Showing posts with label Martin Lassman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martin Lassman. Show all posts

Saturday, May 7, 2016

May Day Welcomed in Song with Four-Ensemble Concert at The Music School of Delaware

By Christine Facciolo
The Music School of Delaware’s Spring Choral Concert showcased the talents of four ensembles in an eclectic program at the school’s Wilmington Branch on Sunday, May 1, 2016 featuring music from church, folk and pop/rock traditions.

The Delaware Women's Chorus, led by Music Director Joanne Ward
The concert opened with five selections by Bella Voce, a 10-member choir consisting of students from Grades 2 though 8, under the direction of faculty member Marybeth Miller. If these young singers represent the future of music, we’re in good hands. The group showed its versatility with capable renderings of two Dominican folk songs, three nonsense ditties (Two Tongue Twisters and Antonio) as well as the Harry Belafonte-penned folk song Turn the World Around. Their set concluded with the traditional spiritual Twelve Gates into the City, which spotlighted their individual voices.

Next up was the recently formed Adult Jazz Choir which performs under the direction of Martin Lassman. Their segment opened with a sublime rendering of John Lennon’s In My Life  arguably the best pop song ever written. Sopranos Jackie Slavin and Kayla Holden and Bass Sam Parks offered capable solos. The group showed off its mastery of complex harmonies in a haunting delivery of The Meaning of the Blues, the much-recorded 1957 classic by Bobby Troup and Leah Worth. Soprano Slavin was joined in solo outings by Tenor Dennis Connor and Bass Robert Weiner. Individual members then showed off their improvisatory skills — including some respectable scat singing — in their segment closer Joe’s Place.

We then heard a uniquely organized program by The Delaware Women’s Chorus under the direction of Joanne Ward, chair of the school’s voice department. The group presented three sets of paired songs, each with a different take on a single concept. The first pairing — In Love/Not in Love — featured Arise, My Love and No Thank You, John. Motherhood got a turn with the nostalgic Music In My Mother’s House and Heartstrings, a musical rendering of a poignant conversation a mother has with her teen-aged daughter. Choir member Carolyn Becker provided the cello accompaniment.

The final pairing dealt with empowerment. In Lineage, a musical setting of Margaret Walker’s poem, the narrator compares herself unfavorably to the women of previous generations, while From Dusk to Dawn sings of the strength of Liberian protesting the civil war which engulfed their country until 2003. Soprano Ann Warren soloed.

We were then treated to a performance by Philadelphia-based a cappella group Vocal Motive, who appeared at the invitation of Ward. This 14-member mixed-voice ensemble under the direction of Doug Stuart was founded in 2012 by longtime friends seeking a return to the a cappella singing of their college years. The group is quickly gaining a following in the Philadelphia area with good reason: They love to sing and it shows.

The set the tone immediately with a rousing rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s foot-stomping Down on the Corner and kept the rhythm moving with Jason Mraz’s immensely successful I’m Yours. They showed their softer side with Billy Joel’s hymn-like And So It Goes, became contemplative with Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, and evoked feelings of a distant time period with Barton Hollow/Bottom of the River.

They attempted to close things out with Queen’s gospel-tinged Somebody to Love. I say 'tried' because the audience came to its feet begging an encore which they supplied with a rendition of James Taylor’s poignant The Lonesome Road.

The Delaware Women's Chorus and the Adult Jazz Choir will hold auditions in the coming months for new members, by appointment, at the Music School's Wilmington Branch, located at 4101 Washington Street in Wilmington. Call 302.762.1132 to schedule. 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meet Marty Lassman & the Music School's New Jazz Choirs

The Music School of Delaware Jazz Choir Director, Marty Lassman
This fall, The Music School of Delaware’s faculty member Marty Lassman leads new jazz choirs for both teens and adults. We caught up with him for a sneak peek at what students can expect. For more information on jazz choirs or other classes and lessons at The Music School of Delaware, call 302.762.1132.

Can you tell us the differences between leading a jazz choir versus a traditional choir? Are there different techniques for singers to learn?
Firstly, thanks for these questions! I should realize that what seems obvious to me is sometimes not as intuitive for non-jazzers. Leading a jazz choir has many similarities to leading a traditional choir, except that in the performance, the focus is on the singers not the director/conductor. The ‘European-based’ method of choirs that we have inherited in our country focuses on how the conductor will interpret the written score.

However, the U.S. model is built upon the concept of independence and freedom, so jazz allows the singer/performer to interpret the music based upon their own experiences and level of expertise with the genre. The novice can sing simple riffs and show off the beauty of their voice. The more experienced jazzer can also use scales, licks and sequences to take the listener into unexpected and delightful aural places.

As for the singing techniques, there are differing opinions. But I agree with Dr. Paul Rardin (who now directs choirs at Temple) who is knowledgeable in both traditional and jazz music. He teaches that tone production is the same for both styles with two exceptions. We sing jazz with the soft pallet dropped (unlike classical music) and with vibrato only used in solos and only for a deliberate effect. There are techniques that we all know from pop music – which originated in jazz – that we use, but basic tone production remains the same. Some directors prefer a brighter vocal tone but I do not. I prefer a traditional non-vibrato choir sound so we can sing in tune on ensemble sections.

Can you give us examples of music you plan to include in the choirs' repertoires?
I am waiting to see what our voicing will be before choosing repertoire – we can adapt to anything – but I intend to include newly composed as well as standard pieces. Members can expect to sing in swing style, Latin (e.g., Bossa Nova) and funk. No one needs prior experience. The complexity of the music will be based upon the level of musicianship we have in the ensembles. We may also sing a few standards in unison, which will provide more opportunities for improvisation.

What are the main things that students should know when preparing to audition for the jazz choirs?
I’ll be listening for the ability to sing in tune and rhythmically. Our unisons must be true unisons. I’m also listening for beautiful tone production. I’m not going to be upset if someone sings wrong notes or words, as long as those notes are in tune and on time. I’m not asking for improvisation as a requirement. Most non-jazzers are terrified to improvise. It is not simply ‘singing what you want.’ There are flexible rules and learnable techniques. I will teach easy ways to get started, so that each singer’s confidence and abilities will grow.

How does the audition process work?
I tried to find the most non-threatening way to audition singers. The singer gets to practice as much as they wish and create their audition ‘tape’ as often as they wish until they are satisfied. There are several specific song selections I’d like singers to use, and all can be found on YouTube. (A list of the songs can be found on the Music School’s Facebook Event for AuditionsSingers can find sheet music for the songs online and can also find recordings, including ones on YouTube, of the songs.

Then, set your recording device – a smartphone, tablet, computer or actual recording machine like Zoom – where it can hear (and optionally, see) you sing while we also hear the YouTube clip. (The clips I chose have the words on the screen to make it even easier!) It really is fun! Then just email the recording of your singing (with the YouTube clip in the background) to the Music School

What are your goals for the two choir groups?
I want both groups to have fun and look forward to Wednesday night as their favorite night of the week! Both groups will perform similar literature, but the adult group will be able to learn techniques and become comfortable with literature that can be used in school choirs (or similar) at any skill level. In addition, I am unaware of any community jazz choirs that exist in the state (or tri-state area) for teenagers or adults, so this will be a unique opportunity to have fun while singing music that is suitable not just for concerts but also for ‘events.’

What are some of your favorite works for jazz choir?
More than favorite works, I have favorite arrangers. I am fond of Paris Rutherford’s arrangement of Autumn Leaves because it is challenging, is a great teaching piece and sounds even harder than it is. I also enjoy working on any arrangement written by/for the New York Voices but those are intended for advanced choirs. I also like Rosana Eckert’s arrangement of Sandu because the composer, Clifford Brown, lived in Wilmington and is buried in a cemetery across the street from Cab Calloway School of the Arts. Local roots!

What is your best advice for young or "emerging" singers to improve their craft? 
Learn classical music. The foundations for every genre of the Arts – music dance, visual art, etc. – are all based on fundamental techniques taught by performing, recreating or studying the works of the masters. Additionally, all the fundamentals of music – pitch, rhythm, tone, technique, etc. – are learned through traditional choir work. However, musicians living in our contemporary world also benefit from being versatile enough to do perform any style of music, including jazz and pop.

Martin (Marty) Lassman received his Bachelor of Music Education with a trumpet concentration from the University of Delaware and his Masters of Education with a piano concentration from the University of Iowa. His faculty instruction resume includes work with H.B. DuPont Middle School, Talley Jr. High School, Wilmington Friends School and Cab Calloway School of the Arts. His teaching experience includes band, general music, jazz band, vocal music and jazz choir at Cab Calloway. He is the Past President and Treasurer of the American Choral Directors Association and served on the Jr. High All-State Chorus Committee for violin.