We must be doing something right

For a small chapter like ours to get a mention (*) in the Barbershop Harmony Societies Magazine, “The Harmonizer” you have to be doing something right, but to get a second mention a few years later, Wow, What are they up to?

I feel our chapter is doing several things right, we sing well and we are having fun, and that makes all the difference.  That our director, Kent Mickelson, is a big part of our success goes without saying.  Kent leads us and encourages us and he puts up with our craziness as long as we sing well.

Our greatest success may lie in our youth outreach.  With our scholarship and Youth in Harmony programs we are encouraging good, new, a cappella singers for the future.  That some of them may come back to continue singing with us in only icing on the cake.

The biggest challenge we have for our chapter is in recruitment.  Our chapter is in need of some more singers.  Last Sunday we had 23 members at our Windom church tour, a great turn out, but much less than we could have if we had more bodies at practice.  It’s hard for every group now days to get and keep members, but we have something no other group can offer, we are “the service club that sings.”  Let’s promote that connection.  Let’s keep doing something right.

(*Our latest mention in the Harmonizer is in Marty Monson’s column of the May/June 2016 edition.  Our first one was an article about singing at a Twins game.)

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Published in: on June 14, 2016 at 6:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Service Club that Sings

Last night our chapter had a visit from the Executive Director/CEO of the Barbershop Harmony Society, Marty Monson.  We thought it was a big deal, but we did not realize how big of a deal it was until we had a chance to talk to him.  Marty just doesn’t have time to drop in on chapters of our society, he has too many things to do to go chapter hopping.  So why did he choose to come visit us?

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Marty stopped by to visit some friends of his from the days when he sang in the Great Northern Union Chorus.  Two of our member sang for several years with him, and he wanted to touch bases with them, visiting our chapter was a chance to see what his friends were doing in their home chapter.

Marty got a chance to talk to our officers and find out what we have been up to as a chapter before practice.  Then he got to meet the guys and sing a bit.  Our director had picked some of the songs he knew Marty had sung from our last show.  It gave him a chance to sing with us.  We also had Marty tell us bit  about his job and he told us about the Society.  One phrase struck me, he called us a “service club that sings.”

Young folks now days seem to be searching for a place to serve, and if you can have fun, learn a bit and also serve the community it is a win for all.  I like being part of a service club that sings.  Come on over and see what we are all about.

Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 5:58 am  Leave a Comment  

A little bass humor

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Published in: on August 17, 2015 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 27, 2015 performance

2015 Welsh

The posters are out for our September 27 performance in Mankato.  Come to the First Presbyterian Church, 220 East Hickory at 1:00 for some great congregational singing.  The Chordhustlers will be singing six songs during breaks in the singing.  Even non singers can come to enjoy the music.

Practice change and a concert

Monday, July 27 practice has been changed to Sunborn Methodist church.  Benson Family singers will be performing at Watermelon Days and we will practice after the show.  Pete Benson, former director of the Great Northern Union chorus, will be performing with his very talented family.  The performance is at 6:30, practice at 7:30.  Come enjoy the concert and then come to practice afterwards.

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Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 3:01 am  Leave a Comment  

2015 church tour starts

This Sunday, June 21, starts the Chordhustlers church tour schedule.  Chordhustlers are to meet in the Baptist church for breakfast a 7:30 a.m.  Jerry will have the schedule for us then.

If you do not have it on your calendar, The other dates for church tours are July 19 and 26.  Expect more details as we get closer.

Published in: on June 19, 2015 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

Is yours a singing church? What are you doing to make it more comfortable to sing?

Holy Soup

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to…

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Published in: on May 29, 2015 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Funeral for Ross Blomgren

The Windom Chordhustlers Chorus has been asked to sing for the funeral of Ross Blomgren, 16, of Butterfield.  150x225-20141215-132759_BlomgrenR

We barely got to know Ross, but he did come to several practices this last summer.  Details of the funeral can be found here.  We are meeting to practice for the memorial at 12:30 at the Butterfield High School, funeral will be at 1:30.

Ross died in a car accident late Saturday night, December 13.

Published in: on December 16, 2014 at 10:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Want to feel better? Join a Choir!

I just had to share this.

Ode to Joy

MSVMA All-State Choir
It doesn’t even matter if you can’t sing well. Singing is a surefire way of feeling good

Photo courtesy Corey Seeman/Flickr/Creative Commons

This essay is adapted from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing With Others by Stacy Horn, out now from Algonquin Books.

I used to think choir singing was only was for nerds and church people. Since I was neither, I never considered singing in a group—even though I loved singing by myself. Then, in my 20s, I found myself facing a big, black hole of depression. I remembered how much fun I had once singing Christmas carols with a boyfriend at his church. Desperation forced my hand. I joined a community choir. Except that at that first performance, we didn’t sing Christmas carols—we sang a piece of music that was 230 pages long: Handel’s Messiah. It was magnificent. I was left vibrating with a wondrous sense of musical rapport. Since that performance, I haven’t found the sorrow that couldn’t be at least somewhat alleviated, or the joy that couldn’t be made even greater, by singing.

Singing is such a surefire way of feeling good that even singing about death is life-enhancing, which is fortunate, because if you sing in a choir, you’re going to be singing about death. A lot. Typically, every spring, choirs all around the world will sing the Requiem Mass, a mass for the dead which has been set to music by many of our greatest composers. But despite all that death, singing requiems is emotionally heartening, and you get a real physical rush. That’s because when I get up and sing the cheery words—“Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitátis et misériæ, dies magna et amára valde” (“That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness”)—my brain supplies in perfect combination some of the best opiates and stimulants it has evolved to dispense.

Music is awash with neurochemical rewards for working up the courage to sing. That rush, or “singer’s high,” comes in part through a surge of endorphins, which at the same time alleviate pain. When the voices of the singers surrounding me hit my ear, I’m bathed in dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness. Music lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals levels of stress. Studies have found that people who listened to music before surgery were more relaxed and needed less anesthesia, and afterward they got by with smaller amounts of pain medication. Music also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment.  “Every week when I go to rehearsal,” a choral friend told me, “I’m dead tired and don’t think I’ll make it until 9:30. But then something magic happens and I revive … it happens almost every time.”

Ohio State music professor David Huron believes singing may generate prolactin, which is released in nursing women, and in tears of sorrow. Prolactin has a tranquilizing, consoling effect, and this is why sad music makes us feel better, according to Huron. There’s even evidence that singing about death not only feels good, it’s good for you. Researchers discovered that a choir singing Mozart’s Requiem showed an increase in s-IgA, an immunoglobulin that enhances our immune defense.

It doesn’t even matter if you can sing well. I can’t. The best I can manage is singing in tune. Most of the time. Hopefully. One of my main goals in our weekly rehearsals is not being heard. Over the years I’ve become a master in the art of voice camouflage, perfecting a cunning combination of seat choice, head tilt, and volume. Luckily, in a 2005 study, investigators found that group singers experienced the same benefits even when “the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.” It’s arguable whether my vocal instrument even reaches that level, but I’m happy to reap the benefits nonetheless.

While any singing has rewards, there are reasons you should find a choir rather than simply singing in the shower and leaving it at that. Studies have found that group singing releases oxytocin, a chemical that manages anxiety and stress and, according to McGill University professor Daniel Levitin, enhances feelings of trust and bonding.

That bond, that connection, has seen me through the end of every romantic relationship in my adult life (because apparently my lifelong work on singing hasn’t done a thing for my boyfriend-selecting skills). It has gotten me through the deaths of my mother, some of my closest friends, and finally, my pets. I wonder how Brahms would feel knowing that his German Requiem, so powerful and yet so gentle, never fails to evoke my long-dead cat. Whether it’s a combination of prolactin and oxytocin, or some yet to be discovered neurochemical release, singing takes me to a place where what I thought was intolerable, like death, is somehow OK, which is insane, but there it is.

I’m convinced the answer will be found in the study of harmony. Because the world doesn’t open up into a million shimmering dimensions of hope and possibility when I sing alone, or even with other people in unison. It happens when I’m surrounded by my fellow choristers, and all the different sounds we’re making combine to leave us thrumming in harmony—lit up together like fireflies flashing in synchrony by whatever masterpiece is currently racing through our brains, bodies, and hearts.

After a recent meta-analysis of 400 music studies, Daniel Levitin pointed out design flaws in some of the experiments, and lack of proper controls, and warned against exaggerating what has actually been demonstrated. A lot of work is left to be done in the study of how the body and brain respond to music and singing in groups. In the meantime, as science works to explain what every singer already knows, no matter where you fall on the voice suckage scale—sing. I know of no other activity that gives so much and is this eminently affordable and accessible: Just show up for choir practice. Singing might be our most perfect drug; the ultimate mood regulator, lowering rates of anxiety, depression and loneliness, while at the same time amplifying happiness and joy, with no discernible, unpleasant side effects. The nerds and the church people had it right.

Adapted from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing With Othersby Stacy Horn, out now from Algonquin Books

 

Published in: on December 11, 2014 at 9:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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2014 Food Shelf Benefit

The Windom Chordhuslters Chorus will be hosting their annual Food Shelf Benefit Christmas Concert at Bethel Mennonite Church in Mt. Lake on Sunday, November 30 at 4 p.m.  Admission is by a donation to the food shelf.  Come help the Chordhustlers start the holiday season.

They will continue their holiday activities the next night when the sing at the Sogge Good Samaritan home (5:45), Mickelsen Manor (6:10) and Remick Ridge (6:30) apartments on Monday, December 1.  If you have a loved one in any of the facilities come join us.