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Muse Sings-Fauré Fondness by Mary E. Root
2016.08.28 01:55:52

The DeKalb Choral Guild, under the direction of Mary Root, will perform Fauré’s Requiem, Op. 48with orchestra and arrangements of Southern Harmony hymns interwoven on Saturday 5 November at 7:30 p.m. at Living Grace Lutheran Church in Tucker, Georgia.

 

I’ve been pondering why I harbor such an affinity for the Fauré Requiem.  While I appreciate many of the great choral masterworks, I am not one who pines to conduct many of them anymore -- I gravitate toward short form contemporary works.  I’ve asked myself “why Fauré, and not Mozart or Brahms or Duruflé?”  I’ve asked myself, “if told tomorrow I could never conduct another masterwork, would I be sad?”  The answer is “not really . . .except for Fauré. “ 

 

It is widely accepted that the Fauré is a more consoling, intimate, and far gentler setting of the Mass for the Dead than most.  The lyricism of the melodic lines is extraordinary, and the orchestration is subdued and sweet with violas living on top of the heap rather than violins. 

The history of the work provides some interest as well.  I needn’t rehash all the well-known research about the various editions and the evolution of this work except to say that I have a strong preference for the version edited by John Rutter in 1983.  I can recount a personal story around this particular edition that some might find interesting and replete with namedropping. 

 

Back in the mid-1980s I had the privilege of singing as soprano soloist under Mr. Rutter for a performance of his own Requiem.  I had the added good fortune of being invited to join a small group for lunch with Mr. Rutter one day during the rehearsals for the concert.  At the time I was completing my masters degree in music history and literature with an emphasis on music editing, and I was keen to ask him about the process of his Fauré edition.  He was quite obliging. 

Mr. Rutter told me that there had been much interest over the years to get hands on the original manuscript to create an edition truer to the work than that of the large orchestral version (which was not created by Fauré but rather delegated to his assistant Roger-Ducasse); the key to the story is the getting hands on the original manuscript, which is housed in the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris.  The story goes that the librarian in charge of the manuscript was rather stingy in allowing access to it, and Rutter recounts having to sit at a table to hand copy the manuscript with the certain librarian hanging over his shoulder the entire time informing Rutter that his edition was unnecessary since the librarian himself planned to issue his own such edition.  Rutter persevered, and the librarian did not publish his own edition so far as I know.  Further, unraveling the history of the different extant versions to emerge with an ideal version was intriguing and reinforced my burgeoning belief that good editions and notation are integral to good, authentic performance. 

 

Rutter’s edition was a big deal to me.  I had performed the large and widely known orchestral version as a choral singer in undergraduate school, and the unwieldy orchestration seemed incongruous with the exquisite choral writing.   With Rutter’s edition, everything fell into place for me, and I became enamored with Fauré’s “petit Requiem” that now was truly petit.

All those reasons are likely contributors to my special love of this work, but it still doesn’t explain why I am captivated by it anymore than other works with their own intrigue.    

 

The topic of aesthetics and value judgment applied to art is a fascination for me – I am strongly reluctant to use the words “taste” and “personal” applied to art.   I listen to and look at music as a craft with discernable qualities that lend themselves to value judgments.   And while I can enumerate various examples of what makes Fauré an enduring work of art, it still doesn’t explain my deeper affection for it over other works.  Qualitative value judgments aside, I must admit to a love affair with this work’s ineffable beauty. 

 

MaryRoot landscapeMary E. Root, Director/Conductot of the DeKalb Choral Guild



Tags: Faure Requiem | DeKalb Choral Guild | John Rutter

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Be the Harmony You Want to See in the World by Mary Gowing
2016.08.19 19:13:28

Be the Harmony You Want to See in the World

Okay, I totally stole that, with a little modification, from Gandhi. He said be the change you want to see in the world. As the president of the Atlanta-area community chorus, The DeKalb Choral Guild, I have a tendency to think in musical terms. And with auditions for our group taking place this week and next harmony has been on my mind. The more I think about it the more I believe that there might be something to being the harmony as well as being the change in the world. Harmony, musically in a chorus, is a when different people sing different notes/pitches and yet when sung together they sound pleasing and like they are meant to be together. In life and culture we often use the term harmony as a metaphor for getting along well in social relationships and we often strive for this. I propose that by singing in a chorus in musical harmony the chorus and the individuals in it can also create more social harmony in the world. How, you ask? Because people who sing in choruses have the expectation and experience that both musical harmony and social harmony are possible, (at least within the chorus). This is because we learn this by our participation in a chorus. And this is because even musical harmony doesn’t happen without a lot of coordinated effort and a shared vision for a desired result. We come together as a chorus at the beginning of a season, many of us strangers, as new people join the group. We have to learn to know and trust one another as we learn the music in order to sing together as a single voice instead of many individual voices. We also know what else it takes to create harmony and the musical analogy transfers well into the social realm. It takes dedication, it takes work, it takes understanding the voices around you, it takes having good leadership, it takes understanding the leadership and speaking out when needed, it takes being willing to become part of a whole at the same time as being an individual voice, it takes trust and caring and even compassion. When we do all this successfully as in the DeKalb Choral Guild we then have a hope that it can happen at home, at work, in our cities, states, country and the world. So I invite everyone who enjoys singing to consider joining a chorus, civic or religious, and becoming the harmony to hope to see in the world! The DeKalb Choral Guild is holding auditions for all voice parts Monday August 22nd. Call to schedule your audition at 678-318-1362 and for more information go to: www.dekalbchoralguild.org

MAryGSF

Mary Gowing, DeKalb Choral Guild, president



Tags: chorus audition | singing | a capella | community choir | choir | Atlanta chorus | Decatur Chorus | classical

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The Importance of Reflection by DCG president Mary Hill Gowing
2016.05.10 21:55:04

 

While I prepared for the DeKalb Choral Guild’s upcoming concert Mystics and Music (Sat May 14th 7:30pm at St. Bart’s Episcopal), the texts of the world-ranging mystical writers featured in the concert have challenged me to reevaluate how and how much I think about and reflect on things in my life. They’ve reminded me that, when I was a Girl Scout leader at Briarlake Elementary, one of the important lessons I learned in training and in practice is the importance of scheduling a time/space for us to reflect on the activities we work so hard to plan and then achieve. In my experience, the reflection component was THE hardest aspect of the “plan, act, reflect, celebrate” Girl Scout paradigm. One might expect it to be easy; just sit around and talk about what you worked on. But the impulse with the girls and with our entire culture, I think, is to rush through reflection to get to the exuberance of celebration or even to the excitement of more planning and action. What does reflection do for us? Why is it so important? And how can we incorporate more of it in our lives?

 

The act of reflection can help us in many different ways. By looking back on at what we plan and accomplish we can see if we actually have met our goals or if we somehow went astray.  Stephen Covey, in his 7 Habits book, shares the image of someone climbing a literal ladder of success only to find when she nears the top that she has been on the wrong wall the whole time. Reflection can help us see which wall we are on. The mystic writings of Kabir, Rumi, and Hildegard of Bingen featured in the DeKalb Choral Guild’s Mystics and Music concert highlight this aspect of reflection that perceives what is of real importance.

 

Another aspect of reflection is that it can help us allow ourselves to feel things that we may have overlooked or dampened in the rush of the moments of doing and acting. These can be both positive and negative feelings. Perhaps it is the potential threat of sensing unpleasant feelings that also causes us to want to avoid the act of reflecting. But avoiding feeling does not make what we are feeling go away. (Many believe that avoiding feelings just makes them more powerful and less in our conscious control and that recognizing them causes our feelings to be less frightening and a more accepted part of ourselves). The Navajo prayer Now I Walk in Beauty, composed into song by Gregg Smith (which will be heard at the Mystics and Music concert), is a mystic meditation which transports and guides the listener to FEELING the beauty ALL around us.

 

Finally, reflection can help us gain perspective. In our busyness we can lose sight of how events and experiences can have many different interpretations. Reflection gives us the opportunity to look at things from different angles, search for missed nuances, or find points of view that weren’t available before. This ability to step back and see the broader picture can lead some to even experience a sense of transcendence. This feeling of being a part of a much larger integrated whole is well expressed in the mystic poetry of the world such as Hafiz and Judah Al-Harizi, (who will be sung at our Mystics and Music concert).

 

So how do you go about incorporating more reflection in your life? One way is through art and music.  Art and music invites us to reflect on the work and ourselves, to feel things, and to search for meaning, knowing it will be one point of view among many. You can reflect on all these things at the DeKalb Choral Guild’s Mystics and Music concert this Saturday May 14, 2016 at 7:30pm at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 1790 LaVista Rd. Atlanta, GA. Tickets are $5 and are available at our website (www.dekalbchoralguild.org) or at the door. Hope to see you there.

Reflectfully,

 

MAryGSF

Mary Gowing

DeKalb Choral Guild president



Tags: hildegard von bingen | Chris Owenby | Choral Concert | DCG | atlanta community chorus | DeKalb Choral Guild | Mystics and Music | Herrick | Hafiz | Rumi | mystics

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Who is Hildegard Von Bingen? by Guest Blogger Composer Chris Owenby
2016.04.22 01:21:40

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS (A QUICK GLANCE AT THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF HILDEGARD VON BINGEN AND HER INFLUENCE ON A COMPOSER’S MUSIC)

 

Light… at times, it only shimmers.  Like a warm ray peeking through the forest trees, it shimmers.  But it's there.  As the golden sun rises, all of its warmth and piercing rays overtake the cold and dark of the forest making visible the dark places and providing energy for life to thrive.

 

Hildegard von Bingen was a beacon of light in the darkness.  Her life and legacy have not only influenced the arts, but science, philosophy, and religion. 

 

As a woman living in the middle ages, her thoughts and ideas were not held in high esteem as those of her male counterparts.  The youngest of ten children, from an early age she demonstrated a high capacity for learning.  She began having visions of light.  Recognizing her unique gifts, her parents enrolled her in a Benedictine monastery.  In the convent, she learned to read and write and had access to a wide range of books of religious and philosophical nature. 

 

As she grew in physical and intellectual stature, she eventually became abbess of the convent and to the overwhelming critique of her Abbott, made preparations to move her convent so it would be separate from the rule of the male house.  Holding fast to her vision and not giving in to the surrounding pressures, she succeeded.

 

Hildegard continued to shine the light of her life in the darkest of places.  Toward the end of her life, she opposed the church and allowed a nobleman who had been excommunicated to be buried at her convent seeing to his last rites.  She endured overwhelming attacks from authorities for this decision, but eventually appealed to the higher church and was somewhat restored.

 

Many such accounts are a common feature of Hildegard’s life and work.  She is an inspiring figure.  Her poetry is fresh and bright, lending itself to musical interpretation. 

 

On May 14th, the DeKalb Choral Guild will premiere Three Short Poems of Hildegard von Bingen.  It is a bright and joyful work filled with lively rhythmic figures, memorable melodies, and simple, but compelling textures.    

 

My hope is the divine life and work of this brilliant mystic will shine forth in and through the music.  May light continue to shine in the darkest places.

 

Learn more about the inspiration and compositional process behind Three Short Poems of Hildegard von Bingen: http://theartfulcomposer.com/hildegard/


1603ChrisOwenby 051 copy 003

Composer Chris Owenby lives in Atlanta with wife Erin and their two children Abby and Emma. When they are not spending time at the park or making crafts around the kitchen table Chris enjoys composing award winning songs, instrumental music and choral works that have been performed by the Goliad ensemble, The DeKalb Choral Guild and Terminus New Music Ensemble to name but a few. 




Tags: mystics | hildegard von bingen | choral music | christian mystic | the artful composer | DeKalb Choral Guild | atlanta community chorus

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Decisions by DCG president Mary Gowing
2016.02.19 22:02:10

Decisions

Last night, a friend of mine, a former professional musician, said "A band is lucky if it can get even 20 friends to come out to a gig of theirs these days". This got me to thinking about the size of the audience of our DeKalb Choral Guild concert to be held on Saturday March 5th at 7:30pm at First Baptist Church in Avondale. As president of this community chorus, the coming concert and its potential audience are frequently on my mind.

 

Will people decide to come to a classical choral concert when a band can't get even friends to come to a gig? And with so many arts and entertainment options in one's own home via TV and internet and with so many across the metro area, how can a local choral organization (or a band) hope to compete? So to help with this question, I have created a rubric to aid with people decision making.

 

[I believe, the DeKalb Choral Guild's March 5th concert Georgia Connections is a great option for any one's evening out because all the questions below can be answered in the affirmative. How many of one's other choices can say that?!]

 

Deciding what to do tonight-a rubric

Is it conveniently located, easy to find and with ample (preferably free) parking?

Is the ticket price a good value for the evening's entertainment?

Will I have enough left over to pay for dinner?

Will I experience something new, something that challenges me, something that speaks to my intellect and emotions and my sense of community?

Will I be supporting people who create art for its own sake?

Will I be supporting the growth of an artist genre?

Can I be myself at the event, without feeling the need to pretend to be someone I am not?

Will there be a reception and opportunity to discuss the concert with others afterwards, including the artists?

Will there be snacks?

 

The "Georgia Connections" concert marks the 4th (biennial) Georgia Young Composers Festival and finale concert. It will showcase 5 student finalists, from high school through graduate school, and their choral compositions; plus the works of other established Georgia choral composers. The finalists will be questioned, judged and awarded prizes at the concert. Atlanta music radio icon John Lemley will emcee. Tickets (available online or at the door) are $5 for adults, student price is "Pay What You Can". A reception will follow the concert. The concert will be held at First Baptist Church of Avondale Estates at 47 Covington Highway Avondale Estates at 7:30pm Saturday March 5th, 2016. Ample free parking is available. For more information go to: www.dekalbchoralguild.org.

 

Hope to see you at our concert. ~Mary Gowing: DeKalb Choral Guild, president



Tags: GYCF | choral | concert | chorus | DeKalb Choral Guild | Avondale | Georgia young Composers Festival | Georgia Connections | emerging GA composers

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Hope, Peace, Joy and Love--a Holiday message from DCG president Mary Gowing
2015.12.15 23:23:25

Okay, take at least 3 big deep breaths. This season of time between Thanksgiving and New Year can get a bit hectic and crazy. So first off, take some big breaths.  Really, while you are reading this, start your deep breathing. You'll feel more relaxed just by letting in more air. It's something we in the choral biz know, and partly why singing feels so good. Are you still doing your breathing? Good, keep going while I wish you 4 things:


The first thing I wish you is Hope. I wish you the kind of Hope that sings in the midst of war and conflict as expressed in the song Prayer of the Children by Kurt Bestor which we sang last January in our Et in Terra Pax concert.You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/mary-gowing-1/prayerofthechildrendcg/s-Wswv6. Whether that confict is international in scope,  in your community, in your family or in your own spirit I wish you the Hope that knows that there will be a better day.


Still taking those relaxing breaths? Good. The second wish I have for you is Peace. The kind of peace that a mother wishes and bestows on her chiild while holding her in her arms and singing her a lullaby. This wish for peace is expressed well by Iraqi Peace Song by Lori Tennenhouse which the DCG women and I sang in 2010. https://soundcloud.com/mary-gowing-1/iraqi-peace-song/s-Svffu. I wish you the kind of peace in that lullaby: of knowing you are loved and knowing you have a place in the world. Just deep breathing can help initiate a peaceful feeling. Try it when you aren't reading blogs and emails, perhaps in the maestrom of holiday chaos. 


Thirdly, I wish you Joy. The kind of joy I feel when singing with the DCG. I wish for you to be able to follow what you are passionate about and to be able to share your interests with others and inspire them to pursue their own Joy. I wish you the Joy that comes from being in the zone of relaxed focus while occupied in a meaningful endeavor. An example of this joy for me is singing Mozart's Missa Brevis with my favorite chorus, in particular the Gloria section. https://soundcloud.com/mary-gowing-1/missa-brevis-gloria. What joyful music that is. I wish you that!


Lastly, I wish you Love. Not so much the romantic kind, though if that is what you are interested in I wish you that too. I wish the kind that is within you and that is compassionate and patient and seeks the kindest way.I wish you a loving heart that is curious and open to other people, no matter how different, difficult or unlovable they are presently. I wish you a love that grows and radiates to others. I wish you a love that is action oriented because you feel kinship with the universe,  as in the song We Are that the DCG sang at Sure Stars Shining concert in 2014:https://soundcloud.com/mary-gowing-1/we-are-1/s-ic2uJ.


I wish you and the whole world Hope, Peace, Joy and Love this holiday. And I wish for you the relaxation that comes from lots a deep breaths whether while singing, meditating, or while not blowing up at Aunt Edna for whatever she just did that managed to push just the right buttons but somehow you did some deep breaths and the urge to garrote her passed.


Happy Holidays!

Mary Gowing

DeKalb Choral Guild, president





Tags: Avondale chorus | Decatur Community Chorus | Atlanta chorus | Joy | Love | Peace | Hope | Holiday | DCG

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Choral Reflections on Dia de los Muertos by Mary Gowing, DCG president
2015.10.22 22:30:17

Reflections on how a choral concert (such as the DeKalb Choral Guild's Día de los Muertos Concert Sat. November 7th in Avondale) can change you: by DCG president Mary Gowing

 

Have you ever been a tourist somewhere and could see the culture around you but you didn't feel a part of it? It can seem almost like you are watching a film or a documentary but not really experiencing it. The DCG singers felt a bit like that when we began our preparations for our Día de los Muertos concert (Nov 7th). Most of us are not from a Mexican background. But the stories in the music of weeping women, witches and ancient wisdom, of cemeteries, churches and chocolate, along with the task of building the visual displays of flowers, framed photographs of loved ones passed and other touchstones of memory helped the singers begin to make the leap from outsider looking in at Dia de los Muertos to novice participants of it.

 

Here are three key ingredients we found in getting ready for that leap:

1. To hear a variety of stories from the culture, or points of views as told by different people from that culture

2. To feel safe as you are hearing the stories. If you feel threatened you will not be open to hear and absorb these challenging potential shifts of paradigm

3. A chance to reflect on what you have learned and to share with others what new understandings have arisen in you.

 

We will perform this concert at First Baptist Church of Avondale Estates on November 7th at 7:30pm. The songs will tell many different Mexican stories: like that of the nomad traveler in Pasar La Vida, and that of the Mournful Mother in Stabat Mater, yet all centering on the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos. We will contemplate how our loved ones remain with us always, of how past, present and future can live together. The concert may challenge stereotypes people have about Mexico, its music, people and traditions. We will end the evening with a joyous reception complete with Mariachi band, where audience and performers alike will come together to enjoy delicious traditional Pan (bread) de Muertos and sugar skull candy, among other treats, and to reflect upon and celebrate the concert together.

The DeKalb Choral Guild's Día de los Muertos concert is open to the public. Tickets are $5 for adults, children 12 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.dekalbchoralguild.org.



Tags: Dia de los Muertos | Decatur Chorus | Atlanta choral concert | Mariachi concert | Day of the dead concert | La Bruja | La Llorona

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Muse Sings by Mary E. Root, Music Director, DeKalb Choral Guild
2015.08.13 15:14:05

Muse Sings

Mary E. Root, Music Director, DeKalb Choral Guild

 

Joining a Chorus is Worth It

 

'Tis the season of community chorus auditions! Each year, as summer wanes, community choruses begin gearing up for rehearsal and performance season. Audition notices go out, and, thus, begins the scramble and competition for good, dedicated singers. I direct an auditioned community chorus, and I find that I do not want to harass and cajole singers to consider our chorus; I want singers to be drawn to our chorus because this is a good chorus that prepares and sings excellent and interesting repertoire and because of our mission to be a compassionate chorus.

Singing in our chorus, the DeKalb Choral Guild, chorus requires significant commitment: repertoire must be studied outside rehearsal; there are membership dues and required performance attire; weekly rehearsal attendance is required; members are often asked to assist with duties beyond singing and with fundraising. And then, there is the audition required of all new prospective singers. Some singers view the audition as a badge, a rite of passage. Singers will often describe the "war wounds" of auditioning. I've blogged about my thoughts on the process of auditioning (see http://www.dekalbchoralguild.org/blog/viewpost/296.html), so I will summarize by saying that I can learn all I need to know about a prospective singer from a well-prepared solo and a conversation. I refer to the DCG audition as "the kinder, gentler, compassionate audition."

To save everyone some time, I am forthright about the music we sing: this is not choral arrangements of pop tunes – we sing serious, relevant choral music that spans from ancient to contemporary. I try to choose music that is accessible to audiences and worthy of their listening. As a chorus we focus on beautiful, deliberate choral sound, and solid vocal technique. We also focus on meaningful interpretation.

I recently rediscovered a quote from musician Brian Eno; I share it with you now for your consideration because I think it speaks so well to what the DeKalb Choral Guild aspires:

"When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a cappella [sic] singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That's one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue."

So, if you are reading this, and you are a singer thinking of joining a community chorus in the Atlanta area, I hope you will consider our chorus, the DeKalb Choral Guild. I will be honored to hear you sing and discuss membership with you. To schedule your audition, please leave a message at 678-318-1362. Our audition coordinator will call you back in quick fashion. Come, be a part of our singing community!

 



Tags: DCG | Mary Root | Decatur Chorus | chorus | community chorus | choir | joining a singing group | auditions | DeKalb Choral Guild | Atlanta chorus

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On Being a Compassionate Chorus By Mary Gowing, DeKalb Choral Guild, president
2015.07.15 20:48:06

Last year the DeKalb Choral Guild signed the Charter for Compassion and became one of the first of that organizatoin's many arts partners. The Charter itself is a beautifully written document laying out a committment to respecting all people. Ever since signing the Charter, we as an organization, have been ruminating on how we can run our organization with more compassion. At our annual meeting in May, Robert Johnson, from Compassionate Atlanta, came to us and facilitated a dynamic discussion about this. At our recent DCG board meeting we continued asking how we can be more compassionate: in board meeting, in rehearsals, in our relationships, in our programming, in our concerts... I, as DCG president, opened the meeting with a statement that I wrote about how I hope we can operate our organizational business in a compassionate way. The following is what I presented to the board.

 

Being the Compassionate Chorus

In planning, dreaming, discussing the business of the DCG; in rehearsing, studying and singing music of the DCG, in taking tickets, performing and welcoming guests to the DCG; in giving of ourselves in myriad ways to the DCG let us always be mindful that it takes intention to have and express compassion for one another, our community and the world.

 

To be the compassionate chorus, we need to continue to create and maintain a culture of mutual respect and trust. To do this we need to be free to express ourselves without fear of punishment and repudiation; we need the space to experiment, to try, to fail and to try again; and we all need to be valued for the unique people we are and for our contributions we bring to the DCG.

 

I hope that in all aspects of our DCG dealings we can continue to nurture this compassionate culture and when anyone of us fails, as we, being human, will do, that we respond with understanding, knowing that we, each of us, have our own failings and shortcomings, and that we can accept our imperfection while still moving forward with a continued sense of shared purpose. MG

 

Atlanta has signed the charter and so has Decatur. Avondale hasn't yet. Is it making a difference? It has to the DeKalb Choral Guild.

 

This August the DCG is holding auditions for all voice parts: Seeking Compassionate Singers to share in excellent and  innovative musical experiences that enrich our community and ourselves. Call for an audition appointment. 678-318-1362. Auditions will be held on Mondays Aug 17th and 24th.

 

 

Charter for Compassion:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. 

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.


If you would like to officail sign the charter as an individual or as an organization click here

 



Tags: Decatur singing auditions | Decatur Chorus | atlanta community chorus | Atlanta chorus | DeKalb Choral Guild | Chorus auditions | charter for compassion

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Muse-Sings: Mindful Chorus
2014.10.07 20:00:11

October 7th,2014

MaryRoot landscapeMary Evelyn Root Mindfulness is all the buzz anymore. I try to live mindfully. I have come to cherish the spaces between thoughts. When I reject the fiendishly persistent illusion that multi-tasking is a great time-saver, I can find myself in a powerfully luminous and invigorating zone.

Lately, I have tried to be more mindful in my work as a choral conductor. At first glance, conducting a chorus might well be the epitome of multi-tasking. Conducting is an exercise in constant anticipation of the near future. How is it then, that I feel that same affirming energy of the luminous zone of mindfulness when I conduct? I think the answer lies in a broader view that, even though I have to be in a nearly incessant anticipatory state, I am present in that state. I suppose that any endeavor that takes us to that zone can be subdivided into many smaller tasks, and there can be an overarching focus that pulls these micro-tasks into single mindful flow.

I have realized another necessity in my efforts to conduct mindfully: I must be deliberately selfless. I have to remind myself that it is not about me. I used to profess it was all about the music and the composer’s intentions, but in all honesty, I kind of liked the attention and the control. Now, I think it is about the extraordinary and intimate community we become in joining to make choral music. I think of the chorus as an organism that works continuously in an intricately adapting sensitivity to each part and stimulus.   I cannot be unmoved, mollifying, supercilious, and self-justifying of my own decisions when I realize that some singers are uncomfortable with repertoire decisions or when my gesture does not elicit the response I want from the chorus.   I must communicate better what my vision is, and I must reflect on how my physical gesture embodies that vision.  

Currently, the DeKalb Choral Guild is rehearsing for a concert of literature that explores the themes of life and death in dialogue. We are preparing two of William Schuman’s Carols of Death, and because they are quite demanding technically, a disproportionate amount of time has been spent in rehearsal on these two pieces.   To the singers, I think the concert feels weighty because of the distribution of rehearsal time. Upon realizing this, I tried to describe my vision for this concert and encourage them to appreciate that the repertoire is far more balanced than their current perspective.   Yet, I cannot predicate mindfulness solely on the concert; the singers, our accompanist, and I experience the whole of this process.

Nine rehearsals, individual study time, and a dress rehearsal are, likewise, disproportionately more than the concert itself. As a community, have we tacitly agreed that the focus is the concert?   If so, does that end justify a means that is difficult and challenging? As I ponder this, I think an important aspect of the answer is this: the singers must also be mindful.

 

 

 



Tags: DeKalb Community Chorus | Chorus Atlanta | community chorus | Avondale chorus | DeKalb Choral Guild | DCG

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Muse-Sings: Love in the time of chorus
2014.09.02 13:50:51

September 2nd, 2014

MaryRoot landscapeMary Evelyn Root As I prepare for a new concert and rehearsal season, I have devoted a great deal of time to the choral warm-up. Throughout my career, I targeted the warm-up time to three distinct purposes: some warm-ups are to teach and enhance musical skills such as intonation, vowel production, and rhythmic accuracy; another subset of warm-ups were devised to target specific anticipated challenges in the repertoire to be rehearsed; and the final set of warm-ups attempted to teach basic vocal skills.   At 7:30 pm, there aren’t many who think voices need warming up. Many choral directors stay far from any real vocal technique either because they feared stepping on the toes of private voice instructors or they just didn’t really know very much about the vocal apparatus. Basically, the premise is often that the choral conductor should do no harm, and in that limiting spirit, basically the choral director did no good, either. And precious rehearsal time gets wasted on useless and sometimes even damaging vocal exercises.

 

This summer I have spent a significant amount of time reading a textbook on the choral warm-up by esteemed choral director and pedagogue James Jordan. After getting beyond the horror of devoting most of my cherished reading time to a textbook, I hunkered down and read and re-read the text. I have found much with which to retool my tired old warm-ups. In fact, I would say that I have experienced a significant shift in my approach to and philosophy of the warm-up. I am excited to have tools and techniques that I believe will have a significant effect on how the chorus sings together and how I can quite specifically and succinctly communicate with them about their sound.   More on that another time.

Beyond technique and tools and vocal exercises, there is something that recurs regularly in Dr. Jordan’s text that made me shake my head in disbelief and made me actually exclaim aloud, “oy!” at every encounter. Jordan writes about the most important element in the choral rehearsal: love. I do not recall ever seeing the word “love” used in a textbook. And Jordan is unabashed in his use of “love” and his deeply held belief that love and caring are the most important elements in the rehearsal room. IN A TEXTBOOK!?! Oy! Confession time: I skipped over every section of the book that used the word “love;” I really just wanted to learn some new exercises and techniques.  

 

But it nagged at me. Why did he put those woo-woo, touchy-feely things in his text? I resented having to read around those parts to get the real information. More importantly, why was I having such a strong reaction?   Well, yes, we all expect textbooks to be knowledge enhancing and practical. Tina Turner was screeching away in my head with her incessant refrain, “what’s love got to do with it?” I wonder how much pushback James Jordan felt from his editor and publisher; and yet there it was in the table of contents, in the text: love and awe and wonder must be present for truly good choral sound.  And then it dawned on me: He’s right. He is spot-on right.   I will spare you the self-examinations that ensued; I will merely say that I have fully embraced in my own life, in all that I do, that love is the means and the ends, the reason and the way. My focused attention on each moment has suffused my life in love. Yet I shrunk from Jordan saying that love is of preeminent importance in the choral rehearsal. Because I am afraid of that. There is a vulnerability and a surrender to love, and I have felt quite safe and cocooned in the love of family and close friends. To love the size of a chorus . . . well, that’s a lot of loving.

 

I am sure that there are loving, enlightened choral groups who do not make the best choral music. And, the most technically perfect choruses will be nothing more than exact if love is lacking. But think of the possibilities of a chorus that comes to rehearsal ready to learn and apply great technique with full willingness to be changed and improved because they trust that love will be the foundation. We love making music together, we each love ourselves, we love others, we love so much that we are willing to grow and improve and be beacons of love. In fact, why else would we do this? Of course our textbooks should declare from every page that love is the most important thing.

 

 



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Sample our latest offering:"I Will Be Earth"
2014.03.29 14:34:33

     As this 36th season of The DeKalb Choral Guild progresses, we are filled with a sense of anticipation. We have spent many weeks fashioning a sound that represents the cohesive vision of all of our individual efforts. Working together we produce an experience for each audience member to be deeply touched by, such that they are left wanting more. For those who are new to us, and especially those who have followed us loyally through these many seasons: we want you to have a lasting memory of one or more of the pieces we will sing for you this concert. We want some phrasing, a chord change, or a dramatic rythym personnally reverberate with your being.

     We believe that having a personal encounter with music enriches the lives of all parties involved. As we crafted the sounds of the Young Composers new music in our last concert, the synergy became clear. It is in the blending of all parties intentions that yields the collective reward in the final result; a wondrous expression of community.

     While the deepest joy for all who participate in this collaborative work is that end product is a singulaly joyous concert experience by the audience. We find happiness at every stage of the process. Each of us; whose time, efforts, and attention to detail at every level of the process, finds joy throughout the journey that enchants and delights our lives. 

    DCG provides a delicious blend of musical expriences to be appreciated like fine wine at the peak of it's flavor. Much like nuturing the grapes on the vines of different varieties (as notes are to songs); processing them, allowing them to come together in a unique new way. We serve them up to you. Come join us May 10th for the latest offrings from our vineyard; "I Will Be Earth"!



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Sing it Away- A runaway success!
2013.12.18 20:54:34

The results are in: 'Sing it Away', the first DeKalb Choral Guild concert of the season was a resounding success. Our 'Meet the Director' get together after the concert gave us an unique opportunity for direct feedback. We heard from you that you were touched in a very personal way by our high quality sound. 

We embodied our new catch phrase, "Many voices, One sound"! The comments lauding our sound came from long time DCG supporters, first time young people, and members of other choral groups who came out because of their love of choral music. From this large and diverse audience, we heard that we have reached a high level of audible cohesion. We achieved all this under the guidance of our very passionate and dynamic music staff: Director Mr. Donald A. Milton lll, Assistant Director Jonathon D. Hall-Hamner, Accompanist Leanne Herrmann.

With that great first impession, you might ask "What are they going to do next?" Well, we're going to combine our polished sound with the youthful enthusiasm of young composers. At 'The Georgia Young Composers Festival', Febuary 8th, 2014, we will sing the works of the finalists in the competition. We will deliver this new music for the judges to make a decision, the audience's enjoyment and to give the composers an opportunity to hear their music's debut performance. We are thrilled and excited to share this new muic with each and every one of you.

Come out to hear us interpret what the next generation of great young Georgia composers are producing and to have a winner declared. Share your love of great choral music; bring some friends with you. We look forward to seeing you there.



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Choralbeat: A new beginning!
2013.11.20 09:59:28
Welcome to “Choralbeat”; the blog of the DeKalb Choral Guild of Atlanta Georgia. We are excited to have this new place to share with our community, sponsors, fans, members past and present, our love of choral music  and give you, our readers, an insider’s view of  who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going as a choir and organization.  
With our humble beginnings 36 years ago, with an 18 year old conductor (emeritus), and 17 year old accompanist (who is still with us); we have a deep history of dedicated singers whose mission is to add beauty and richness to the landscape of music in our community.  We want to share our passion for choral music and give you a behind the scenes look at the blood, sweat, and tears spent taking many voices to create one sound. 
We invite you to share in our journey for the 36th season of the DeKalb Choral Guild.  We encourage you to immerse yourselves not only in the great music we share but also the choral music scene throughout the Atlanta area. We will convey the artistry and power of choral music with guest writers, videos, stories from current and past members, and news and events about the happenings in the choral music world. 
 Please visit us again to learn more about DCG news and events and information about choirs through the Atlanta area.  You can like us on Facebook at DeKalb Choral Guild and Twitter under Choralbeat. 



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