6/14/19 Where Music Matters, Reflections by Resultive Voice Student Christina O’Guinn on traveling through the Baltics on tour as a choral singer

Where Choral Music Matters

The Liberating Power of Singing

Where Singing Unites and Liberates

Christina O’Guinn

I had the immense pleasure of touring and performing in the Baltic this summer with my choir, Resounding  Achord ( Not only were Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania beautiful countries with charming historic old towns and acres of nature preserves, but our concerts were the most rewarding of my life. We packed beautiful churches and a concert hall that seats over 700, brought audience members to tears and received more demands for encores than we could deliver. Our choir is worthy of such appreciation, yet never have we enjoyed this kind of reception in the US. So, why is choral music so precious in the Baltic?

Perhaps it has something to do with their recent and short-lived independence. The Baltic countries have all suffered constant historic occupations by one nation or another and only relatively recently experienced a “national awakening” of the 1850’s in which they began to acknowledge themselves as nations with the right to govern themselves and discovered the value of their own  languages and cultures. This was largely expressed through singing. In fact, all three countries built large out-door amphitheaters that can hold as many as 25,000 performing singers on stage and audiences of over 100,000. Each country holds music festivals every 5 years at which singing groups from around their countries come to sing and share cultural music that holds them together as nations. 

While the Baltic nations did finally enjoy independence in the early 20th century (~1920), this was quickly lost during World War II, first to the Nazi’s and then to the Soviet’s who occupied them until the late 1980’s. As part of the USSR, the Baltic nations continued their song festivals but were required to sing particular Soviet anthems. Still these festivals served a critical role in helping the Baltic people to maintain a sense of national identity. In fact, song played an important role in helping the Baltic nations (particularly Estonia) regain their independence from the USSR by staging a Singing Revolution. You can learn  more about the Singing Revolution from the documentary of the same name available on NetFlix or on

This whole experience was so moving to me, as I came to realize the value of freedom of speech and the power of music as a form of national expression and protest—even without sanctioned freedoms.

**Info about photos:

The statue at the Tallinn Festival grounds is of Gustav Ernesaks. According to Wikipedia, Gustav Ernesaks (12 December 1908 – 24 January 1993) was an Estonian composer and a choir conductor. He played an integral role in the Singing Revolution and was one of the father figures of the Estonian Song Festival tradition. One of his songs, set to Lydia Koidula’s 19th century poem Mu isamaa on minu arm, became an unofficial national anthem during the years of Soviet occupation. This song was first performed at the 1947 Song Festival—somehow missed by the Soviet censors.

4/18/14  How to Select the Best Song for a Musical Theatre Audition

Picking out the best song for a musical theater audition is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make, when planning for an audition. Your selection must demonstrate not just what a great singer you are, but also your ability and appropriateness for the role you want, your professionalism, and your ability to follow direction.  Of course, once you have your song, you will need to rehearse and coach it to perfection! Here is a criteria list, in descending order of importance, for selecting the best song for an audition. Above all, items #1 and #2 are most important.

1) Follow All Requirements Outlined by the Producing Organization

  • Length (in minutes, seconds, or bars) – Time it! Count Bars!
  • Style/Tempo (upbeat, ballad, blues, pop, legit, etc.) – Give them what they ask for!
  • Format – (CD, flash drive, sheet music, etc.)
  • Make sure karaoke tracks have lead vocal eliminated. They want to hear YOU, not another recording artist.
  • If using sheet music, make sure that all the notes are visible, no cut off lines at the bottom!
  • Sometimes companies specify formats with sheet music.  Follow them!
  • If there is no requested format, taping music back-to-back, 3-hole punching, and putting in a binder is a good way to go. Loose pages can create nightmares!
  • Do not put plastic sleeves over music to protect it.  This can cause glare.
  • Mark all cuts, tempos, vamps, etc.

2) Pick a Song That Makes You Sound Great!

Not the song you wish you could sing, and not the song you will sing well next year… the song you sound great on right now! It’s good to get an objective, experienced set of ears here. Singers often get very attached to a favorite song that is special to them, but it might not be the most the best choice for any given audition.

3) Pick a Song That is in the Style, Range, and character of the role you are auditioning for.

Do your homework and find out what the vocal range of the role is and what style of music they sing. Pick a song that shows that you can do what is needed for the character.

4) Avoid Songs That Are Currently Overdone, or Too Tied to a Particular Star.

  • It’s not to your advantage to be the 50th person to sing the same hit song the directors have heard all afternoon.
  • It’s not to your advantage to be compared to a beloved star.
  • Most musical theatre organizations prefer to hear songs not from the show they are auditioning for.