internship

Katie McKinnon – Apprentice Conductor 2018/19

Katie was our apprentice conductor for 2018/2019. It was so nice to have her in the LVM community; she has a big personality and puts a lot of herself into the music she conducts. When she left she wrote us a letter highlighting her favourite parts of the year which you can read below. It was an absolute pleasure to have her on board and we wish her all the best in the future!

Dear Leeds Vocal Movement, 

I want to let you know how much I appreciated the opportunity to be your apprentice conductor last year through this wee blog post, and let you know some of my favourite things about LVM.

My favourite musical moment in LVM was conducting Northern Lights by Ola Gjello in the Christmas Concert 2018. I never saw myself as a “classical” conductor because most of my conducting experience before LVM was with popular, music theatre or a capella music. However when Caitlin asked me to choose which pieces I would like to conduct for the Christmas concert I was drawn to Northern Lights. The piece was inspired by Aurora Borealis (the northern lights) and is performed in Norwegian. Conducting this piece was difficult in terms of my conducting technique, there are several time signature changes and pauses and lots of dynamics, but by working with Caitlin in individual lessons and the choir member’s excellent musicality we pulled it off magnificently. I had lots of wonderful feedback from audience members. Northern Lights sounds like winter without sounding like Christmas and I appreciated the contrast with the other piece I conducted – Let it Snow – which sounds wonderfully like roast reindeer with a side of mistletoe. 

One of the biggest highlights of being a member of Leeds Vocal Movement is the social side – I was greeted with open arms by LVM and have made life-long friends (they helped me discover ale – I’m now a big fan). There are so many interesting people to meet out there, and us millennials can feel lonely and find it difficult to meet new people and make friends, but with LVM everyone is accepted and has a place. For example: I broke my ankle in January and only missed two rehearsals because choir members helped me get in and around Leeds in my wheelchair/crutches (big shout out to Dan – you are so kind and I miss our car chats! #folkislife). 

I was sad to leave LVM this year because of all the connections I had made and how much my artistry had grown and blossomed, but I got a dream job, so I moved to Essex. I am now the Learning and Participation Coordinator for a large concert hall called Saffron Hall. We have so many interesting musicians that visit, including Britten Sinfonia, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Sixteen just to name a few.  LVM set me in good stead for full-time work, through things like: regular meetings with Rosa, having to manage my own schedule, a formal but friendly application and interview process, and learning to communicate with lots of different people. I really enjoyed my time with LVM and learning new skills from Caitlin and although I’m not conducting at the moment, I am still singing, I have a job that I love, and I’m pretty proud of myself. 

Thanks for the laughs, miss you all.

Katie XOXO

joining the choir, SATB choir, Uncategorized

All About That Bass: Life in LVM by Alex White

Having previously sung in a choir and barbershop during my school years, it wasn’t until after university that I decided to pick up singing again. After a quick ‘google search’ for choirs in Leeds I found Leeds Vocal Movement and decided to inquire and maybe give it a shot.

Rosa was very welcoming and after one rehearsal I was hooked! And after sticking with it, to this day we have covered multiple genres and emotive music led by our very enthusiastic conductor Caitlin.

Leeds Vocal Movement singing led by Caitlin

Personally I think it is great to do some midweek singing and get rid of the stresses of the day. I always feel more refreshed the next day. It runs like any society would at university with multiple socials throughout the year and the pub after rehearsal. Can safely say it is worth it!

choir social

Choir Trip to Tropical World, Roundhay Park

Recently we had one of our summer socials at Roundhay Park and Tropical World. The day after the Ed Sheeran concert, thank god.

Luckily, the weather stayed sunny and we had a great time at Tropical World, some of us reliving our childhood.

Choir manager and alto Rosa looking lovely amongst the leaves!
Treasurer and tenor Sally becoming one with nature!

The meerkats were dozing in the sand looking as cute as always, must have had full stomachs.

Walking around Roundhay Park seeing the aftermath of the concert, we were still able to enjoy the scenery (if you looked the other way) and walk round the lake with a spot of lunch at the lake side cafe.

Not long to go until our voices all fire up again !

We think this fish was getting ready to sing!
internship, joining the choir, SATB choir

More Than Just Accompanying by Sylvia Jen

As a pianist, I have accompanied soloists, ballets, musicals, and various kinds of ensembles, but never an adult’s choir, only children’s or youth choirs. I was finally given the chance to accompany an adult’s choir when I was appointed the accompanist intern to Leeds Vocal Movement. And what a journey it has been!

I learnt many things during my time with the choir. The first major thing is seeing the Kodaly method in action, which Caitlin (our amazing choir conductor) uses to hone the skills of the choir to help them pitch and tune more accurately as a group. It works wonders as the choir became better at keeping in tune without the aid of the piano as the year went on. I knew about the Kodaly method and the Solfege system, but have never used it to learn or teach music. Working with LVM has opened my eyes to the benefits of the system, and I’ve started to apply some of Caitlin’s techniques in my own teaching (I teach piano to kids). Caitlin has been keen to offer advice as well which just goes to show the open sharing culture of this friendly choir community.

Secondly, I got better at sight-reading, particularly four-part and sometimes six-part choral music! Even though this is an unauditioned choir, the quality of singing and complexity of music is not lacking. Certainly, not all the music that we sing is highly complex, as we learn pieces from all kinds of genres. However, I did find that I was playing more complex music than I had done for youth choirs, which really pushed my boundaries and I’m grateful for the challenge.

Lastly, I learnt about all sorts of things that are non-music related as the choir members come from various backgrounds, some are musically trained, though most are not. This makes for really vibrant and interesting conversations, which one can always find at the weekly pub gatherings after choir rehearsals.

I love that this choir isn’t just about singing and performing choral music (and me accompanying that), but it’s a community of like-minded people that come together to learn, socialise, and enjoy music-making, and I’m so proud to be a part of that!

Gallery, Workshops

09/03/2019 ~ Leeds Vocal Movement Workshop: The Role of the Conductor with Katy Cooper

Big shout out to our photographer Sarah Brabbin for helping us look wonderful. Check her out here! www.sarahbrabbin.co.uk

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Term Dates

  • Wednesday 4th September 2019 – 14th December 2019 : Autumn Term
  • Wednesday 8th January 2020- Wednesday 1st July 2020: Summer Term

Upcoming Performances

This year for the first time we have the excellent opportunity of performing in concert with Phoenix Concert Band!  Leeds Vocal Movement and Phoenix Concert Band have teamed up to deliver an unforgettable evening of music. We’ll be performing pieces from the likes of John Williams, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Game of Thrones (and more!) and having a fantastic time while we’re at it. We hope to see you there!

Tickets may be bought in advance from Eventbrite or at the door on the day.
Ticket prices are as follows:
Adults (16+) : £8
Concession : £5
Under 16 : Free

  • Saturday 14th December 2019 – Leeds Vocal Movement Christmas Concert

Join us for our Christmas concert!
(All choir members must attend the pre-concert rehearsal at 3pm)

Details to be confirmed.

  • Saturday 27th June 2020 – Leeds Vocal Movement’s Summer Concert

Join us for our Christmas concert!
(All choir members must attend the pre-concert rehearsal at 3pm)

Details to be confirmed.

choir venue

New Term, New Us

It’s a new year in the world of Leeds Vocal Movement, and we’ve had a busy first couple of months. Our membership has grown, we’ve already performed once in the wonderful Left Bank choir festival, and we’ve moved to a new rehearsal venue, which is also going to be our home for our upcoming Christmas Concert on December 15th.

We are now based in the amazing St John the Evangelist church, in the heart of Leeds city centre. Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it though – it is tucked away behind the St John’s Centre (which takes its name from the church) and surrounded by a quiet churchyard which is a haven for those in the know.

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Inside St John’s (photo courtesy of LeedsInspired)

St John’s is a venue owned and managed by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), a charity which works to protect historic church buildings nationwide. They preserve spaces like St John’s and allow them to continue forming a part of the community, by being used for all kinds of diverse activity – including our choir rehearsals! We have loved rehearsing in St John’s over last few months, and in the new year we are planning a concert in aid of the CCT, to support the work they do for our historic buildings.

The oldest church in the city centre, St John’s is a spectacular building now hidden behind the urban landscape of Leeds. Step inside though, and you are greeted with a genuinely surprising interior. It has a Jacobean carved wooden screen and fittings, including wall panels, pews, and pulpit. Our regular rehearsal space is behind the screen, though we will be in front of it during our concert.

We’re proud to work with the CCT in such a great venue, and we’re excited to share it with you as well! Tickets for our concert are available now, so we look forward to seeing you there!

Uncategorized

Musings of a Conductor’s Apprentice by Gregory Moor

I have never considered myself to be a singer, but have always enjoyed performing and being involved in music in any way I can. My first instrument is the flute, which I took to grade 8, but I’ve always felt it to be a solo instrument so I then moved to the trumpet. I took this as far as grade 3 and officially stopped lessons as a result of family circumstances, but I loved how loud the trumpet was compared to the flute. It was also my way in to the local concert bands and ignited my passion for community. I studied music at university and there I picked up the French horn. I was always eager to be involved in bands and orchestras, so when the opportunity came to start conducting I couldn’t wait! I became conductor of the Leeds University Union Music Society (LUUMS) Concert Band and studied conducting under the guidance of Eduardo Portal.

After graduating, conducting opportunities came few and far between, so when I saw the advert to conduct Leeds Vocal Movement I got an application in as soon as I could. Looking into them, they appeared to have a great community built around singing in a relaxed environment which really appealed to me. I found out after the audition that I wasn’t going to be leading the choir and that was fine by me, I’ve never considered myself to be a singer after all. Months later, I got a call asking if I wanted to try a new role for LVM as apprentice conductor.

When I first arrived, the role was very much in its infancy. There were ideas for how the role would look, but as I was to be the first to fill the role I got to find out what worked and similarly what didn’t. Since I’d never had much experience with singing, I wasn’t particularly comfortable warming up voices, so I was very glad to have more of a back seat and learn techniques from Caitlin in more of a participatory manner. The Kodaly method Caitlin uses to warm LVM up is perfect as it encourages the singers to learn the fundamentals of music theory practically. The effects of this were really noticeable when taking sectionals since it took much less time to learn new pieces towards the end of the year.

It has been a wonderful experience working with LVM and I feel I’ve really learnt a lot about rehearsing singers and a choir efficiently and effectively, and I’m glad to have learnt this in such an encouraging environment too! I got to conduct a few performances in the last concert, but I would say the most enjoyable and most rewarding part of the role was seeing the choir grow musically – it’s really encouraging as a conductor to see the musicians grow in confidence and musicianship together. It’s really helped my musicianship personally, and most importantly I now consider myself to be a singer. I am sad to be leaving this position, but strongly believe the choir is going from strength to strength.

Uncategorized

Vacancy – Piano Accompanist

Looking for choral accompaniment experience with a established and expanding local choir? Look no further – Leeds Vocal Movement is recruiting!

We are currently accepting applications for a Piano Accompanist. This is now a paid position for a budding professional pianist, to join us from September 2018 to July 2019.

We are looking for a well-organised musician with a keen focus on improving their accompanying skills and willingness to commit to the development of the choir. LVM’s mission is to improve musical education and create community through choral singing, and we need an accompanist who can internalise and apply those values in the role.

To find out more about LVM’s aims and operations, please visit our ‘About Us’ page. 

The candidate must be a University of Leeds student with Grade 8 Piano, preferably a first-study pianist.

To apply for the position, please download our application pack.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Tuesday 21st August 2018.

Interviews will be held on Thursday 30th August 2018.

If you have any questions about about the choir or the position, please contact Caitlin (Musical Director) or Rosa (Choir Manager) via email: leedsvocalmovement@gmail.com

Librarian's corner, Uncategorized

Librarian’s Corner: Shenandoah

About Librarian’s Corner:

Leeds Vocal Movement loves to sing music from a wide range of genres, and my aim is to better understand what we are singing. This blog adds some context and analysis to the notes on the page, for the benefit of members and listeners alike!

Shenandoah – traditional (arr. James Erb)

Shenandoah is widely regarded as one of America’s most popular and well-recognised folk songs.[1] Folk songs are known to be fluid in origin and meaning, and this one is no different; however, where its lyrics and melody have shifted, its connotations of heartache for a person or place have remained a staple of its character.

Shenandoah’s roots

The first mention of Shenandoah was said to be in the early 1800s. Some scholars have suggested that the song originally referred to the life of legendary mountaineer and trapper Jim Bridger, while others have traced its roots back to slave workers, akin to African spirituals.[2] However, it is most widely accepted that the song came from the American and Canadian fur traders; the Canadian fur traders, known as voyeurs, were well known for their singing, and songs such as Shenandoah floated down trade routes like the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The song was eventually picked up by other boatmen and sailors throughout the 19th century, and became a sea shanty sung across the world.[3]

Although many attribute Shenandoah to a place or river, is widely regarded that the song’s title originally referred to the Oneida chief, John Shenandoah. Shenandoah was well celebrated in American history; he co-founded what is now known as Hamilton College in New York, and supported the colonials in the Seven Years War and American Revolutionary War.[4] In addition, he is said to be the namesake of the Shenandoah River and Valley in West Virginia.[5]

A song of longing

As is traditional for folk songs, Shenandoah has many different versions of its lyrics; earlier versions of the song depict the singer as a boatman, who is in love with Shenandoah’s daughter, Sally:

“O, Shenandoah, I love your daughter,

Away you rolling river.

I’ll take her ‘cross yon rolling water.”

Ah-ha, I’m bound away, ‘Cross the wide Missouri.[6]

However, more recent versions of the song, including James Erb’s arrangement, have removed the love story from the lyrics. Without this romantic narrative, the singer seems to direct their focus simply towards ‘Shenandoah’:

Oh Shenandoah,

I long to see you,

Away you rolling river.

Oh Shenandoah,

I long to see you,

Away, I’m bound away

‘Cross the wide Missouri.[7]

As Shenandoah is more commonly known as a place than a person, many have interpreted the lyrics to be yearning for the Shenandoah River or Valley, or used it as a metaphor for a familiar place. David Cheal notes that, while object of yearning open to interpretation, the idea of missing that object is still prevalent:

“Some versions…seem to be more about longing for a place than for a person. It’s a leaving song.”[8]

Erb’s rolling river

There are many choral arrangements of Shenandoah, but James Erb’s arrangement stands out as an homage to the boatmen that sang it, and the rivers that carried it. This is evident from the piece’s first two verses; the first verse is sung with the upper voices, and the second with the lower voices. The distance between these ranges mirrors the distance between the singer and the object of their longing, unable to bridge the gap between them.

Erb’s use of harmony and texture reflects the idea of hearing a song echoing down a river; the piece starts with the melody in unison and doesn’t introduce harmony until the third verse. It then ends with a gradual diminuendo, as each voice part eventually lands on the same sustained note. The slowly growing and thinning harmony imitates the way in which a listener would hear the song, drifting in and out of earshot as it passes them.

The texture in the middle verses seem to portray the movement of the river itself. The top melody floats above the steady harmonies in the lower parts, and later the three higher vocal parts sing the melody and harmony with staggered entrances. Together with the arching motifs and suspensions in the melody, the rippling waves of the “rolling river” can be distinctly heard in the piece, rising and breaking above the strong undercurrent of the sustained notes in the lower voices.

With these aspects in mind, the detail in the structure and dynamics of Erb’s arrangement can be interpreted to reflect the setting in which the song was first popularised: a bittersweet melody floating gently down a river.

Shenandoah today

Shenandoah has been a popular American folksong from the late 19th century, particularly as a favourite in public schools.[9]  The earliest recordings date back to the 1930s by singers such as Paul Robeson, and later sung by folk artists including Bob Dylan, The Corries and Jayne Stone. Shenandoah has also exceeded its folk genre, through numerous performances and recordings by singers such as Bing Crosby, Hayley Westenra and Keith Richards.[10]

The piece is also a choir favourite, with many choral versions of Shenandoah sung on an international scale. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir[11] and Voces8[12] are among the most recent choirs to record the folksong, continuing to immortalise its somewhat haunting melody in a range of different arrangements. However its origins and lyrics are interpreted, Shenandoah is sure to remain a beloved part of American folk music for generations to come.

Written by Rosa Stevens – Choir Manager and Librarian

Reference list

[1] https://www.loc.gov/creativity/hampson/about_shenandoah.html

[2] Cheal, David. 2017. ‘Shenandoah — a song steeped in history and mystery’. Financial Times. Available here.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Shenandoah

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skenandoa

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skenandoa

[6] Ships, Sea Songs and Shanties. Collected by W. B. Whall, Master Mariner. First Edition 1910, Glasgow; Third Edition, 1913. Available here.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Shenandoah#cite_note-whall-1

[8] Cheal, 2017.

[9]W. B. Whall, 1913.

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Shenandoah

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GtwNJf3EK4

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8xbY9Iyxpo

Feature image source: https://bit.ly/2l2DXtl