Singing their hearts out and the seven-second echo By Susan Croll, Teacher editor
“Pretend to take a shower, then do it again, and this time faster” is not a statement typically equated with singing. It is however, if you are Suzanne Fulton, a music teacher with the West Vancouver School District, who directs not one but four choirs, including the district-wide Women’s Choir and Mixed Honour Choir (all genders). St. Nicholas Church, Prague, Czech Republic.
I AM A GUEST at her practice and watch her run the 60-member Women’s Honour Choir through warm-ups and drills. “Taking a shower” is a physical warm-up at the start of choir practice. After their “showers,” they continue to practice, making odd gestures and strange faces to warm up their voices and vocal cords, with evocative high, low, short, and long notes escaping from their mouths. These keen and dedicated students, ranging from Grades 7–12, stand on risers in the music room and listen attentively to their teacher’s directions. They are an enthusiastic group, having just returned along with the district Mixed Honour Choir, from a busy
I strive to have choirs whose members are caring. An integral part of a choir is belonging.” 18 TEACHER May | June 2018
11-day, performance-based tour to Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, and Venice. A tour highlight was singing in a cathedral in Prague. Suzanne explains that the cathedral’s design is perfect for allowing the sound to resonate. She recalls that she had her students stop singing after one chord so they could hear the echo. “The echo was seven seconds long. Not only could we hear it, we could feel it.” One of Suzanne’s Grade 12 students, Madeline Scott-King, who has sung in the choir for five years, lights up when she speaks about the experience at the cathedral. “Hearing the echo ring for seven seconds was amazing. I can’t explain it— even though I am not a religious person, it was just so amazing hearing this echo in this beautiful cathedral. Then the sun began shining through the windows.” Visiting some of Europe’s most historical cities included singing in Latin at St. Mark’s
Basilica in Venice during a mass at Lent. They also performed at an elementary school and sang at a concert in Austria with a traditional folk music group. Suzanne began teaching 15 years ago, and as her career developed she saw the need for a higher-level choral experience for students in the West Vancouver School District. The desire to create such an opportunity grew stronger as Suzanne’s career took her from teaching elementary music to teaching high school music. With her love of music and her background in both opera and choir, six years ago she proposed to the district a unique class that includes auditioning students from across the district who have a particular passion and talent for singing: thus, the Honour Choir Program was born. Five years later, in addition to teaching music exploration classes to secondary students, she directs four choirs: a concert
In this issue Restoration—taking stock one year later Making a difference in our schools, our union, our communities