Over the past two weeks I have already been stretched a lot and have discovered that there is so much that I have yet to learn in tis field. Our worship pastor and instrumental music director have strongly recommended that in addition to my required classes for my major, I sit in on the instrumental technique classes so that I can learn as much as possible about how to play every instrument. I do not have to reach an advanced level in each of the instruments, but I do need to be able to play simple songs and sight read simple music. This will help me be:
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I was able to download pdfs of music and play some songs off of that. I found that the screen size made it difficult to read a full piano score, however it was possible to read chord charts. I was not able to test this feature, but a friend of mine wound up scanning his music for choir and reading off of that so that he did not have to worry about turning pages or finding the correct page/book. This was very effective for him and I hope to do the same next semester.
I also wanted to expand a bit on my experience with the Surface Pro as a musician. While I am not a composition major, I do have to compose for various school projects. As a test for the Surface, I downloaded a free trial of Finale, the primary music notation program we use on campus, and proceeded to engrave the first page of a Mozart sonata. I tried various methods of entry (touch, stylus, mouse, and USB piano keyboard) and determined that the best way to enter music into the Surface was via a USB piano keyboard and a mouse. Entry was rather slow without a number pad, and the size of a screen only makes it realistic to enter music for 1-3 instruments, but the software worked and proved that the surface can be used as an effective idea capture tool. (Note, I only used the free Finale Software and did not install the Garritan Sound Bank.) It would be interesting to see a Finale App for a tablet so that I could split my screen and have on half be a piano keyboard for entry and the other half be the Finale software.
The first song I wanted to share was actually the finale of the concert. It is an arrangement of "Take Me Out to the 'Bell' Game" in the style of a cheesy waltz, Pink Panther, and Magnificent 7. It was arranged by myself and a fellow student, Morgan Ruthard, as a final project for our Handbell Directing course. We really enjoyed adding a bit of drama to this song and I hope you enjoy it.
I had no idea how wrong I was. After the very first class period, I realized that conducting is so much more than being a metronome. It’s about creating music, much like the way an artist creates a painting. As the conductor, I can “play” all of the instruments in the orchestra, or all of the voices in the choir. I am not limited to one instrument and I have the ability to fine tune every sound of every instrument. Through these classes, I not only grew to appreciate my conductors more, but I also realized how much I loved conducting.
Shortly before beginning the Orchestral Conducting segment of my Advanced Conducting course, I met with my orchestra conductor at Grace Baptist, Lisa Hernacki. Every two weeks our orchestra prepares several songs for the Sunday Services in addition to our Christmas, Easter, and special concerts, and I wanted to understand how she could get to know all of the scores that well in such a short amount of time. Mrs. Hernacki’s advice was so helpful that I thought I would share her steps with any other interested musician.
As part of a class project, Morgan Ruthardt and I edited a handbell piece arranged by Paul Ellsworth. We auditioned the piece and were accepted into the concert. We had a wonderful time being a part of Come Christmas Sing in this way and we are looking forward to hopefully doing it again in the future.
My first semester in college has been a dream-come-true! I am a double major in Worship Music Ministries and Liberal Arts and it has been amazing to be able to focus on areas that I really love. I have just finished taking twenty units which has been intense but incredibly worth it. This first semester I mostly took general education classes and a few of the basic classes required for my major and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Continue Reading "Mack Family Update: First Semester Completed!" »
I recently applied for a $3,000 scholarship through WyzAnt, where I write an essay about who is my most important teacher and receive votes on my essay. I need to make it into the top 10 to be considered for the scholarship. Will you please help me earn this scholarship?
Just go to this site and vote for my essay entitled "Dr. Englin - Bringing the spark back into learning".
Thank you so much!
For the past two years now, I have been able to serve as the Music Director for the four and five year old JAM Jellybean Class - a Bible club for the younger children. Every week I prepare fun Bible songs for them to sing and then lead them in "song time" for twenty minutes. We sing anything from the Hippopotamus song, to the B-I-B-L-E and enjoy singing about God's love for us.
Continue Reading "Hip-hip-hip-hippopotamus" »
Through The Master's College handbell groups, we had the privilege of playing in the annual Come Christmas Sing concerts - a week long concert series put on by the college and featuring a wide variety of music and instruments. We were also able to expand our musical abilities under the direction of Professor Claire Blackwell and enjoyed playing songs such as, "Angels We Have Heard on High", "The First Noel", "Joy to the World", and even a funky version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".
Continue Reading "Ringing in the Christmas season" »
This particular song really stretched the three of us as we had to come up with creative ways to cover as many bells as possible while still making the piece look easy and sound good to the audience. The song included everything from the very lowest bells (weighing nearly sixteen pounds apiece!) to some of the highest and each of us covered over an octave of bells.
Through this semester we have been able to expand our repertoire as well as enjoy practicing challenging pieces together. This next semester we are looking forward to playing a Lord of the Rings medley (since our group is named after it) and to pulling off another fun song!
This month, my sisters and I participated in the 12th annual Master's College Bellfest, a fun listening and learning opportunity for handbell ringers and lovers. We had over ten choirs and small ensembles from all over southern California share their works, including a special mini-concert by renowned solo ringer Christine Anderson. While there, each choir was able to sight read through a new piece while learning many new and fun techniques as well as participate in a mass ring of Joel Raney's arrangement of "We Three Kings".
We'd like to thank Claire Blackwell for coordinating the event and Christine Anderson for directing and teaching us. We all learned a lot and really appreciated all the hard work that was put into this.
Continue Reading "Twelfth Annual Master's College Bellfest" »
This year, Wendy and I have had the opportunity to experience small ensemble ringing through our group - The Fellowship of the Ring. We started this trio last year with our friend Morgan Ruthardt and enjoyed it so much that we decided to continue this semester. At the beginning of the semester, the three of us made the decision that the trio would only play music that was either written or arranged by someone in the group, allowing us the freedom to play whatever song we want in whatever way we want to play it. Because we are all either music majors or music lovers, writing our own music has been great and has helped us all grow in our music abilities. It has given us a better understanding of the pieces we are playing (how they work and fit together) and has also been a lot of fun!
Last semester we started our first performance off with a comedy skit on "I've got the Joy". In the skit, Morgan is trying to be very professional and solemn while playing this Sunday school song - without the joy. The other two players (Wendy and I) aren't exactly thrilled with that and keep trying to take over the song to "liven" it up a bit - much to Morgan's frustration . Throughout the song the three of us constantly go back and forth - each one trying to take control of the song and play as they think it should be played until the climax, where the three ringers finally all agree on the best way to play the song.
This semester we decided to do two new songs. Over the summer, Wendy and I arranged "What Child is This" for the trio while Morgan worked on arranging the song "Andantino". We have really enjoyed playing both of these beautiful pieces and have had the opportunity to play in the annual Master's College Bellfest and are looking forward to performing in the Master's College Come Christmas Sing this year. Below is a video of our trio performing "Andantino" at Bellfest.
We have really enjoyed this special opportunity both in increasing our skill with the bells and in building friendships and have already started planning some very special (and fun) pieces for next year!
What do you get when you combine three timpanis, several percussion instruments, a synthesizer, and several full bell choirs? Some great music and a lot of fun!
This fall The Master's College held their 12th annual Bell festival (Bellfest) which we had the opportunity to participate in. Each of the several choirs and small ensembles performed their works and there were some amazing pieces! We even got to hear a small mini concert by Christine Anderson, a renowned solo ringer who wowed us all with her quick playing and juggling bells!
The concert ended with a mass ring where all the participating choirs played together along with the percussion and synth. Under the conducting of Christine Anderson, we played Joel Raney's mystical arrangement of "We Three Kings" which uses a variety of techniques and sounds to make you feel as if you were on the journey with the wise men.
At the beginning of this semester an interesting problem arose for Master's College Jubilation Handbell Choir. While the group was scheduled to meet twice a week, class conflicts prevented all but four of us to meet for the second rehearsal. Our handbell director Claire Blackwell decided to use the time instead to help the four members who could make practice learn how to do four-in-hand ringing. The result? The Jubilant Four was formed.
The four of us (Wendy Mack, Amy Mack, Steffie Hydanus, and Hannah Knapp) decided that we would become a four-in-hand quartet. Four-in-hand ringing is a special technique where each person holds four bells (two in each hand) and keeps holding them for the entire song. While only sixteen bells can be played per song, we are able to use those bells in combinations to make the sound lively and full. Unlike most choirs, we do not use tables, allowing us the freedom to walk around and stand with the audience. We have all enjoyed learning this new technique from Mrs. Blackwell and have had a lot of fun getting to know each other better!
This summer, my sisters and I decided to prepare a special piece to perform at the Master's College annual Bellfest and chose the song "O Holy Night". While Wendy and I have been ringing bells for a long time, this was Emily and Kelly's first time to ring handbells and they were very eager to learn. We had a lot of fun practicing together and filling the house with music (although I think Mom and Dad may have gotten a little tired of the same song being played over and over) and were able to pull it off. It was amazing to see how quickly the piece came together and how smoothy it went.
We were able to perform our song in the Master's college Bellfest and really enjoyed it! Below is the video of us all playing this piece.
Playing this song was a lot of fun and the four of us are looking forward to doing more together soon!
By about the second year, I realized that the same person, Mrs. Douglas, that I’d tried the flute with before was there. It went the same way the following year and finally, I talked to my parents about wanting to play the flute and they came up with the idea of bartering baby-sitting for flute lessons! It worked, and I am enjoying my flute and my lessons!
My opportunity came in my freshman year of high school. Because we are enrolled in the A Beka Academy program, we were able to take many courses through DVD. When I learned that there was a DVD course to teach me how to play any stringed instrument, I was really excited and, after discussing it with Lisa Hernacki, the church orchestra director, Amy and I decided to learn the viola.
At last, our DVDs arrived and as we started studying under the Jaffé Strings Program, screeches filled the house as our family and neighbors had to put up with - not one - but two beginning string players. I am so grateful that they did support me, and that they never made negative remarks. It didn't take too long, however, for us to begin experimenting with our instruments. We were so excited when we were able to sound out Pirates of the Caribbean (the original song from the ride) on our instruments as well as several other songs!
As we finished up the second year of our study under the strings program, we began preparing to audition for the Grace Baptist Church Orchestra. The first violinist in the orchestra, Patti Graham, was such a big help and encouragement, and she helped us go through an intense three month "viola boot camp" to help us get ready for our auditions. At the end of August, Amy and I auditioned for Mrs. Hernacki and were accepted into the orchestra!
It 's been a wonderful experience to be a part of this incredible group of people. It has been such a big blessing to me as I start to pursue music more seriously, and, although we still hear the regular viola jokes (what violist doesn't?), all of the musicians are so positive and encouraging! I am grateful for the privilege to be a part of this special family.
For several years, a set of two octave handbells have been sitting in the attic of the local church, just waiting for someone to come along to start a bell choir - I guess that someone was me.
Last year, one of the members of the church mentioned the bells and asked if Amy or I would be interested in directing a choir. At the time, while I really wanted to help, I couldn't imagine myself directing a bell choir where I would be the youngest person there.
Continue Reading "Directing My First Bell Choir" »
My dad passed away in 1996, and it meant the world to me that people I had never met came forward to share their good experiences and memories of my father. They either did so by showing up at my mom's door, or by attending his service. After that experience, I realized that I wanted the families of those I know who died, always to know how special their loved one was to me. If I could not attend the service, I would try to send a card with a special story. So, it didn't take but a minute to decide to attend Mrs. Cothren's funeral.
Continue Reading "Memories of Mrs. Annabelle Cothren" »
Today, my sister and I rang in The Master's College 11th annual Bellfest, led by Artist in Residence Christine Anderson. (We're in the back row, at 1:19 on the video).
My sister and I had the double treat of ringing not only with our own church handbell choir, the Master's Hands, but also with Jubilation, one of the handbell choirs at The Master's College.
This is the last song that we rang. It was written by John F. Wade, arranged by Cynthia Dobrinski, and conducted by Christine Anderson.
My father listened to me as I told him all about my frustrations, then he suggested I try something different. He recommended taking the easiest children's song I could think of and arranging a simple piece - which I did. I chose the song "I've got the Joy Joy Joy Joy" by George Willis Cooke.
My Dad must have been in a ragtime mood because when I showed him my arrangement he challenged me to write something worthy of a ragtime pianist at Disneyland. I took his challenge and began to play around with it on the piano until I knew how I wanted it to sound. After that, the notes came easily and in twenty minutes I had finished my first ragtime piano duet.
I hope you enjoy-joy-joy-joy this arrangement!
Here's my arrangement:
You might enjoy reading and trying to keep up with the lyrics here.
(Right-click on the link below to save the mp3 file to your computer.)
Last month, when I went to Manila to deliver the Beyond-Planning: eProductivity conference, I also attended church services at the Cathedral of Praise. Since my conference was during the week, I had the opportunity to attend several services at each weekend.
While some of the worship experience was new for me, we worship the same God and read from the same Bible. One of the worship songs that I heard at each service was called "How can I keep from singing your praise" by songwriter Chris Tomlin. What a beautiful song of expression of love and worship for our creator.
It's become a powerful worship song for me, as well as a sweet reminder of my time of fellowship with the dear people at COP.
I was unfamiliar with this song or songwriter, but it turns out that we sing many of Chris Tomlin's songs in our worship service, too. Chris has an amazing gift for capturing the essence in true worship in his songs. For me, Chris' songs create a sense of awe and wonder and they add to my personal worship experience.
When I returned to the states, I went to iTunes store and purchased this song and four additional worship songs by Chris.
How Great is Our God
Made to Worship
How Can I Keep from Singing
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
These are now on my iPod for my morning quiet (well, not so quiet) time.
Continue Reading "How Can I Keep from Singing Your Praise?" »
Focusing on the outcome
This conference has required so much work and preparation that's easy to forget the purpose of the conference itself and focus on mechanics and delivery. The purpose of this conference is about helping people. I desire to be a part of that process, by sharing some of what I have learned in the past 25 years in business with the hope that others will find some of it useful and learn from it, too. I'm really excited about the vision that Pastor Sumrall has for these conferences that he does each year to help the people of Manila and I'm honored to be invited to be this year's featured speaker. It's an awesome responsibility and opportunity.
Continue Reading "Musings on jet lag, conf prep, and favorite hymns" »
What's amazing is that the girls accomplished this using two inexpensive sets of children's bells. If you've ever seen or rung one of these bells - where the clapper can go in any direction - you will know how hard it is to get one of these bells to ring only once or on queue. Amy and Wendy perfected a technique that allowed them to do this well, and they were an inspiration to everyone present. I'm very proud of them..
I'm also very appreciative of Mrs. Anderson for her kindness and invitation and inspiration to my children.
You can visit Christine Anderson's web site at Voices in Bronze
Recorded live with Johann Strauss Orchestra in the Nederlands.
Listen along for a digital-to-analog treat, live from my Digital Sandbox
Making Music in the Digital Sandbox
Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (3 min 26 sec) MP3 1.7 MB
Making Music in the Digital SandBox
All I needed to do now, was to convince my children that it would be worth "borrowing" $300 from our savings towards a future trip to Disneyland to buy the organ. They were unimpressed with the idea. I finally convinced Amy and Wendy to go with me to check out the organ -- just to "look" at it. Well, they came along, arms folded, unsure of the wisdom of this purchase vs the potential future fun of going to Disneyland at the end of the year. The elderly man who owned the organ told us all about it; the girls remained unconvinced. Then he offered to allow them to "test" the organ themselves; they sat down, and played a duet of "heart and soul." Moments later, it was all over; we were the proud owners of a console organ. (I will spare you the details of all I learned about how [not] to move an organ.)
So now, we have this beautiful console organ sitting in our living room. We have managed to play the National Anthem, Take me out to the ball game, a few hymns, and other classics. Kathy wants to be able to play the song from Swiss Family Robinson for the girls, and I envision myself playing Phantom of the Opera. I have been able to figure out what the two keyboards, the bass pedals, and most of the top two rows of switches and levers do -- at least functionally -- but I am clueless on some of the other controls. Fortunately, the organ can also be controlled by a computer through a MIDI interface, so I know I can make it work that way. I am sure that there are books or places to get started learning, and I will start researching these shortly.
Sometimes, when I get ready to study and I want to put myself into a happy mood, I hook up my calliope and play some happy music. I find that my disposition changes and the burdens of the world are lifted - as if I were a child again. Of course sometimes I just do this because it is an excuse not to study -- which I am supposed to be doing right now. :-)
Listening to music like this brings back find memories of when I was a kid. There was a man in our neighborhood who restored carousel band organs as a hobby. On Saturday mornings, he would start up his band organ and kids would come running for blocks around to sit on his lawn and wiggle to the happy music.
That experience inspired me to desire to have a band organ of my own -- until I found out how expensive they were to own and maintain. A few years ago, I began researching the idea of building one and making it computer controlled so that I would have an endless supply of MIDI files to control it with. This has been a long project and I am certain to have many years of work still ahead of me. So far, I have completed the MIDI controlled Calliope (see above) and a MIDI controlled Glockenspiel. I am almost done with a MIDI controlled Accordion. Next, will be the rhythm section. All of this is powered by my Oreck XL vacuum, which you can see in the above photo.
Watch a vacuum cleaner powered calliope play a patriotic greeting!
Broadband - RealMedia 300 Kbps
Low-Speed - RealMedia Dial-up
Here's a treat. It's a video clip of my computer-controlled calliope powered by an 8 lb Oreck XL vacuum cleaner. The video clip is in RealMedia format and you can watch it by clicking on the link below. During the video, be sure to watch for the Mack sisters, our American Bear, the vacuum cleaner (which you can hear in the background) and the laptop computer that controls the entire performance.
* MIDI stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" - a computer control system where a computer can control musical instruments, lights, or other equipment.
Eric recently completed building a computer-controlled calliope powered by, of all things, our Oreck XL vacuum cleaner.
Eric and the gilrs brought the calliope down to the Lilac Festival to share with folks at the festival. It ws a big hit.
This video clip is a treat. Eric has completed building his computer-controlled calliope powered by his 8 lb Oreck XL vacuum cleaner. The video clip is in RealMedia format and you can watch it by clicking on the link below. During the video, be sure to watch for the Mack sisters, our American Bear, the vacuum cleaner (which you can hear in the background) and the laptop computer that controls the entire performance.
Watch Eric's vacuum cleaner powered calliope play a patriotic greeting!
(Click here for low-speed version)