Thursday, October 30, 2014

Update on Barron Collier High School Choir Concert

Late last evening (MST) an update on the cancellation of the Barron Collier High School choir concert was published on the web.  See previous post.

Apparently, the concert was graded and mandatory and was to be held in a local church due to the great acoustics there.  It sounds like it has been a tradition to hold choir concerts in that particular venue for years.

Also, the administration is claiming that the choir teacher failed to submit the required paperwork until just days before the concert, but a parent stated "he turned in his paperwork at the beginning of the year."

The kids wanted to go ahead with the concert as a community event rather than affiliate it with the high school, but the choir teacher reluctantly advised against it.

Howard Simon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida said, "I've been an ACLU director for 40 years, I’m the longest serving ACLU director in the country. But I have to say I don’t remember the last time an issue came up that involved a public school using a church for a school sponsored activity — I thought that issue had been put to rest.”

That statement directly contradicts this same issue happening last year in Montana.  Compare the reasoned response by the school district in Montana to the response of the district in Florida.  

Montana: The ACLU sent a letter to the principals of the three schools Tuesday asking them to reconsider their decision. “We are concerned that public school students will be performing at a place of worship as part of an event that is expressly religious in nature,”

Daniel Zorn, assistant superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools, disagrees and has no qualms about letting the high school choirs perform on Thursday. “We feel the schools’ participation is well within the parameters outlined by Montana law and Supreme Court ruling,” Zorn said. “As we look at all of this, we see this as an opportunity for our kids to perform in a community venue.”

Florida: ACLU advised it was considering legal action to halt the May event (this all began during the previous school year) from proceeding at the Moorings Presbyterian Church venue. As a part of our support, the District did a careful review of both the propriety of the performance literature content as well as the venue issue. Nevertheless, we concluded that a search for alternative venues providing a multi-site balance was appropriate moving forward.

As always, it's the students who are the losers in this battle and ultimately that is the saddest part of this entire s#$tstorm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Is the ACLU Targeting School Choirs?

Are school choirs now becoming the target of the American Civil Liberties Union because of where they choose to perform concerts?

Last Christmas, three public high schools in Montana came under fire by the ACLU because they joined together at a church to perform "uplifting performances of Christmas music."   The principal and school board ultimately allowed the event stating that they believed the performance was well within Montana law and Supreme Court rulings.

This year, ACLU has targeted a different school in Florida, USA, the Barron Collier High School choir. Again, they are protesting about public school choirs singing in a church.

This is a breaking story and I don't have all the particulars here but from what I understand, none of the students are being forced to participate.  This concert is entirely optional but is one that the students look forward to each year.

As I was researching this issue today, I came across a letter to the editor of the Deseret News (Utah) from 1993 where this same issue had raised its ugly head.

I'm not going to get on my soapbox here about separation of church and state and what I think it means and doesn't mean, BUT good grief, Charlie Brown, this is what 90% of choral music is all about!

Here in Salt Lake City, most high school choirs give their major holiday concerts in the school auditorium and it is required for a grade.  Then, they have optional, FUN, performances in other venues such as nursing homes, malls, and yes, CHURCHES.

Here's a Facebook link to the Barron Collier High School choir page in support of their Christmas concerts. If you feel as strongly as I do about this issue, click the link, like their FB page, and support their efforts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

More on the ACDA Conference 2015

When visiting a new city, whether for a conference or a vacation, I always want to know about accommodations and fun or unusual things to do.  This post is devoted to where to stay for the the ACDA Conference in February 2015.

I'm aware that most of the choirs have already lined up their hotels, etc. but if you are coming to the conference by yourself you will probably want to stay near the Salt Palace Convention Center where all the action will be!

 The Salt Palace is located smack dab in the middle of downtown Salt Lake at 100 SW Temple.  If you walk about one block north you'll arrive at Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony. Continue walking north, cross the street, and you'll find yourself on historic Temple Square.

There are several hotels that are within easy walking distance of each of these sites.  Just remember, however, that a block in Salt Lake City is not the same as a block in New York City.  Salt Lake City blocks are about twice as big!

The Hotel Monaco is right downtown to give you the best access to everything. An easy TRAX ride from the Salt Lake City Airport will have you there in 20 minutes. (TRAX  is Utah's light rail system). The hotel is less than two blocks from the Convention Center. My daughters and I booked a staycation at the Hotel Monaco a few years ago when U2's 360 tour was here and we loved this hotel.  It was renovated from an historic building and has an old world elegance that makes you feel as if you're in London or Paris. Prices start at about $149 a night but you can get a better deal on the web if you look around at sites like Priceline.

The downtown Marriott Hotel is another 4 star and more reasonably priced.  Single rooms start at about $119 a night.  It's definitely a modern and sleek hotel with all the amenities and it's also only a couple of blocks from the Salt Palace.  There are several Marriott hotels in Salt Lake so if you book, be sure to book the one at 75 SW Temple to be close to the action!

The Radisson Hotel is about three blocks from the Salt Palace at 215 West S Temple so it's a little farther away.  Room rates start at about $129 per night.

There are many more hotels, but these three are within walking distance of the convention center.  Here's a link to many other choices.  Just remember that Salt Lake City can be cold and snowy in February and unless you book a rental car, you'll probably want to stay pretty close to the convention center.  And remember the warning about our blocks being much bigger than those back east!

All Saints Day

Next Sunday is All Saints Day and also the change for Daylight Savings Time.  An extra hour of sleep!

The Faure Requiem will be performed at St. Paul's Episcopal Church beginning at 4:00 p.m.  This is part of the All Saints Day service.  All the names of the saints and the members of the congregation who have passed away from day 1 AD will be read.  There will be incense, cough, cough.  It's a long service but the requiem is lovely so please come if you are in the area.

St. Paul's is located at 291 S. 900 E. in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Protect the Choir!

We had a productive dress rehearsal today with the chamber orchestra for the Faure Requiem.  My seat is right behind the french horn (of course).  Luckily the dynamics of the Faure are such that the horn is only loud a couple of times during the entire piece, but those two ears are still ringing!

Our director has decided that this year we're going to process in and out.  He was reminding the strings that our path will take us right between the violins and the violas and cello and to be careful with their bows. Protect the choir at all costs!

I'll post details of the concert again later in the week.

Friday, October 24, 2014

2015 ACDA Conference

The American Choral Directors Association annual conference is being held in Salt Lake City in 2015! So many choirs will be performing!  There will also be a master class in conducting, a student conducting competition, a student composition competition (try saying that three times as fast as you can), and a research poster session, plus many more events.  The dates are February 25th through the 28th and you can register by clicking here.

Salt Lake City has so many wonderful attractions besides the convention. The skiing should be great in February and its just a short ride up three different canyons to some of the best powder in the world.

Lots of fabulous restaurants, museums, and of course, the Mormon temple square which is quite a sight to see.

On Thursday evenings you can join the Tabernacle Choir and listen to their weekly rehearsal.

You can also sit in on free organ concerts at the breathtaking Cathedral of the Madeline.

Hear the world famous Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall (where I once had the privilege of calling the lighting for a concert)!

And there is so much more.  Don't miss the chance to see our lovely city while attending this terrific conference.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rehearsal Blessing

Missing one rehearsal may not seem like a big deal, especially if the music if familiar, but it is.  Not only do you miss the obvious, you also miss the camaraderie, the "singer high", and that wonderful warm feeling of contentment on the way home.

So I missed a lot last Monday and Tuesday nights.  In Jubilate, we used to end each rehearsal with the song, "Go Ye Now in Peace" by Joyce Eilers.  We must have sung that song for at least five years and it was the highlight of each week for me.  What a wonderful way to send us on our way back out into the world.  I'm not sure why we stopped singing it.  Maybe our director just got tired of it, but I never did.

I'm not a real religious person, but if you sing choral music, you have to have at least a spiritual component to your personality and mine is pretty strong.  Choral music began in the church and much of the repertoire is devoted to spiritual and religious themes.  "Go Ye Now in Peace" always left me feeling like someone was indeed watching over and protecting us all.

This season our director brought out Rutter's "Gaelic Blessing" and it feels much the same.  Maybe it will become our rehearsal ending and blessing for awhile.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Great Green Gobs

So, I missed Jubilate and Schola rehearsals this week and I missed mass on Sunday.  I'm laying in bed, coughing, blowing my nose, and alternately sleeping and whining. (Or as the English say, whinging.  I like that word, whinging. It just sounds so, well...whingy!)

Someone hand me another tissue!