I’m not really a Conehead, but I played one at MVA Chorus’ weekend retreat this year.
That’s just the most recent in a series of characters I’ve morphed into during my 12 years with the chorus. We often prepare skits, by voice section, for our retreats and they are part of a themed dinner party.
But unlike those old Saturday Night Live creatures from “France” who speak in flat monotone voices, MVA Chorus' annual retreats are never boring. Here’s my confession: a little leg and back strain from standing on the risers for Friday night, all-day Saturday and Sunday morning rehearsals is well worth it to have the most energizing MVA Chorus experience of the year. Why? Because we get inspired by a fantastic visiting coach, hone our singing skills to a degree we didn’t think possible and share a lot of laughs.
The purpose of MVA’s retreat at a New Hampsire hotel is to refine the ballad and uptune that we choose to sing at the annual Region 1 SAI contest in Springfield, Mass., set for April 13-14 this year. For the first time we invited Vicki Maybury, master director of the championship Skyline Chorus in Colorado, a member of SAI’s international teaching faculty and a certified Expression category judge.
Vicki is funny, a stickler for detail and creative. She gave us new ways to think about vocal production, breathing, storytelling, riser movement and more. Her overarching message: “Trust. Believe. Trust.” The meaning being: By working together we can convey the essence of the songs to the audience.
Before my first MVA retreat, I thought I would be bored stiff focusing on two songs for an entire retreat. But, guided by a skilled coach – and indeed, as we do every week with our uber-talented director, Eileen Gioe – we learn how drill down into the words and phrases that maximize the meaning behind the words. We work on choreography and refine how our moves can reflect and enhance the music. Sometimes just a small change of how we treat a note or move as a group will re-energize a passage and bring us together more solidly as a unit. Magical.
When our hard work concludes Saturday afternoon, we’re off to prepare for a group dinner and a show--put on by us! Leads (this year, a.k.a the Coneheads), baritones, basses, tenors and new members each perform a skit (tissues required to sop-up tears of laughter)! There are party games (crazy ones!), karaoke, spontaneous quartet performances, joke-telling and always a surprise or two.
In the midst of it all, we present the coveted “In Her Footsteps” award that recognizes the outstanding contributions of a current member who exemplifies the values of a former founder and member -- and great lady: Marge Bennett.
If you’re reading this and think, “Gee, MVA’s Retreat weekend sounds fun, but I don’t read music, even though I can carry a tune.” You should know that it doesn’t matter! Or maybe you are thinking, “Hmm, isn’t Sweet Adelines just for women of a certain age?” Mais non! Come to a rehearsal and see for yourself! We are women just out of college, retired and every stage in-between. We represent a variety of talents, backgrounds, professions and musical experiences. Come join us. Viva MVA Chorus!