David Vale. May 17, 2023
I remember when being on TV or in the movies was really exciting. The thrill of seeing myself on one of Uncle Ted’s Super-8 home movies. Or being introduced as a member of the studio audience on Heck Harper’s Cartoon Corral. For fifteen seconds, I was a star!
Now you’ve got the DVD of our recent concert. There you are, almost big as life, and you’re a star. For fifteen seconds.
But, once you get past the thrill of stardom, there’s valuable information in that video. Professional sports players watch videos of themselves. It’s not out of narcissism. It’s because those videos show them what they’ve done, right and wrong, and give them information they can use to get better. We can take their lead.
What’s to be seen on the DVD? How about the stage setting? Were we arranged properly to highlight the most important part of the concert: The choir? How about our positions? Were we neatly positioned on the risers or scattered haphazardly across them? Were we watching the director? Or were our faces buried in our music? And our faces. Did they display all the joy we felt as we were making this magnificent sound? And how magnificent was the sound? Was it balanced? Did the instruments enhance the voices or overwhelm them? And those resonant bases! Could you hear them or were they drowned by the sopranos?
Okay, why do we have to be so danged critical? Can’t we just enjoy the video for what it is? Well, yes it is enjoyable. And, if we stop there, the next one will be just as enjoyable. But no more so.
Aha! There’s the rub. If we complacently sit on our laurels and content ourselves with enjoying what was a clearly enjoyable concert, we won’t get any better.
Do we need to get better? Maybe not, but then we don’t need to give concerts at all. Not to pick on a group that I was once familiar with, but there’s the case of the OK Chorale. It was a chorus that got together just for the joy of singing. There was no plan to perform. Or even a desire to get good. Were they any good? Not really, but that was OK. It’s who they were.
Is that who we are? I don’t think so. I think we’re better than OK, but I hope we’d like to get even better. Clearly better than good.
So watch the video with that in mind. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What did you do that, having seen it on video, you’re never going to do again? Hey, I’ve done things in all three categories. Some I wish I hadn’t seen, but next time I won’t. Constantly improving: That’s what it’s all about!
David Vale. March 26, 2023
I auditioned for a solo last week. Actually, I auditioned for several of them. Not that I was planning to sing them all. Or even, for that matter, that I was hedging my bets, hoping to improve my chances by auditioning more. But I like to audition.
Am I some sort of nut case?
I don’t think so. I just like to sing and sometimes the things I want to sing turn out to be solos.
We’re all here because we like to sing. And although an audition might seem a scary endeavor, it doesn’t have to be. In my experience, an audition with Allyson and the Valley Voices rarely is.
Last week’s auditions took place in the choir room with about 20-25 choir members in attendance. Most, I believe, were there to audition. Allyson started with a list of songs and we were invited to stand up in front and sing the ones we liked. By ourselves.
Was I scared? Not really.
Why? Because an audition is an experiment. It’s an opportunity to try a song in front of an audience and to see how you feel about doing that. Of course, it’s also an opportunity for Allyson to hear you and see how she feels about it. You might not be selected. Rejection?
Not really. Auditioning is about finding matches, the right person for the right part. Or the right combination of persons for a group of parts. Failing to get a part isn’t a rejection. Just a decision that you’re not the right fit. I’ve been not the right fit enough times that it doesn’t bother me. Much.
Of course I think I want the part, or I wouldn’t be auditioning. So I try my best. But I don’t think I’m ever perfect. My entry is off, my timing is sketchy, I might even miss a note. These things can be fixed. The audition is a search for the right performer, not the most perfect performer. And, frankly, I find the audition process with the Valley Voices fun. The audience, composed of people who are themselves auditioning, is warm and supportive. Mulligans are allowed. If you really screw up, just start over. No penalty. And everyone claps enthusiastically when you’re done. As they should, because every audition is a performance.
I can’t suggest that you audition just for the fun of it. Who knows, you might get the part. And then you’d be expected to do it in concert. But, if you’re willing to take that risk, participating in the audition process is one of the more enjoyable aspects of being in the Valley Voices.
You should try it sometime.
David Vale. April 6, 2023
So we’re singing at garage sales now?
Well, not really. A group of about a dozen of us representing the Valley Voices sang at the Creston Auction last weekend. And while it had some of the trappings of a garage sale, it’s a garage sale in the same sense that dime-store glider and a passenger jet are airplanes.
We had a really good time and, I think, we were appreciated. Who could ask for anything more?
But let me back up. The Creston Auction is a bonafide Northwestern Montana Event. It benefits the Creston Fire Department and it’s been going on for 57 years. People plan their vacations around it. And it’s big. It occupies the sports field and whatever additional open space can be found behind Creston School. Hundreds of people attend and it typically raises over $50,000 each year for the fire department.
So what were we doing there? There’s a lot of pomp and formality associated with the event. And somebody sings the National Anthem. Well, it should be obvious that we’re a well known musical group in the area. After all, we’ve sung at Carnegie Hall. This year some guys, as I understand it, were supposed to sing the Anthem but bailed at the last minute. So Allyson, ever so helpful in a pinch, volunteered the Valley Voices.
The event started promptly at 9:00 with several minutes of important announcements and obligatory introductions. Then it proceeded with the presentation of colors, this year by the Civil Air Patrol Color Guard, and the National Anthem, this year by us. I remember thinking as we stood there shivering through the announcements on a 30-degree April morning that the color guard had it worse: They had just their uniforms and, standing at attention through the announcements and introductions, it looked like they weren’t even allowed to shiver. But, given the signal, they marched to the flag pole, raised the flag with authority, and saluted.
That was supposed to be our signal to start singing. But I watched a moment too long and my signal came when the choir began to voice “Oohh say can you see …” Fortunately, I’ve developed that ever-so- useful skill of being able to sing without looking at the director and joined in while I pivoted 180 degrees. (Sorry, Allyson.)
The arrangement we sing, known as the Gaither arrangement because of the group it was arranged for, is an a cappella arrangement. That’s really good when you don’t have a piano along. Or a piccolo or even a ukulele. When it’s done well, it’s an absolutely magnificent sound. And this time we did it well.
And the audience went wild. I’m not sure if it was our magnificent performance or the fact that the phrase “… and the home of the brave” was the signal to start the bidding. I’ll go for the former.
In any case, it was a great experience. Great song. Great group. And an enthusiastic audience. Of course it might have been even better if we’d had a few more singers. Keep that in mind next time we’re invited to sing at a garage sale. Or a horse show.