Composer offers some fine tuning

Middle school gets a musical visit

October 28, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to the sun

David Brunner stood before 300 students who gathered to sing in the auditorium at North Harford Middle School.

Several times, the acclaimed composer and conductor led them through "A Living Song," a piece for which he wrote the music.

"There just aren't enough magic things in our world today, so let's linger on the word `magic' when you sing it," said Brunner, who then demonstrated the technique for the youngsters.

For the students, Brunner's visit Friday was a chance to work with an accomplished composer; for Brunner, it was a chance to help the students find confidence and comfort as singers.

"I want them to see that there is more to singing a song than words," the 54-year-old Orlando, Fla., resident said.

The daylong visit by Brunner was among the items offered in an online auction to benefit the New Orleans Children's Chorus in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The auction was organized by the head of the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago and included items such as workshops, commissioned works and visits to schools by composers and conductors.

"A lot of arts groups went under because so many people were displaced and didn't return to New Orleans," said Paul Caldwell, artistic director of the Chicago youth choir. "I wanted to do something to help the chorus continue."

North Harford's choral director, Angela Jones, submitted the winning bid, using $500 that students raised by holding a dance.

Brunner, choral director at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, took part in the auction project because he wanted to contribute to the relief efforts, and he liked the idea of working with one youth choir to help another.

The composer spent the day working with the students. Most of the compositions they performed had been written by Brunner.

Cassidy Miller said she was excited about the opportunity to work with a professional composer and songwriter.

"He makes you feel the music, not just sing it," the 11-year-old Street resident said.

Although he didn't know what to expect before Brunner's visit, Benjamin Crull, 13, of Pylesville was struck by Brunner's style.

"Mr. Brunner really gets into it when he conducts," the eighth-grader said. "He moves around and he has us sing openly and forward. He helps us get our voices out of our heads."

Brunner said he likes to provide a change of pace for students and give them the chance to learn about the composer's role.

"When I visit a school, it gives the students someone other than their teacher to learn from," he said. "I want them to know that all composers aren't dead. And it's a chance for them to see and watch what composers do."

Nino Liberto, 13, of White Hall liked learning from a male instructor, he said.

"I think that men know how to help boys," the eighth-grader said. "And it's a huge privilege for me to get to work with someone who works with choirs all over the world."

Choirs worldwide have commissioned Brunner to write pieces. He composed "A Living Song" for a Tennessee women's chorus.

Sixth-grader Christopher Daugherty enjoyed learning new singing techniques.

"I've been singing for a long time," the 11-year-old Whiteford resident said. "And I didn't know that when you sing a vowel, you make your mouth go up and down instead of from side to side."

Brunner's visit culminated in an evening performance by the students, with him conducting.

Leading up to the composer's visit, the students practiced a repertoire of pieces predominantly written by Brunner, Jones said.

"It wasn't perfect. ... But it was a wonderful experience for the students," she said.

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