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Three Rivers Chorus

News and Notes

News and Notes

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Three Rivers Chorus Awarded Second Grant

Posted by DecisionMaker on July 12, 2012 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Three Rivers Chorus has been awarded a grant from the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Stewardship Council. The grant will fund the creation of a multimedia performance that integrates Gyneth Walker's River Songs, scientific and historical information about the Sudbury/Assabet/Concord rivers watershed, and works of regional poets and artists. The performance will run roughly 50 minutes, and will provide a window into the life of the watershed. A video of the performance will be made and posted on several websites.

It's All About the Singing

Posted by DecisionMaker on June 13, 2012 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

We had a great rehearsal this past Monday.  It brought me back to the heart of how and why I do this.


When I work with a group, I try to:

+ Emphasize the singing body, with solid training in vocal technique based on physics and physiology.

+ Ground teaching in images which spark the imagination and engage singers of divergent skills and experience.

+ Make meaningful connections between the music we sing and the lives we live, giving more energy to both.

+ Design and pace rehearsal to keep everyone alert, focused, and enjoying themselves and one another.


At root, I believe that the meaning and value of singing travel far beyond singing itself. In some fundamental way, singing echoes the reality that as human beings we survive and thrive only insofar as we are embedded in the complex web of mutually dependent and enriching relationships that is Life. Singing has the power to express our deepest selves. At the same time, singing calls us beyond ourselves as we give voice to the magnificent diversity of human experience. Singing enlivens our consciousness, builds community, shifts perspective, deepens our understanding, moves our hearts, changes our minds, alters our behaviors, transforms our lives as individuals and as a society.

Grass-winged Dragon

Posted by DecisionMaker on February 8, 2012 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (1)

This beautiful poem was written by Ron McAdow, chorus fan and lover of the Three Rivers. He was thinking of the Sudbury river as he wrote. We are searching for a composer to create a musical setting of this text for the chorus.

Grass-winged Dragon


As morning loses its final star

she raises her head from the river bed

she opens her mind to the sky.


Otters spiral around her slender neck

over her smooth blue back

turtles watch them race by.


In the rising sun she shakes out her plumes

when she flies

they will shimmer and whisper with air.


She tests the muscles of her many-acred wings

the meadows quiver like green silk

blackbirds flutter and call.


She exhales a chorus of bird song

lofting mayflies into the breeze

soothing the heart of an anxious wren.


To visit her mothers, the clouds,

skirted by swallows, she rises

skirted by swallows, violet and white. 


A singer reflects on the Three Rivers experience

Posted by DecisionMaker on January 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (2)

From alto Chris Roberts —


What do you value in singing with this chorus?  I am enjoying the mixed voices of men and women, young and mature!  This chorus has a unique energy with its newness; Ellen's experience lends a seasoned feel. I've sung under Ellen's direction in the past, and it is good to be back.


In what ways is singing with this chorus unique?  What makes this chorus unique? The birth and growth of TRC is its uniqueness coupled with being based in the Metrowest region rather than in Boston.  We are small and mighty!  We are committed and proud!


How is your life beyond singing different because you sing with this group?  Music resonates in my head after rehearsals start it flowing. I know my body is absorbing the music when it begins to spontaneously come to me in everyday moments. The community of people is sweet and sure. We have a common goal to show up and do our best.



River Revels???

Posted by DecisionMaker on January 13, 2012 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (3)

I recently attended the winter performance of Boston Revels.  It was spectacular as usual.  In reflecting on the experience, I began to wonder whether creating a revels-like event might be a great way to extend the outreach of Three Rivers Chorus into our watershed communities.  An inter-generational fun and exciting event for performers and audiences.

Learning New Music

Posted by DecisionMaker on January 13, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Elizabeth recently asked me about how to approach practicing tough passages.  I thought this might be of interest to you all.

I do it in two main ways.

First, "horizontal".  To find my first note of each phrase, I look back to the last note i sang; and to all other parts (vocal and instrumental) in the beats and measures before i come in, and see how my entrance notes relate to each of these.  For the rest of the phrase, I measure (and often label in my music) each interval; then I drill the intervals without rhythm.  This does require some knowledge of names and sounds of all intervals.

Second, "vertical".  I analyze each chord created by the parts singing together, and I figure out what role my note plays in the chord. For instance, is my note the root, the third, the suspended fourth?  What inversion is this chord?  How does it relate to the chords before and after it?  What key modulations are generating any accidentals in my part?  This really helps tuning and the soidity of the whole fabric of the phrase.  It requires knowing a fair amount of music theory; and having the trained ear facility to hear the chords sounding in one's head before they are sung out loud.  Perhaps we should consult with Ken on creating some kind of structure for chorus singers to bone up on these skills.  It would make all our music learning go much faster.

I try to resist the temptation to play an interval on a keyboard before I have tried to hear it in my head and sing it on my own.  I sing the interval myself.  I play the interval.  If I was right, yahoo!  If I was wrong, I figure out in exactly what way I was wrong - - too low, too high, by how much, what was I thinking, how can I think of this interval in this context to get it right next time?  In the short term, this takes significant extra energy and time.  In the long term, it thrusts my sight-reading skill into mach speed.  This is the push-ups of body-building for intelligent singing.

To learn rhythms, I begin with the meter of the passage, and practice the basic structural rhythm until it is solid and steady in my body, so that it will keep going in my body underneath whatever rhythm I am singing.  This is crtical for accurate performance of particular rhythms; and, just as important, for being able to get back on track when I screw up a particular passage.  Then I analyze the math of the particular rhythm I want to master.  If it is tricky with dotted rhythms, 3 against 2, syncopation, funny placement of rests, or something else, I will draw diagrams of it to get it clear in my head.  Then I get out my metronome and practice rhythm alone, starting slow, getting faster and faster until it is up to tempo.

Then I put rhythm and pitch together; when that is solid, I add text.  In many pieces, i can do all the above instantly.  In tough passages, i break it down into as many steps as i need to master one element at a time; then I gradually put the pieces back together.

I don't try to sing phrases at tempo with full voice until I have a clear aural image of them in my head.  Without that, my breath and body will not commit; diction, pitch, and rhythm go sloppy and wonky; and that makes it even harder to figure out what is going on.

Happy practicing.


It Is At Moments

Posted by Ellen Oak on December 2, 2011 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On the eve of our December concert, I am thinking about moments in time . . .

It is at moments.

Our lives are made of moments—millions of moments in time, terabytes of sensory information recorded and processed.  Our consciousness connects these disparate instants into a continuous flow of meaning, of memory and hope.  By investing our awareness in each present moment, we fill our lives with richness, satisfaction, peace, and joy; we become fully alive.

Musical scores, as they exist on the printed page, or in someone's mind, are roadmaps.  Our life experience and current state of sonsciousness are our tools for navigation and interpretation.  Singing is the way we travel.  Each piece of ,usic leads us to a unique landscape of perception and meaning.  The mysterious presence of what is created by the free and full collaboration of musicians and audience in each moment of performance is the destination.

We are in this together.  The specific manifestation of the music we will make tomorrow night is shaped equally by our performing and the audience's hearing.  Together, their energy and attention, and ours will make the evening one of unique and irreplaceable beauty.

This program is built on musical moments, with bold juxtapositions of artistic style and emotional mood.  It pushes the reality of ow we all livemoment by moment to the foreground.  Will the audience find the juxtapositions surprising?  Jarring?  Revelatory?  I want to invite them to notice how we all fill in the spaces—the cracks and chasms—between the pieces with comparisons, associations, and the content of our own lives, and so make meaning of the concert experience as a whole.

Most of all, I hope we all relax, enter into this amazing music, and enjoy.

Three Rivers Chorus Awarded Grant

Posted by DecisionMaker on October 16, 2011 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (1)

The chorus is honored to be awarded a grant from the National Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council.  The grant will make possible a performance of Gwyneth Walker's River Suite.  The performance will be part of an event co-sponsored by the National Park Service, the Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council, the Sudbury Valley Trustees, and the Organization for the Assabet, Sudbury, and Concord Rivers.  The performance will include a presentation on the hisotry of our rivers and the watershed; and paintings and photographs of the rivers by area artists.

We are thrilled, and look forward to collaborating with these organizations as we bring the arts together with aspects of our environment and our lives which affect us all.

Some Thoughts about Auditions

Posted by DecisionMaker on February 9, 2011 at 3:34 PM Comments comments (0)

I am looking for singers who have a strong desire to grow continually as vocal artists.  Where they are is not as important to me as where they are heading.


Three Rivers Chorus is for singers  who are beginning from a place of solid choral strength, and want to sing intently, push through their comfort zone, work hard, constantly improve their skills, acquire new perspectives on music, singing, and the word, and transform their singing, themselves, and their communities.  It is a chorus on the move.  A river running.


For those who put themselves out there to audition, and are received into the group, I can promise laughter, surprise, joy, and deep satisfaction in our making music together.

New Chorus Founded on Artistic Excellence and Community Strength

Posted by DecisionMaker on January 14, 2011 at 4:03 PM Comments comments (0)

Arts Boston's website has picked up announcement of Three Rivers Chorus being formed. Read more


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