New Ensembles for a New Year
Welcome back to another year of making music together!
With the start of a new year, we embark on a new adventure in learning how to make our voices unite in beautiful song. This year, we're adding 2 new groups to make that happen. This afternoon, the list for our newly established auditioned women's ensemble -- The Dreamcatchers -- will be posted. This 28-member group will showcase 3-part women's voices with more challenging literature.
Next week, our new men's ensemble -- Arrow -- will begin as well. This group will be a mix of barbershop, doo wop, pop, and contemporary a cappella. The guys were already singing together on their own, now we've just given it an official time/place to rehearse and a name!
Both of these ensemble will begin to perform at various events such as Cabaret Night, Arts Alive, School Board meetings, at the beginning of athletic events, and more.
And this fall, collaboration is the name of the game. We're joining forces with the wind symphony, wind ensemble, and chamber orchestra on a fall concert in October at the middle school. This represents a great opportunity to explore literature that we may not otherwise be able to study due to its complexity of having many instrumental parts. We're looking forward to showcasing our high school performing ensembles in a "collage" concert, which also includes special performances by the Allegheny Brass Band.
As we move into the semester, our students will have festival opportunities. I'm co-hosting the PMEA Honors Choir festival with the director at Upper St. Clair (who happens to also be my former high school director at Woodland Hills -- and my neighbor!). We should have strong representation at the men's and women's honors choirs at the end of October.
Our freshmen will get to be a part of the ACDA-PA festivals: Sweet Harmony and Mucho Macho Music. And right before Thanksgiving, those who choose to may audition for PMEA District Chorus.
I look forward to the challenges and opportunities this year will present us. Hope to see you at an upcoming performance!
Where did the time go this semester? It feels like we were just starting to talk about all of the exciting things planned for this year, and already the first semester is almost over. We've had some great musical moments in 2015:
Cloonan Schedule 2015-16
"Could We Start Again, Please"
Those are the words to a song in the show Jesus Christ Superstar, which I had the fortune to perform in as a junior at Woodland Hills in the spring of 1995. At this moment on August 13th, knowing that we have NH Singers choir camp on Sunday, that teachers start on Monday, and after seeing Cinderella at the CLO last night (which is our musical this year), I feel like the school world is asking "could we start again, please," but my relaxed self is asking summer (and that 3-week period of unending rain): "could WE start again, please?!"
I can't really complain this year, though. I got 2 little trips in to reconnect with old friends (spent the 4th in Charlotte, NC and 5 days in San Francisco), saw several movies and shows, met up with choral director friends at our annual summer conference at Elizabethtown College, and generally took a mental break from school.
Summer does always seems to end so quickly, however we have another exciting year ahead for the music department at North Hills High School. I'm looking forward to seeing the renovated library/media center, which includes a fully-functional sound recording studio. I'm excited to try this space out and to use it as a lab with the music technology students as well.
On tap for the choral program this year are some of our standard events: the Madrigal Dinner in December and Cabaret Night in February. The Symphonic Choir will perform the Faure Requiem in their fall concert this October, and I just sent out email invitations to our alumni to join us on the piece if they are available, adding to our numbers. We will have a chamber orchestra accompanying us on this beloved and well-known work.
Women's Choir will return to the choral festival at my church in Edgewood this November. Our freshmen singers will participate in the Mucho Macho and Sweet Harmony festivals; I'm hopeful that we will have good representation at the PMEA Honors and District Chorus festivals as well.
We'll join in a collaboration day with the Westminster College Chamber Choir on October 16th. We're still working out the details, but most likely, Dr. Barbara will spend some time working with our groups, and we'll sing for each other! I'm also working on bringing in a few other college/university directors to give a fresh perspective in class - the more musicians we get to work with, the better our ensembles will be!
The "big event" for 2015-16 is our first ever (or in recent memory) entire high school music department trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia on April 28 - May 1, 2016. Each of our department's performing ensembles will participate in the Music in the Parks competition: marching band, jazz band, concert band, symphonic band, wind symphony, wind ensemble, orchestra, women's choir, symphonic choir, and North Hills Singers. Lots of fundraising and details will be coming soon, but I'm thrilled to be able to collaborate and include all of our choral and instrumental students on this experience.
One big change for me personally this year is that I've stepped away from the middle school winter musical. Now that I'm in my 3rd year of being strictly at the high school, it seemed natural for Mrs. Triscila to take over working with the students she sees every day. I don't know what the show is yet, so I can't announce anything - but I know the middle school drama is in great hands!
And finally, the spring musical...before last night I had never seen the stage production of Cinderella and wasn't sure what to expect. It's a great show! Quirky, funny, colorful, lots of good music, and I'm anxious to see what Mr. Richey comes up with for the sets because there were quite a few scene changes! This will be a fun show to put together and showcase our students' talents on stage.
So it looks like we're shaping up to have a full and fun year. When it's all over, we'll look back fondly and ask "could we start again, please?"
A Race to the Finish Line
Wow, we have done A LOT this year! By this time next month, both students and teachers will be finished and on a much needed vacation. I applaud our students on working so hard in all aspects of our music department this year. We've thrown a lot at them in terms of music learning and preparation for many, many performances both near and far. Let's just recap a little bit about how much this group of talented musicians has accomplished together...
Tired yet?! We're not done! We still have a few more events left on our calendar...
This may be the busiest year our program has had to date, and I'm so grateful that our students rise to every challenge that is put before them. We've tackled some incredibly difficult music together and continue to perform at the highest level that we can, always aspiring to be better musicians and to live out the words of our alma mater, making "memories that never die."
Thank you all for a full and memorable year.
"How's It Going?"
That might not be the best thing to ask right before concert season begins! We've been a BUSY bunch this semester, and honestly, my brain is in full on "crisis management" mode right now figuring out how to get all of our performances ready in the limited time we have left in November.
That being said, we have lots of great things to celebrate about this school year so far. Here is what will be shared with the Choral Parents tonight at their madrigal dinner planning meeting at St. Athanasius Hall.
We had a very successful month of performing last month! Around 65 alumni from as far back as the West View High School class of 1948 joined our North Hills Singers for a full day of rehearsal, building tours, a dinner, and public concert. Thanks to those of you who were able to donate your time to help with registration and the dinner. I’ve received many positive notes, emails, and Facebook messages from those in attendance about what a good thing it was that we did. We were able to honor the history of our music program and celebrate the current and future in the process.
The Carmina Burana experience was memorable. It was great to collaborate with Mr. Lavelle and the Wind Symphony, to perform with them as well as sit in the audience to see “what they do.” We got to work with Dr. Susan Medley from the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale and experience performing in the wonderful space of Carnegie Music Hall for the Festival of Choirs. The Symphonic Choir is getting better with each performance – I’m excited to see what this group will sound like by the end of the year!
The Women’s Choir is off to a fantastic start with their first performance under their belts at the Women’s Choral Festival held at First Presbyterian Church of Edgewood, where I’m music director. It was fun for me to be able to “show off” our ladies to the folks there as well as to give them the opportunity to see and hear wonderful vocal role models in the other women’s ensembles that performed. Again, I can’t wait to hear where we go this year with this as our starting point.
We also have our Betsy Ann Christmas Candy sale in full swing right now. Orders are due on December 2 (the day we return from Thanksgiving break), and there really isn’t much wiggle room for late orders as delivery is scheduled for one week later.
Concert with the River City Brass Band
December 5th is our concert at Carson Middle School with RCBB. The concert takes place at 7:30PM, and we will join the combined choirs of Carson Middle School (approximately 90 students in grades 6-8) to make a large choir to sing with the band. We perform on both halves of the concert, in a medley of songs written for RCBB called “The Spirit of Christmas” that we’ll sing with Carson. We each get to perform a feature song of our own in between the band’s songs, and the concert ends with a carol sing-along as well as the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which of course we know from singing it at our holiday concerts each year! We’ll meet at the school at 5:30 and travel by bus to Carson for a rehearsal before the concert. We are also hoping to be able to work with RCBB music director James Gourlay the week of the concert so he can tell us what to expect from him. Still debating concert attire as either just black and white or robes.
The ticket order form was sent out via e-mail and is also posted on the website. The folks at River City strongly suggest ordering tickets ahead of time – these concerts have tend to sell out, plus it’s a discounted rate!
We’ve ordered the script and Thursday at 3:00 is the meeting for those interested in performing in the skit and singing. I’ll have a sign-up sheet in the choir room for those who want to be servers – they don’t need to attend the meeting. Thanks to all for helping with the decorations, meal, donations, baskets, and everything else that goes in to making this a successful night!
I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy time over the holiday with family and friends.
See you in...October?
It's hard to believe today is the last day of September already. We are certainly off to a full-speed ahead journey into great music this fall.
Symphonic Choir classes have been busy preparing "Song of Democracy" and movements from Carmina Burana for performances in October. Members of the North Hills Singers who are also a part of Symphonic Choir will join with the Alumni Choir this weekend to fill out the sound on pieces like "Song of Democracy." We are certainly feeling a sense of accomplishment that we've tackled this 32-page choral work in just about a month. Fortunately for Symphonic Choir, their performance isn't until the 3rd week of October, so we have time to really dig into the music and step our performance up a notch.
Women's Choir had a fantastic first combined rehearsal last week after school. We're already ahead of where the group was last year, so thank you to the sophomore and junior members of the choir who are helping the new members to hear 3-part harmonies. We get a chance to show what we've learned as well as learn from high school, collegiate, and community choirs at the Women's Choral Festival on November 9th. So far, we've gotten almost performance-ready a Hebrew folk song, American folk song, and gospel selection.
We also heard from River City Brass Band what we will be performing with them at their holiday concert on December 5th. They are having a medley of carols arranged for them and us, and we will begin learning it as soon as the composer finishes working on it! We've been given a preview of what has been written so far, and it will be filled with well-known Christmas carols. The full combined high school choir will participate in this concert.
Of course, top on this week's focus is alumni...and not just our Alumni Choir event on Friday and Saturday, but also we expect to see class of 2012 alumnus Chris Jamison on NBC's The Voice this week. And we're pretty confident he'll be chosen and seen on future episodes. Check it out tonight at 8:00!
As for Alumni Choir - I'm very much looking forward to bringing this group of 80 or so North Hills Choir alumni together to share in memories and to make music together for the first time on Saturday. The interactions on Facebook and through e-mail have been wonderful...hearing about the choirs of the 50s, 60s and 70s, the trips, the awards, the directors. It's all inspirational and makes me very proud to be a part of this tradition of excellence in music at NH. Can't wait to hear what we all sound like together! Hopefully this will be another new tradition that we do every 4 or 5 years.
Thank you to our amazing Choral Parents Association who are jumping in to help with details for the alumni event in addition to all they normally do chairing fundraisers, organizing the madrigal dinner and cabaret night. We have a great support system to make our students shine. Looking forward to reporting back next month after several of these performances have happened!
Happy Fall/October everyone.
2014-15 Handbook Welcome Letter
Welcome back to the 2014-15 school year! For those new to our choirs at the high school, I hope you enjoy the class, learn a lot, and take advantage of all the opportunities this year. Returning members, this year will be different in terms of preparation for performances. Instead of focusing on one big trip, we have several performance opportunities that we’ll experience together. Here is a quick summary of what you’ll see in the coming months, and outlined on the pages to follow:
Alumni Choir – October 4
This is the first-ever attempt to bring back people who have gone through the North Hills High School program, dating back to 1956. We have a nice group that has registered, and they will join with the NH Singers to create a festival choir that will put on a concert after just one 4-hour rehearsal together! Retired director Miss Valliant and I have put together a program of selections that were taken from suggestions by the alumni, and they represent the various decades of the NH Choir. Even if you’re not singing in the concert, you should attend and see why so many people still (even after as many as 60 years) have such a sense of pride in their North Hills music background.
Carmina Burana – twice in October!
The Symphonic Choir will be tackling 4 movements from the extremely well-known choral work by Carl Orff, Carmina Burana. We will perform these selections in 2 very different ways – first, with our very own Wind Symphony as guest performers on their fall band concert; and as part of the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale’s (PCC) festival the weekend following. The PCC hosts this event each year, and we’ll join with them as well as the McKeesport Area High School choir to sing those same movements with over 200 voices, accompanied by 2 pianos and percussion. The PCC’s director, Dr. Susan Medley, will come and work with us the week before the concert.
Women’s Choral Festival in November
A challenge for this early in the year with our new singers in the Women’s Choir, we’ll prepare 15 minutes of music to present at the ACDA-PA Women’s Choral Festival held at the church where I’m Minister of Music in Edgewood. Several other high school groups will perform, as well as Pitt, Duquesne, and probably a few others. It will be a wonderful learning experience to see and hear other groups.
River City Brass for the Holidays
We’ll bring all 140 of you together to sing some holiday favorites with the River City Brass Band at Carson Middle School. It’s been at least 5 years since NH collaborated with River City, and it’s a great chance to have a semi-professional instrumental group to work with. Music Director James Gourlay will come and work with us to prepare for the concert. I believe the Carson Middle School Chamber Singers are also joining us on that concert.
Chamber Choir Invitational
Three years ago, the North Hills Singers traveled to Pine-Richland and Fox Chapel Area High Schools to participate in their chamber choir invitationals, where their performances were judged by local college professors. We’re going to host an event just like it in April. Still waiting to hear back from other schools as to who will participate, but this will be a chance for the NH Singers to hear what other select/auditioned ensembles sound like at other schools.
Hershey – Music in the Parks
I hope that each one of you will be able to join us on the “trip” for this year – an overnight to Hershey. It would be great to have the full Symphonic & Women’s Choirs, and the NH Singers to compete as we did 2 years ago at Kings Island. Since Arts Alive is the night before, we’ll leave early Saturday morning, perform, change into park clothes, and spend the day at Hershey Park until close, stay overnight in a hotel, and travel home after breakfast. I didn’t want to cut your park time short, so this little weekend trip seemed like the perfect solution. And it shouldn’t be more than about $200/person…WAY cheaper than the $850 for Disney!
Lots of planning goes into making a full year like this. Please carefully write down all of the important dates at the end of this handbook and make every effort to attend scheduled practices and performances. I’m very excited about how these opportunities will help us to grow as musicians and as a group. Have a great year!
What a year!
We are one week away from the spring concert and senior recognition that ends our year together...and what a year it has been! I decided to put a thank-you and sort of "year in review" in the program this time just because we've had such an amazing time together. Here is what you will find in the program next Wednesday:
Thank You for an Amazing Year!
This has been an incredible year for the choir. We collaborated with the Slippery Rock University music department in November, the North Hills Singers performed all over the community in December, we held successful Madrigal Dinner and Cabaret Night fundraisers by the Choral Parents Association, all in addition to our regular curricular concerts. And, of course…there was the Disney trip!
The hard work in planning, music preparation, and fundraising was well worth it for an experience of a lifetime. A special thank you needs to go out to those involved in the planning and execution of the trip:
This particular group of seniors is very special to me. They moved to the high school with me from 9th to 10th grade. Even though there was a year that I didn't have them in class (since 9th graders have been in the high school choir classes for many years even before we became a 9-12 building), many were still in the jr. high concert choir or musical with me, and so several of them I had the privilege of working with from 7th-12th grades. And there are a couple from West View that I've had off and on since they were in 2nd grade!
I'm so proud of them for the leadership they exhibited this year in the classroom and especially when out in the community or on the trip. We have a lot to be thankful for at North Hills, and I'm honored to have been a part of their musical experience these past several years. The juniors have some big shoes to fill next year, but I know they're up for the challenge!
Thank you to all for an amazing year. Best of luck to our graduating seniors as they move on to the next part of their lives. And to everyone else: have a great summer and I look forward to another fantastic year of singing together in the fall. Lots of great things planned to continue our motto of "pride, tradition, and excellence" in music at North Hills!