There’s a new song in the air and it’s coming from the Rising Voices Chorus in New York City. As music director of the chorus, I am thrilled to be able to support a community of cancer survivors and patients who understand the healing power of music.

The Rising Voices Chorus is sponsored by the Integrative Medicine Service of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  It is a chapter of “Something to Sing About™”, a global network of choirs for cancer survivors.

So many songs, so little time! Here are a number of singing activities that I’ve been taking part in.

Ongoing: Threshold Choir of New York City. We are growing, now singing at the bedsides of patients at three hospitals in Manhattan, including an ICU unit. See my previous blog about the choir.

In April, I traveled to Healdsburg CA to take part in the Annual Threshold Choir Gathering. It’s a chance for the choirs across the country and abroad (over 100) to share techniques, methods, songs and spiritual practice with each other. I presented a workshop called “Shared Musical Leadership” to show how to give singers the confidence to be songleaders. The conference is held in a beautiful spot, nestled among the hills and vineyards of the Russian River valley.

 

The view at Bishop's Ranch, Healdsburg, CA.

The view at Bishop’s Ranch, Healdsburg, CA.

We did some dancing too!

We did some dancing too!

Kate Munger, our founder, talking with Melanie Demore who wrote many of our favorite TC songs.

Kate Munger, our founder, talking with Melanie Demore who wrote many of our favorite TC songs.

In June, I spent a weekend at Rowe Conference Center in Rowe, MA, learning about the Hollowell Singers of Brattleboro, VT. Like the Threshold Choir, they also sing at bedsides, but more often for hospice patients in people’s homes. Kathy Leo is their able leader, and she had a talented support team with her. Peter Amidon does much of the 4-part arranging for the choir and he and Mary Alice Amidon are strong song leaders. Mary Kay Brass collects songs from many lands and directs the choir. Kathy Leo has a deep connection to this work and she does a great job of sharing her wisdom. It was like going to the national Threshold Choir conference in that there were many soul sisters (and brothers) there, we spoke the same language of the heart though the songs were different.

I’m looking forward to a week of singing at “Turtle Dove” held in a private home (a beautiful sprawling Victorian) in Ashfield, MA. Kathy Bullock will be teaching Gospel songs and African arrangements. Ali Burns is coming from Scotland to teach some songs from her country, as well as her own songs. Brendan Taaffe is coordinating the week and will share some of his compositions.

When I return, I’ll be glad to share my experience!

Here is a great way to spend a week, singing the day away and into the night! I have taught for a number of years at Augusta Heritage Center (www.augustaheritagecenter.org) in the beautiful hills of West Virginia. You can come and immerse yourself in the arts of the Appalachians, or sing many different styles of music. Here is a list of the classes offered during the week of Aug. 6-10. I’ll describe my two classes, below.

Classes & Instructors

Charles Williams
Care of the Voice (offered in 2 time periods)

Kathy Bullock
Songs from Jamaica, West Africa, & South Africa
African-American Spirituals & Gospel Songs

Laurelyn Dossett
The Art of Songwriting
Five Days, Five Decades: Written Songs Worth the Singing
Bio & Class Descriptions

Bobby McMillon
Appalachian Ballads & Story Songs (offered in 2 time periods)

Emily Miller
Georgian Songs
Heard in Honky-Tonks (with Jesse Milnes)

Jesse Milnes
Songs from Around West Virginia
Heard in Honky-Tonks (with Emily Miller)

R. P. Hale
Aztecs, Incas, and Jesuits: Choral Works from the Early “New World”

Jeff Warner
Nor’easters: Songs from the Sea and New England
Singing Unaccompanied

Sue Ribaudo
Creating Harmony
World Connections

Anne Louise White
Improvisation: The Joys of Sprezzatura
Jazz Standards Around the Piano

Rhiannon Giddens
Late afternoon, one-day workshops:
Opera for Everybody
Irish Songs

Flawn Williams, Vocal Week Coordinator
Ad Hoc Harmonies

Jam Leaders
Don Friedman
Elizabeth LaPrelle

My Classes:

Creating Harmony

You may be asking “how can I join in on those beautiful Augusta harmonies?”. Or, “how can I come up with some creative alternatives?”. Using traditional and contemporary songs, we will find some helpful rules to follow when harmonizing (and learn when to break them). We’ll explore how to take a seemingly ordinary song and make it outstanding. Find out how to sing “human karaoke” and the “Appalachian second”.

World Connections

We will immerse ourselves in the polyrhythms and lush harmonies of many different lands with songs from countries as far-reaching as Brazil, Ireland and South Africa. Singing these songs will give you special insights into these cultures and widen your horizons. While we learn about the differences in our music, we’ll be connecting through its universal language. Don’t be shy about singing in different languages. Many songs are in English, and others have a lot of repetition.

Threshold Choir of New York City- Singing for Comfort

I have been working on a project that is dear to my heart. In order to describe it, I need to give you a bit of history.

In 2001, a friend, Kate Munger had been artfully leading some groups of women in the San Francisco Bay area in community singing of rounds. After having a profound experience of singing at the bedside of a dying friend, she had an epiphany and was struck with an inspiration that she needed to focus on this much-needed kind of service. She wondered what would happen if hundreds of women in the area were trained to do this kind of work. What if dying people were comforted with song by people who respected death as a natural part of the cycle of life? She started a choir called the Threshold Choir, to sing softly for people who were on the thresholds of life. Within a few years, Kate started one choir after another and nurtured dozens in California and the West Coast. Here is Kate’s description:

“The all-women Threshold Choirs honor the ancient tradition of singing at the bedsides of people who are struggling: some with living, some with dying. The voice, as the original human instrument, is a true and gracious vehicle for compassion and comfort. The choirs provide opportunities for women to share the sacred gifts of their voices at life’s thresholds.
When we are invited to a bedside, we visit in small groups. We invite families and caregivers to join us in song or to participate by listening. We choose songs to respond to musical taste, spiritual direction, and physical capacity. The songs may include rounds, chants, lullabies, hymns, spirituals, and choral music.”

Kate asked me if I would be interested in starting a choir in New York City. We had been friends for years, and I had visited her San Francisco choir and admired their work. I hesitated since I wasn’t sure I had the right skills. I had directed a community choir, and I had volunteered at a children’s hospital, but hospice was a new concept to me. With a plan to take some hospice training, I decided to take her up on the idea in 2007. Kate introduced me to Susan Graves, now a New Yorker who was a member of the original Threshold Choir in California. Susan was able to convey the history of the group as well as her own valuable experience. Slowly, one voice at a time, we began to grow into a wonderful group of women who enjoy singing, community and service.

We now have twenty-five women who volunteer their voices at three hospitals in Manhattan. In addition to rehearsing twice a month, our singers are led by trained song leaders who schedule visits to the various hospitals. Kate visits with our choir once a year for a workshop and I attend the annual national gathering in California to keep connected with with our sister choirs. I enjoy conducting workshops there as well.

Kate has started over one hundred choirs across the country and several in other countries. To see the list of cities who have a choir, and to learn more about what we do, go to www.thresholdchoir.org, the national website.  For information about the New York City choir based in Manhattan, see www.thresholdchoir.org/nyc.

Sue Ribaudo
Music Director, Threshold Choir of New York City

Click here for “La Paloma”, Puerto Rican lullaby

You may be looking for something to do this summer that’s out of the ordinary. How about a summer camp for adults (actually, all ages)? With music of all kinds and lots of great people to meet from all over? Here are some suggestions of some music programs; one where I will be teaching, and others where I have been a student and a teacher in the past.

This summer I’ll be teaching at Common Ground on the Hill in Westminster, MD. Check the website (see “Favorite Websites” here on the right) and go to the info about Week 2 (July 11-15).

I’ll be teaching two classes:
“World Cruise” -Stretch your vocal horizons with rhythms and harmonies from around the world.

“South African Songs of Protest and Praise”:
We will immerse ourselves in the polyrhythms and rewarding harmonies of these songs of celebration and of speaking to power.

Common Ground is located on the campus of McDaniel College. There are lots of instrumental classes (guitar, banjo, harp, Irish drum…), singing classes, fine arts (painting, jewelry making…) and discussion of topics pertaining to peace and social justice. The Director, Walt Michael, gathers a staff who are the best in their field.

Other programs I recommend are Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia, and the Country Song and Dance Society‘s programs in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and West Virginia. At all of these programs I have really enjoyed the community and the comraderie that comes together during five music-filled days.

It feels good to be recording again! I’ve been collecting lullabies from the US and around the world for years and I’ve been told my voice is well-suited to singing soothing lullabies. So I decided that an album was in order. I started recording recently and will post some unpolished results here. My good friend and gifted musician Don Mulvaney is engineering.
Hush Thee My DoveVmp3 10_11

This past fall was a first – the first September in many years where I didn’t go back to school in some way. I miss the students and the LREI community but I am enjoying the freedom. The possibilities are endless, which can be overwhelming, but I’m finding my way back to getting the creative juices flowing. Hence, the recording project. I’m also planning to record songs and activities that I used as a teacher of young children and create a resource suitable for both teachers and parents.

In September, Vic and I celebrated my retirement and his hard work with an exciting trip to France. We spent a fabulous week in Paris and then an adventurous week on a boat cruising the countryside on the Canal-du-Midi.

Sue and Vic

Great food!

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Click to see whole picture…

The Threshold Choir is busy rehearsing and singing at two hospitals. We usually sing at the bedsides of patients in groups of two or three. This winter, we are also planning to sing as a chorus for groups of patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

I’d love to hear from you (see “Comments”).
In harmony- Sue

Sailor Sue

Soak up the beauty

Hi Everyone-

I want to update you about where I am and what I’ve been up to.  After eight fabulous years in Baltimore (performing with my trio “Hot Soup” and doing residencies in schools and teacher training for Wolf Trap Institute), Vic and I moved to New York City in 2001.  I’ve been teaching music classes at LREI and enjoying the challenge and reward of singing with terrific students.  Vic enjoys his job as an administrator at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  Our sons are grown and on their own, Dan in Brooklyn and Adam in Boston.

My other main activity has been singing at the bedsides of seriously ill patients and hospice patients.  Three years ago, I became Music Director of the Threshold Choir of New York City.  We rehearse as a choir of 30 women, and then break into small groups to sing at bedsides.  It’s a wonderful community of caring women.

I’ve made a decision to retire from teaching after this year, hence the new plans and new website.  I hope to do some more recording soon, with preliminary plans for a lullaby album.

Look around and you’ll get info about my recordings (click “Recordings”) and my choir and other activities (“About Sue”).