polis- city- yup, up a hill we hiked, to be rewarded with gorgeous morning sunshine on a spectacular view of the city of Athens and the most famous ruins in Greece.
So, can you guess who Athens ' patron god is? Well, Athena, of course. And the acropolis is all Athena, all the time. The Temple of Nike (yup, like the shoes, goddess of victory, pronounced nee-kee) guards the entrance, but Nike is either a handmaiden of or just a different aspect of Athena, goddess of battle and strategy. (Fun fact: the Nike swoosh is a Greek lowercase N, for Nike.)

Going through the arch, we have a temple to Athena dedicated to ritual worship on the left. On the right, a little building you may have heard of called the Parthenon. Down below, the Theatre of Dionysos, where the first Greek plays were held as part of the Festival of Athena (more on this Thursday, when I get to actually go there instead of just see it from above.)

(again, pics coming.)
Oh! What's that? You want to know more about the Parthenon? Fair enough.. Video #4.

Get Me to the Greek

Greek Isle #1: Aegina (The g is an h. Dunno why.)
The isles of Greece are, if Aegina is any indication, gorgeous. Mamma Mia the movie does not lie. We drove to the center of the island, to a gorgeous mountain top, to see this lovely ancient temple, where I shot video #3.

THEN we went to this lady's house for lunch. So the reason we went to Aegina was the trip leader, Professor H, met this lady, Eleny, at a lecture in DC last year, and Eleny said 'come visit!' Greeks are famous for their hospitality and it is not uncommon to be invited in by strangers, but Professor H explained we'd be a group of 30.

(Pics coming- technical difficulties.)
“No problem!” said Eleny. (Imagine inviting 30 strangers over for lunch!) And so we found ourselves in a house on a hill, overlooking the sea and the hillside, eating gigsande beans and tzatziki and pistachios (Aegina is famous for pistachios.) The sun shtone down, we watched the sea, and Greece seemed a fine spot to spend a day, or forever.

Drama Unplugged

Posted by Picasa

The theatre of Epidouros is an incredibly well-preserved Greek theatre. Unlike most of the 
Ancient things we've seen, it was neither ravaged and redone by Romans nor destroyed by earthquake or Persian marauders. Mostly, it got lucky because it is in the middle of nowhere, because Epidouros was a health center- a combo spa/hospital.

I know what you're thinking. “Um, why did the hospital have a theatre?” The ancient Greeks believed that sickness affected your mind as well as your body, so you had to heal both. An evening at the theatre consisted of watching 4 plays in a row- 3 tragedies, which allowed you to reflect on human flaws and be moved by sadness to tears, and then a very silly, slapstick comedy, usually involving satyrs (half-man, half-goat) to induce uproarious laughter. After laughing and crying, the satisfied, exhausted, empty-yet-full feeling they called 'catharsis.' (A word we use today!) Catharsis restored your mental and emotional balance that was critical to health.

(When my mom talks about balance some people call it 'New Age nonsense.” It's not! It's at least ancient nonsense!)

Here's my first video, live from Epidouros!

After the video, I went and stood in the center of the orchestra and recited a little “To be or not to be” It was CRAZY. The second I spoke- it was electric. I could literally hear/feel my voice connecting with every seat- somehow you could hear it simultaneously where you were and everywhere else. Like a microphone, but more- magical. HOW did the ancient greeks, with only math and stone at their disposal, make an auditorium infinitely better than any performing space I've ever been in? Food for thought.

Here's a video  the back of the house (Greek for seats - auditorium) of illustrator/author Ashley Bryan. Sound issues due to my camera, not actual acoustics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A few photos

The Acropolis at night, from the roof of the restaurant

Canal through the isthmus  to Pelopponesus (spelling? no idea.) I love saying isthmus.

I am a column!

Mediocre Roman ruins in Corinth.

You don't need to know latin to read this!

Agamemnon's tomb, supposedly. Agamemnon, right.

Mycenae was mostly fun because I got to hike a little. See that circle? It used to be filled with gold. 
So yesterday morning we went to Corinth (you know, like First Corinthians? From the New Testament? Me neither.) Then to Mycenae. ooh- gotta run or I'll miss breakfast- more tonight.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Greece: 1, Susan Cooper: 0

Bad news first: Like LadyGaga, The Prime MNinister of England, and you, Susan Cooper is not here. The really bad news: she WAS here, until 5:30 AM. I missed her by 7 hours.
The mitigating factor: she had to leave to go to a memorial service in England, which I'm guessing  is for Diana Wynne Jones. Even I can admit  that
A) Diana Wynne Jones (another of my favorite authors, very funny  and clever, author of the Chrestomanci  books, among others) death is more sad than my missing Susan Cooper..)
B) If I'd been invited, I'd have gone too.
C) I got to sit next to a Newbury Award winner (the award for best children's book) on the flight to Athens, which ain't so bad. (Her name is Suzanne and I think her book is Shubanu but I may be misremembering.)
D) A Caldecott winner (best picture book) recited a poem before dinner (his name is Ashley Brian. He was AWESOME.
E) 2/3 of the people on the trip are on the Caldecott or Newberry committees. There are way more Children's Lit people than Greek Studies students. Several of them have promised to introduce me to SC when we get home- fingers crossed!

Anyway, trip was smooth, ate tasty honeycake, saw the acropolis from the restaurant's roof  .but too tired to figure out how to post pics tonight. Vast majority of attendees are retirees with hearing aids but there are 2 other young teachers who seem cool and 2 grad students. So though I've been called 'kiddoo' already, I'm not the only one.

Tomorrow: Mycenae!

Friday, April 15, 2011

While I Am Thinking Out Loud

My excitement over my ridiculous vacation should not overshadow my wonderful real life. Today I was incredibly moved and inspired by the massive numbers of my students who celebrated Day of Silence. Silence has never been so joyful, so unified, and so powerful. I have never felt so surrounded and cheered by such a caring community, many of whom I then got to discuss community with during Community Block (how timely!). I then had a hilarious choral rehearsal where only a quarter of the people sang, and THEN had a crazy awesome graduation chorus rehearsal outside due to my students sounding so smokin' they set off the fire alarm. A very good day. Real Life, I am going on a date with Vacation but my heart belongs to you.

Greece Countdown: 1 Day to Greece

For those of you bewiledered as to why I'm going to Greece at all, the short answer is "Inexplicably the Newton Public Schools and Brandeis teamed up to offer a classics class in Ancient Greece for teachers, and part of the class is we're required (I know, poor me) to go on a 2 week tour of Greece. Who exactly this class is aimed at besides me, your friendly former Classics major, remains a mystery, as the only other Newton teacher taking the class is my friend Mme Langlois, who I connived into taking it with me based on promises of beaches and baclava.

Besides us, people going on the trip include:
Doug, Mme Langlois' husband
Susan, the head of the Cambridge Public Library
Connie, the frazzled but very nice lady whose job seems to be to send a lot of email to us
Profesor H, the smart professor who doesn't talk much
Professor O, the professor who cries a lot
Some people who took the class last year and didn't get to go to due to Icelandic Volcanos
Some people taking the class online, including...
Susan Cooper. The author of The Dark is Rising.

I don't know how many times you've read Harry Potter, but I promise you, I've read the Dark is Rising more. I used to have dreams about it. It's set in Wales, which is the primary reason that last summer, for my 30th birthday, my family went to Wales.  You may not know who Susan Cooper is (I was highly dismayed, upon going to two different bookstores, that only one had ANYTHING by her, and that was a giant compendium of all 5 Dark is Rising books that was way too fat to be enticing or carryable) but to me she is a GIANT celebrity. I have been alternating between totally freaking out about meeting her and being totally certain that she is going to bow out at the last minute, because really the idea of going on vacation with Susan Cooper is like the idea of Lady Gaga showing up at a Bigelow band concert- preposterous.

I have thought a LOT about meeting Susan Cooper and not much about actual Greece. My ideas about Greece fall into 2 categories: 1) D'Aulaires' book of Greek myths, the only book I read enough times to actually memorize and 2) the island in the movie Mamma Mia. You would think that my class would have expanded my views, but so far, not so much.

The other thing I've thought a lot about is Passover. This will be my 4th international seder, the previous 3 being the Stonehenge seder (people definitely thought we were druids and took a lot of photos), the Swiss seder (chocolate eggs for the seder plate!), and the Swedish seder (where we got to act out the plagues.) But this is my first ever seder without my family. Which will be weird. So Susan Cooper better be prepared to sing the 4 Questions.

OK. I really do have to pack. Next post: from Greece! If my predictions are correct, Mme Langlois and the God Apollo and Susan Cooper and I will be singing "Dancing Queen" on a sandy beach in fewer than 48 hours. I can't wait.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Thank you to EVERYONE who auditioned- I am SUPER proud of you. Auditioning is very scary and you are all awesome for being brave enough to do it. Some of you are GREAT singers but this one tiny snapshot of you was not how you usually sing. Auditions like this are unfair that way. There's no doubt in my mind that any one of you could sing any of these solos- but this is based on how you did sing it, today.

Soloists, please see me tomorrow if you are in school.

12 Years Old- Jen G
Pressure Mounts- Robin
Roll Along- Jen and Robin

I Want A...
Dirtbike-Julia S
Kill- Julia A
Mustache- Natalie T
Wonderbra- Kirsten

How Can I...
Spanish- Katharine Z
Track- Jane
Friday- Julia A
Crack- Jackson

I'm Becoming A Man, v. 1- Peter
I'm Becoming A Man, verse 2- Jackson
One Day it gets better- Sonia

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Les Miz x 4

Courtesy of Robin, this clip from the 25th anniversary concert for Les Miserables is both gorgeous and hilarious, due to some issues synchronizing sound and video.

Friday, March 25, 2011

And ANOTHER Concert

A busy weekend for concerts: Mr.Cohen's college graduation recital is this Sunday, at 4 PM at Slosberg Music Center. (415 South St in Waltham.) Free!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Concert Info

This saturday afternoon, March 26, from 1-4, will be the All State* Ensemble concert at Symphony Hall. The tickets are $21 and are good for all 4 ensembles (band, orchestra, jazz band, chorus) and while you can't buy tickets there, I reserved tickets in case anyone wants to go. I went to 10 minutes of the chorus rehearsal today and had my socks knocked off. If you want to go and your parents don't, I'm planning to go and I'd be happy to get you there and back.Just shoot me an email by, oh, noon on Saturday. I think you'd find it enjoyable and inspiring.

Saturday night, at 8 PM, the regional collegiate a capella semifinals are happening at MIT. Tickets are $20 for students.

Now you know!
Ms. A
* All State is like junior districts on steroids. First you audition for senior districts, and of course since those ensembles are all high schoolers, and are just as competitive as junior districts, they're great. The top half of students in each Senior District are invited to audition for All State, and half of those students get in. The students who get in show up Thursday morning, rehearse all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and get to stay at a hotel with everyone else in the ensembles. Then they get to perform at Symphony Hall. It's pretty cool.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's Most Amazing About This Video Is Not The Music

When I was in middle school, we did a lot of fundraisers, just like you guys do now. But although some of our fundraisers were for timely things, like Japan, a lot of them were to help Russian Jews. 10,000 Russian Jews left Russia every month when I was in middle school- many to come to the US, and quite a few even came to my school. While it was a big deal that they were even allowed to leave (which hadn't been true for the previous 100 years), they weren't leaving because they'd heard the US was a great vacation destination. They were leaving because it was really, really hard to be Jewish in Russia- discrimination was widespread and socially acceptable.

Which is why this video made me cry (EMBARASSING BUT TRUE.) Purim is kind of a stupid holiday- the Jewish equivalent of halloween, not a big deal. But that these students were able to make this video- that is a big deal. I'm always interested in music and its connections to social justice, and this is a wonderful example of music as an example OF justice. All those pennies and dollars my classmates and I collected- who knows what difference our money made. But SOMETHING made a difference. In the words of Dr. King, "The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice."

(Unless you speak Russian, watch with the captions on.)

Here in America, this video is unexciting, but even today in Russia, it was news, and got some anti-semitic (fancy word for anti-Jewish) responses. Said the director: “We didn’t mean to provoke anyone with our performance... We believe that singing and dancing are the universal languages that everyone can relate to regardless of nationality or religion. We hope that they help unite and bring people together.”


Thursday, March 17, 2011

All for the Best/Rhythm of Life

Note to self: Get Molly in on Ukulele, stat.

What's up with the picture? I have no idea.


I cut the first verse (unnecessary exposition) so our version starts at 1:05.

Actually, this montage is close to our version.

Why Are We Singing This?

Is a question I hear a lot. I know many of you are very curious, so let me explain how I pick music.

First, I pick the theme. I usually have a few songs in mind if I pick a theme- I don't decide "let's have a concert about the moon" unless I can think of a few songs about the moon to begin with, and am confident I can come up with 6 or 7 total for the concert.

Next, I find as many songs as I can that go with the theme. I usually ask you guys for ideas and suggestions to help in this process.

Then I think about each song. For any song,I ask myself:
1. Do I like this song?
2. Will my students like this song?
3. Will it be educational- that is, will we learn something new by singing it?
4. Have we sung this song or one by the same composer too recently? I like to mix it up and give you as wide a variety of music as possible.
5. Will it balance the other songs in the set? (4 very fast, upbeat songs, or 4 sad slow, songs, is boring for the audience.)
6. Does it balance the difficulty level of the set? (4 really hard songs, or 4 really easy songs, is frustrating for you, the choir.)

Things you think about when I hand you new music: Do I like this song?

If you've never heard the song before, chances are that your first answer will be "No, I don't like it."

But in my experience, once you know the song, most of you will like it. People like familiar things. That's why they play the same stuff over and over on the radio. Learning music is hard, knowing music is fun. But to know music... well, you get the picture, right?

As to what else we'll sing this semester, I don't tell you because I don't know. The faster we learn songs, the more we'll sing, but I don't want to say 'we'll learn these 6 songs' and then have you furious because we only get to 5 of them. Rest assured that I put great care into every song we sing- I obsess over it like a crazy person- and that I always have more songs selected than we get to. And that I'm always planning ahead. Emmie asked for a broadway theme her first semester as a 6th grader. It took 3 years, but I did indeed plan one.
Ms. A

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Pi Day!

Something tells me Julia F will think this isn't long enough...

Note well: Petsi's Pies in Cambridge has given no evidence either way that I can find online, but has in previous years offered a 10% discount for every 10 digits you can recite. 100 digits = free pie! Call ahead to check, but: free pi(e)!

Support Your Colleagues!

When I was 14, I met Kim on the band/chorus/orchestra trip to Washington, DC. From then on, I could pretty much guarantee that any concert I was in would have 3 people in attendance: my mom, my dad, and Kim.

16 years and 2000 miles from our high school later, she's still at it- last night Kim, her husband, and her in-laws all came to see Joseph. (They loved it!) They're regular attendees of Bigelow Chorus concerts and have seen every musical I've done yet.

I hope all of you are lucky enough to make a friend like Kim, but the point of today's entry is to encourage you to BE a friend like Kim. It's a win-win- you'll enjoy your friends' performance (even if you see a show or concert you don't love, it's always enjoyable to see someone you know perform) and they'll feel incredibly supported that you came to see them. I can say from personal experience how much it means to the person you support.

A big shout out to Teresa, Michael, Kyle, Nick, and Brian, among others, I'm sure, who I saw supporting their classmates at last night's show. Way to be great colleagues!

-Ms. A

(Random fact: Kim's parents are both in the Chicago Symphony. Her dad plays oboe and her mom plays flute. Kim and her sister, however, both play strings. Sound like anyone you know? Nah, I thought not.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mr. Sweeney just shared this with the staff. I felt you needed to know immediately.

This History Lovers' Youtube Channel. Parodies of pop songs, on the subject of historic events.

Whole channel here:

This plague is bubonic. Aw yeah.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Junior Districts Concert

Ever wonder what a really amazing chorus of middle school students might sound like? A chorus made up of incredibly motivated singers with tons of time to rehearse?

Then wonder no more- come hear the Junior District Choirs and be inspired! Abby, Jane and Sophie will be performing this Saturday at the junior district festival at Lincoln Sudbury High School. The treble choir concert (4-part girls) is at 3 and the mixed choir (4-part boys and girls) concert is at 4. Tickets are $10.

The Massachusetts Eastern District is a group of 30 towns, from Boston all the way out almost to Worcester, including Newton. All of these towns sent their best 7th, 8th and 9th grade singers to audition for the Junior District Choirs, and just auditioning is a lot of work and a big honor! A little less than half of the auditionees were accepted, including Sophie, Jane and Abby.

On Friday and Saturday morning the 3 of them get to go rehearse all day, and Saturday's the concert. Last year it was AWESOME- I highly recommend it. You can sit with me and make fun of the kids from other schools. Ha! JUST KIDDING WAYLAND KIDS- WE'D NEVER DO THAT. Anyway, if you love choir (and you know you do) it will be a good time.)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind

The recording:

Note that we're doing this in a slightly different key. So the boys don't die.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The wonderful show Candide (from which the song "Make Our Garden Grow" comes) is being performed for one night only at New England Conservatory the Monday following vacation. More details here.

It's a silly story about a young man (Candide) who is taught as a boy that things are "all for the best" no matter what happens. He then is beset by calamity after calamity and has exotic adventures everywhere from the Spanish Inquisition to South America. Finally, he figures out that maybe things aren't actually always so great after all, but (spoiler) we do our best anyway.

Including such fantastic songs as "Best of All Possible Worlds," "Auto-da-fey," "I Am So Easily Assimilated," and of course, "Make Our Garden Grow."

The dress rehearsal is free but, alas, closed to the public. I just found out. So ONE NIGHT ONLY, Monday, the 28th.

Monday, February 14, 2011

6th Grade Chorus Extra Credit

(For 7th and 8th Graders too!)
We've been practicing our solfege- in minor (do re me (pronounced MAY)) and in major (do re mi (pronounced MEEE.)) The chorus of Rhythm of Life (which starts at the top of page 3, measure 23, and goes to the bottom of the page) is in A flat MAJOR. The first 3 notes are all A flats- which means the first 4 notes are all DO. The next note goes DOWN- what note is LOWER than DO, but right next to it? Think about our warmup- Do, Do ti do, do ti la ti do....)

Here's a great thing to help you:
Click on a note to hear it!

You can write the solfege in under the notes. What will it sound like? Can you sing it? Try to figure out the whole chorus section (pretty much all of the 3rd page.) Good luck!
Ms. A

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One Day Late, Grow, Garden!

Whoops, I know I said this would be up yesterday. I'm going to plead "was getting caught up on Glee."

Make Our Garden Grow, as staged on Broadway with Patti Lupone and the ever-present Kristin Chenoweth:

And a VERY fancy choral version:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Concert Reflections

On Monday and Tuesday in chorus, we'll listen to the concert and write some reflections. But my community and I had a very good discussion today about the concert, and I want to address some concerns, in case I forget once I smell the pizza...

1. The Audience

A) Student reactions: Some students in the audience were there to do their music assignment. Of this, Peter couldn't have put it better, "If you go to Bigelow and care about chorus, you're in chorus, not the audience." Whatever their reaction to the concert, realize they were there for THEIR education, and to expand their minds, not because they're huge chorus fans (with some exceptions- hi, Claire and Henry!)

B) Student behavior: One of the best things about conducting is I don't have to watch the audience misbehave. Bummer for you guys, though. Many students who attend a middle school concert have NEVER attended a concert before. They have no idea how to behave. While it's a big part of the music AND drama curriculum I teach, even in class, ten seconds after we discuss the rules for watching a performance, kids forget. I will make a curtain speech at our concert to remind students of the rules, though. But you reminding your friends that it's distracting to YOU when they text/talk etc. is even more effective.

2) 6th Grade Chorus Behavior: 6th Graders, you sang beautifully. but when you weren't singing, a lot of you were talking. EVEN onstage. Guess what? The audience noticed. It looked bad.

3) Performance, Bad Cop
A lot of you felt terrible about your performance. That's good.
It wasn't awesome. We were not as prepared as anyone would have liked.
Some of that was due to factors we had no control over, like snow days. Some of it didn't actually show- the mistakes in J'entends and Kang Ding were not noticeable if you didn't know the piece.
But a lot of it was due to factors we did have control over. 7th/8th grade chorus has had almost no breaks this year, due to poor behavior. Alas, that extra 5 minutes of rehearsal can't make up for all the wasted time. 6th grade chorus had more than enough rehearsal time- but didn't look over their music in the days leadingup to the concert. 5 minutes of practice at home would have fixed all the 6th grade issues. 10 minutes a week of practice by the 7th/8th graders would have fixed many of the 7th/8th grade issues.
Students new to chorus, or to 7th/8th grade chorus, had some excuse. But now you don't. You've all been in chorus a half a year, minimum. If you aren't doing the work that's required, you know exactly how our spring concert will feel.
If you feel disappointed with how our concert went, that means you care, and that you're a good enough musician to recognize mistakes. And that's fantastic. It's 80% of the battle. Now act on it, and our chorus will, I promise, blow the roof off in the spring.

4) Performance, Good Cop
In truth, I was blown away by the concert itself. Largely, against all odds and efforts of Nature, you pulled it off. It wasn't flawless, but it was very good. J'entends was about the best we'd ever done it. Instructions was gorgeous. O Come, O Come was better than I'd even imagined. El Grillo was crickety. Everything was incredibly energetic and joyful. From all reports, the audience loved it. It was, as Molly's dad noted (now on his 5th chorus concert), far and away our most ambitious concert ever. We're gonna keep swinging for the fences, and I look forward to being continuously surprised, impressed and delighted by how high we soar.

With thanks and pride,
Ms. A

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dress Rehearsal Postponed

Snow day!
It couldn't have timed out worse for us, huh.

ALL SINGERS: Dress Rehearsal will be 2-4 on TUESDAY, CONCERT DAY.

7th/8th Graders: If you don't spend a solid half hour to hour tomorrow practicing J'entends, we will be forced to cut it. Please practice.

Enjoy your day off!

Friday, January 7, 2011

7th/8th Grade Homework

(6th Graders- your homework is the post below this.)
Your homework (Due Wednesday) is to write a comment, 3-6 sentences or so long, that would be a good introduction to a song we are singing. A good introduction tells the audience something about the song they would not know just from hearing it. Possible things to talk about in an introduction:

 -the composer's or lyricist's life
-the inspiration for the writing of the song
-interesting musical things in the song, like tricky rhythms, unusual harmony, word-painting, etc.
-interesting things in the lyrics, like alliteration, poem form, metaphor, etc.
-how we learned the song
-what you like about the song

Songs to choose from:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
El Grillo
Vive L'amour

IF you are in Jr Districts- Break Forth
IF you are doing the Darfur Concert- Where is the Love

Post your answer in the COMMENTS. The first comment  is my example, so take a look at that if you need one.

Good luck!
Ms. A

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

6th Grade Homework

Your homework (Due Monday) is to write a comment, 3-6 sentences or so long, that would be a good introduction to a song we are singing. A good introduction tells the audience something about the song they would not know just from hearing it. Possible things to talk about in an introduction:

 -the composer's or lyricist's life
-the inspiration for the writing of the song
-interesting musical things in the song, like tricky rhythms, unusual harmony, word-painting, etc.
-interesting things in the lyrics, like alliteration, poem form, metaphor, etc.
-how we learned the song
-what you like about the song

Songs to choose from:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Instructions I or III
Kang Ding
Vive L'amour

Post your answer in the COMMENTS. The first comment  is my example, so take a look at that if you need one.

Good luck!
Ms. A