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Finley's News Flash!

August 16, 2020: Vocal Warmups and Vocal Exercises for when there are no rehearsals or performances

Hello, all you wonderful but vocally frustrated singers with the Crystal Coast Choral Society.  Quite a few of you have been in touch asking what to do in order to keep you vocal chops in decent working order without having a group rehearsal schedule and performance in mind.  There are a lot of resources available on line, but I just this evening received some wonderful material written by Kevin Kerstetter, the director of Schola Cantorum, the Episcopal group with which I sing.  


Kevin, being the great musician, friend and unselfish person that he is, graciously gave me permission to share his material with the Choral Society.  It’s so good that I’m sending this email out tonight instead of waiting until tomorrow!


Attached are the following:  (1) A three page document titled “Vocal Documents”; (2) .mp3 audio files that support “Vocal Documents.”  These are for all voice parts.




All are self-explanatory, so you can download all the material and use in your daily vocal practice.  You ARE doing daily vocal practice, aren’t you? J  I really do know how difficult it is, but I’m very sure this material from Kevin will be a tremendous help; I know it’s going into my personal practice time starting tomorrow.


By the way, if you like the material it would be cool to thank Kevin, his email is


And also please let me know what you think.


In Harmony,



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August 14, 2020:​ First Choral Society Virtual Choir Profject

Hello, all you wonderful singers.  I do hope all continues well with you and yours as we get through August and ease into fall.  I’ve finally conquered about a zillion unexpected technical problems and have the files completed for our relatively easy test run for a virtual chorus project.  I appreciate the good response to my request for participants.  However, on second thought I’m sending this to the entire Choral Society email list.  That means you can participate even if you didn’t respond the first time.


Attached is everything you’ll need:


(1)    Sheet music of the SATB a capella Down to the River to Pray (pages 1-3)


            (2)  .mp3 audio files for all voice parts.  The files marked for a specific voice part (Down to River Sop Only, etc.) have a computer generated neutral voice sound.  The files marked Down to River (S)ATB etc., have a computer generated piano sound and all parts sound at the same time.  The voice part letter in the ( ) sounds louder than the others.  All files have a metronome click to set and maintain the tempo.  Specific guidance for each voice part is a follows:


            Soprano and Alto:  On both the file for the specific voice part alone and the (S or A)TB files there is one measure before the voice entrance that gives the opening pitch and sets the tempo with the metronome click.  The click continues through all rests.


            Tenor and Bass:  The specific voice only file begins at your entrance on measure 2 without the repeat on measure 8.  There is one measure before the entrance that gives the opening pitch and establishes the tempo.  The SA(T or B) file starts with the soprano/alto unison opening measure 1-8 with the TB unison joining on the repeat.  The metronome click continues through all rests.


            All Voice parts:  Everything is at a gentle mezzo forte; not too loud and not too soft.  Don’t add dynamic changes.  Observe the ritard on the repeat of measure 50-51.   Keep with the tempo set with the metronome click.  Sing all vowels open and with vertical space.  Hold vowel sound for full note value and put ending consonant on the & of the sub-divided note.


Recording Guidance:  Now that you have the basic materials, what next?  

(1)    Download and print the sheet music or read off the screen.


(2)    Download and save the appropriate .mp3 audio files.


(3)     Listen to the .mp3 audio files as you sing your part.  Practice, practice, practice until you are very secure.


(4)    Make an .mp3 recording of you singing your part following guidance below.


(5)    When you have a good quality .mp3 file email it to me as an enclosure.


(6)  When I have all the .mp3 files I’ll edit everything into a final SATB product and send it out as an attachment to an email to everyone.


How to Record at Home:  When you’re ready to record, simply use headphones or earbuds to listen to the .mp3 audio file on one device (smartphone, iPad or computer) while recording your singing with another device (smartphone, iPad, computer). Have one headphone or earbud in your ear to hear the .mp3 audio track but leave one ear open so you can hear your voice.   iPhones and iPads have an app called Voice Memos that works perfectly well. Other types of phones have a similar app.


How to use Voice Recorder app on Windows 10

1. Open Start.

2. Search for Video, and click the top result to open the app.

3. Click the Record button. (in the center, a little microphone icon)

4. (Optional) Click the Flag button to add a marker to the recording. ...

5. (Optional) Click the Pause button to stop recording without terminating the session.


There are other recording programs available, some as free downloads, so that part is up to the individual singer.  


If you have any questions or need help please don’t hesitate to be in touch by email or phone 910-358-2997.


In Harmony,


Click to view files associated with this message.

August 9, 2020:

Hello, one and all, and as always I do hope all continues well with you and yours. There are a few items I’d like to share with you, so let’s get right to it:


  1.  Weekly Zoom Meeting: There has been some questions about our scheduled weekly meetings at 7:00 p.m. each Tuesday.  This is a recurring Zoom meeting hosted by me, so the information link to join is the same each week.  In other words, I don’t need to make a separate invitation each week.  However, I will send a weekly email about other things (like this one) and will include the link.  Here it is:


Join Zoom Meeting (See email for link)


You can either keep going back to my emails for the link, or better yet copy and paste the link information as a weekly event to whatever email account you use.  Then you should be able to simply click on the link to join the Zoom meeting.  Also don’t forget that even though I open the meeting at about 6:55ish you can join any time after that.  Depending on how many join and how talkative we all are we usually go to at least 7:30 or more.  If you try to join and nobody is home we already finished.


  1. Initial Virtual Chorus Project:  Quite a few folks responded to participate in the initial test run virtual choir project and I haven’t forgotten you.  I have all the audio files almost completed, but am running into some rather vexing technical problems to compete the files.  I have a message to the help desk of the music program that I use and hope to have the problems resolved very soon.  When all is ready I’ll send the files.  


  1. Proposed Christmas Concert Virtual Chorus Project:  Planning for this continues but it’s a pretty involved project.  Please stay patient and more information will be provided as it becomes available.


That’s it for now.  I’m off to Swansboro Methodist Church for an hour or two of vocal practice.  Among other things I’m doing to keep my voice in some semblance of decent shape is learning to sing Gregorian chant.  I have hours of audio files with a professional cantor singing and a book that teaches how to read notation in neumes.  I’m also working through each voice part of Messiah and singing everything.  I already pretty much know all the parts anyway, but by the time we get together again to prepare to actually perform I’ll have everyone’s part memorized.  J  


In Harmony,



July 28, 2020:

Good Tuesday one and all.  Time for our weekly Zoom get together tonight at 7:00.  It’s a recurring meeting so the link to join is the same as before.  However, I’ve included it below just in case.  I hope some more folks can join in tonight: it’s fun just to see and hear each other.


NEW ITEM:  I’m working on doing a Crystal Coast Choral Society virtual chorus project.  I’ve personally been involved with a couple other choruses on this type of thing and have learned quite a bit.  Our first steps are fairly uncomplicated.  If it works we’ll move on to a much more ambitious project.  Here’s the deal to get us started:


  1.  The music we’ll record is my arrangement of “Down to the River to Pray.”  I chose this because most of you have done it before, it’s fairly easy, and has some nice harmonic voice writing (if I do say so myself J ).  


  1.  I’ll send a copy of the vocal score to each singer.  I’ll also send an .mp3 audio file of the individual parts played on a piano: there will be a metronome click to keep all in tempo. You can listen to the audio file on your device of choice (desk top, lap top, I Pad,  I phone etc.) Each singer will then practice, practice, practice J until they are very secure.


  1. When you’re ready you’ll record your voice part.  You do this by using ear phones to listen to your part on one device while you sing and record onto another device.  You’ll need some sort of program to record audio files.  IPad and IPhone have an app called Voice Memos which works fine.  I think, but not sure, that Windows 10 has a built in recording program.  Other possibilities are downloading GarageBand or Audacity.  Both are free and fairly easy to use:  just Google the names.


  1. Once you record your voice part you’ll email it to me as an .mp3 attachment and I’ll do the rest to assemble the final product.  You could also upload the file to my .Gmail account, but we can discuss that later.


What I really need to know is who and how many will participate in this initial project.  If you want to be part of it, please respond with an email as soon as possible.


Here’s more information that I hope will cause some excitement.  We’re looking forward to possibly doing a 30-45 minute virtual Christmas concert.  I’d like to do it with video of each singer and me conducting by video.  The technical aspects of this are, quite frankly, beyond me.  I’m meeting tomorrow with a professional audio and video technician to discuss details. Of course, I’ll let everyone know as things proceed.


I’ll leave you with this quote:


            As for public prayers, there are two kinds; the one consists simply of speech, the other of song…And indeed, we know from experience that singing has great strength and power to move and set our hearts on fire in order that we may call upon God and praise Him with a more vehement and more ardent zeal.     John Calvin (1509-1564)


Here’s the Zoom link below.


In Harmony,



July 20, 2020:

Hello all singers and fans of the Crystal Coast Choral Society. I recently received a letter from one of our long time members letting me know that she and her husband would soon be moving to to Pennsylvania. Marilyn and Barney Zmoda have been living in Eastern North Carolina for 35 years and have been absolute rocks of support to the Choral Society. Marilyn has been an invaluable member of the vaunted alto section for many years and innumerable concerts. She also served on the Board of Directors. Barney was always a stalwart supporter as a concert usher and just about anything else behind the scenes.

It's truly a shame they won't be here when we eventually return to performing as a great choral family. Perhaps we can get them back to be in the audience.

The will both be greatly missed by everyone in the chorus and especially by me as the Music Director and their friend. I encourage as many people as possible to respond to this post with words of thanks, friendship and love to Marilyn and Barney. I'll also be posting this on the Choral Society and my personal Facebook page. Thank you.

July 17, 2020:

Happy Friday and a good weekend to everyone.  We had a small crowd at our gathering last Tuesday but it was enjoyable to be able to see and talk together.  Everyone was well behaved and I didn’t even have to mute everyone to maintain order. J  


It  would be cool to have a bunch of folks so I hope you can join us at 7:00 p.m. on the 21st.  By the way, you don’t have to join right at 7:00 so you can log in anytime.  


I’m working on the strong possibility of organizing a virtual chorus project in the very near future.  I’m open to suggestions on what music we could perform, so give it some thought and make your suggestion when you join us on Tuesday.  Keep it short: no “the complete Messiah” or “the Bach St. Matthew Passion.” J  


I’ll leave you with another great albeit rather long quote from the wonderful Alice Parker in her book Melodious Accord:  Good Singing in Church:


“In the years I was working as an arranger for the Robert Shaw Chorale, I gained a great respect for melodies that last.  It is relatively easy to make a good arrangement of a great tune: Stay out of its way.  But many tunes just don’t work.  Those can be made interesting or unusual or can be covered up with special effects, but these only momentarily disguise the hollowness within…  There is also a difference between words and music suitable for communal use and those designed for individuals.  The latter may be colloquial; the former must have a breadth of viewpoint, a certain dignity of phrase and basic simplicity of outline.  These make it suitable for group utterance.”  


I’ll leave it to those who know me well to figure out why I think this is an important quote concerning much but not all current church music.  J 


In Harmony,



July 11, 2020:

Happy hot and humid North Carolina summer to all you wonderful singers.  Everyone who was able to join us last Tuesday evening for our first virtual social gathering had a great time.  It was fun to see each other, albeit only on a computer screen, and share what’s going on in our lives.  


It was so much fun I’ve decided we should do it every Tuesday.


With that mind I’ve set it up as a weekly recurring Zoom event for 7:00 p.m. each Tuesday.  I’ve also increased my Zoom subscription so we have unlimited time.  By the way, this is open to everyone on our big email list and not just the folks who have been singing with us recently.


I hope you join us this coming July 14th and if not then on future Tuesday evenings.  All you have to do is click on the following link and follow the prompts from there.  As always, if there are problems call me at 910-358-2997.


I’ll also be sending out a weekly reminder about each meeting.  Stay safe, stay cool and stay tuned.


In Harmony,




Here’s the link to join:


Contact Finley for link.

June 30, 2020:

Hello, all you wonderful but unemployed singers.  I’m FINALLY figuring out how to host a Zoom virtual meeting.  Lord willing and I set it all up correctly I’d like to have as many folks as possible join.  I’ve scheduled it for our regular Tuesday rehearsal day and time: 7:00 p.m., July 7th.  We’re limited to 100 participants and 40 minutes time, but that should be enough.  This will be a time for us to remind ourselves what we look like (!), have a group chat to let each other know how things are going, and generally re-connect and be reminded we’re still a choral family.


All you need is a computer (desktop, laptop or tablet) or phone, all with video and audio capability.  At about 7:00 p.m. on the 7th click on the link listed below and follow the prompts. You can also join any time after 7:00. If you have problems call me at 910-358-2997.


I look forward to seeing you Tuesday evening.


In Harmony,




Contact Finley for link.

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