Education Director and Director of the LAB Choir Ben Johns writes about the session just finished today with an appearance by the LAB Choir at the Waldorf Grade School:

While all good things must come to an end, it's exciting to see the sparks of things to come. As I sat watching the LAB 2 Choir perform their final concert for about 80 eager, curious, and brilliant K-8th graders at the San Francisco Waldorf Grade School, I couldn't help imagining all of the "beginnings" going on in this "ending." A spark for some of the LAB singers was this newfound sense of being a music educator - answering questions about when they started singing, realizing the impact on these future singers, perhaps reflecting more on what first interested them in music. For the K-8th graders, the sparks flew from guessing the meanings of songs that were in a foreign language to hearing didgeridoos in an a cappella vocal piece to singing rounds along with these giants (one question posed to a LAB bass was "how tall are you?"). The unspoken dialogue between the LAB teenagers and the young children audience - a dialogue about what they have in common and what musical achievements are possible now and in a few years - is also fascinating to behold. Whether or not some of these students end up being professional musicians is not as important as the sense of community we shared in this musical moment.

In addition to communing musically with elementary school students, LAB 2 connected with middle and high schoolers and sang for the San Francisco/Berkeley public in a total of 9 concerts (10, if you include an impromptu encore in a Berkeley parking garage). Not a bad start for this new-concept choir! The singers tackled music on Chanticleer's current touring program (much of it not easy!) and were able to do so "the Chanticleer way," that is, un-conducted. The LAB singers did the coursework required for college credit - they all passed! In their own words, this is what some LAB singers had to say about their experience:

"There is nothing like singing the same songs over and over again to help you feel more comfortable with them. I enjoyed sight singing with [non-LAB singers] as well. Sight singing is something I don’t have much exposure to but after singing challenging songs like ours, it was kind of nice to sing simple (yet still beautiful) classical pieces. I have no doubt that after an experience like this; I have to be a better sight singer."

"...probably the most valuable thing I gleaned from this whole experience: Connecting with other singers instead of solely relying on the direction of the conductor is a really valuable asset of an ensemble. It is something that I will always try to bring with me when I sing with anybody."

"I felt that as an ensemble we really came together on that last lecture. I think everyone felt the same way, especially on Kalinda. The audience could really feel our enthusiasm."

"we definitely grew as an ensemble, in terms of harmonic shaping and subliminal communication with other members of the choir...We all understood each other’s styles at this point, and conducted ourselves accordingly. We were able to make subtle adjustments during each piece to compensate for tuning issues and other small problems. The most magical moment was the eight-second silence after 'Past Life Melodies.' It was the perfect way to end three months worth of hard work."

Lots of hard work that pays off: both in the short term, enough for participants and audiences to enjoy now, and in the long term, with lots of little musical sparks that just might catch fire in LAB singer and audience member alike. Thank-you again LAB 2 singers, your home choir directors, and your parents! Congratulations on making this debut a success!

Now I get to begin planning LAB 3, with several auditions happening this week and next. If you're 14-20 years old and this sounds interesting to you, now's your chance! LAB 3 starts rehearsing in January and performs in March.

LAB CHOIR rehearses with Ben before this morning's concert.


The students were particularly intrigued by Past Life Melodies and its overtones for which the LAB Choir spread around the room. They also presented works by Monteverdi and Kirke Mechem, and sang at least half of their program  without conductor.