Small Vocal Ensembles
1:00 – 2:30pm Adults
3:30 – 5:00pm Junior (grade 7/8/9)
5:00 – 6:30pm Senior (grade 10/11/12)
Note: Each student in a vocal ensemble will be expected to choose a song for the group to sing. Together we will co-create the arrangements of the songs we perform based on the abilities and the number of students in the group.
*If you don’t see an ensemble here for you, talk to us! We can create a group with a minimum of 3 participants (maximum 8).
What is a small vocal ensemble?
Somewhere between a private lesson and a choir is the small vocal ensemble, and if offers singers the best training possible to develop into a well rounded independent vocalist who can not only step out and belt out a solo when needed, but can also stay back and “punch in” back ground vocals at precise moments with precise notes and with the precise energy and tone so that the blend of the group is unified and polished both in sound and in presentation. It is very refined and detailed work that not only educates about the “art of singing” but also draws out the artist inside every participant. Listen to the examples below.
Valerie – sung by Grade 5 Small Vocal Ensemble Rich Girl – sung by Young Adult Small Vocal Ensemble
The small vocal ensemble is for singers who want to develop and refine all the skills required to sing in harmony with others.
Where private lessons offer the opportunity to work on personal technical skill development for singing solo, the ensemble offers the opportunity to work on building vocal independence while singing with others who are singing complimentary (but different) parts. That’s right! One person on each part. Ear training, sight reading, style study, arranging, improv, microphone technique, stage presence and performance are all the skills we develop as we work together towards:
- Winter Express Concert (December),
- the Jazz & Blues Dinner Concert (March),
- the Vocal Ensemble Showcase (May),
- and the Dare to Dream Concert (June).
The key to success for everyone in a vocal ensemble...
is insuring that each member of the ensemble is a good fit for the skill and commitment level of the group. This does not always mean you get to sing with your friends. If one friend is very busy with other outside activities and has little time to practice outside of class, and the other friend is very focused on singing, taking private lessons and practicing every day, it would be best for both of them to be in different ensembles (even if their skill levels were the same). Why? The pressure to keep up with a group that is moving faster than she has time for will make the experience stressful and frustrating for the first friend, and showing up with all her parts learned and ready to try them out with her ensemble, only to find out some of the other singers didn’t practice would be disappointing and frustrating for the second friend. Over time this gap becomes bigger and so does the frustration. So while we encourage and value friends and family singing together, it is important students enrolled in small ensembles are not only a good skill match, but also a good match regarding commitment and dedication.
In the above example, the first friend would be put into a group with other students who also have other activities and commitments throughout the week. They would be a “learn as you go” group where the commitment and dedication level would be to just show up each week and do their best. There will be marked improvement in each singer over the year and they will enjoy learning songs to perform at the concerts, but the group won’t move through as many songs as a group with more dedicated students and they won’t be able to tackle challenging repertoire that requires home practice, where as the more dedicated group will. One of our mottos is “fun first!” When learning is fun, we stick with it! It doesn’t matter how fast our skills are advancing, just that they are advancing.
We hold "Placement Auditions" for our vocal ensembles
including an interview to help us learn about your other interests and activities as well as your life experiences working as a team member. After the placement audition, you will be assigned a group to work with for the year and we guarantee (if you show up to every class), you will significantly improve your ability to sing in harmony at a pace that works for your life.
There is a $35 fee for your 30-minute placement audition which must be paid for at time of booking. The $35 will be applied to your vocal ensemble fee after placement. No refunds for no shows. With 24 hours notice we will reschedule your audition once. WE KNOW that auditions can feel scary, and probably the worst kind of “performance anxiety” anyone will ever experience, so REST ASSURED we will make it as easy as possible. We are kind, sensitive, gentle, forgiving, loving and funny! We are here to help you! We want you to succeed! Think of it less as an audition and more as a “meet and greet”. (Even though I have said all this, you will still feel nervous. Show up anyway. Just get here and all will be worked out!)
Who is this class for?
For choir singers who want to become more independent and able to hold on to their harmony part by themselves.
For advanced vocalists who have been taking private lessons for a few years and want the challenge themselves to learn the refined skills for back up singing. (Did you know it is far more challenging to be a back up singer than a lead singer? You need a strong ear, a deeper understanding of theory (harmony and form), self confidence. R
For the rank beginner singer who is just curious.
For singers at any skill level, with any amount of experience or none, who want to learn and grow with other singers who are close in age and at similar skill levels.
Sometimes people have difficulty singing "in tune" or holding their pitch
This does NOT mean they are “tone deaf”. It simply means their mind is focused on something else they are hearing or experiencing. Whether that is fear or the joyful vibration that we all feel when we sing, or simply listening to (distracted by) other aspects of the voice like being focused on the quality of tone they are producing. What everyone in our society needs to know and truly embrace is that there is really no such thing as being “tone deaf” (at least not in the way the term is used in our society). Singing in tune is as learnable as skill as learning to swim. Yes it will take some time and effort. Yes some people come to it more naturally than others. No, there is no way to tell you exactly how long it will take. But we can guarantee marked improvement if you are willing to focus on learning the skill and make it a priority in your life to work on developing your ear (and the voice-ear connection).
If a student is unable to stay in tune or hold down a harmony in their audition, we will recommend that they take private lessons (the same cost as the small ensemble) first. A qualified private vocal teacher can not only work on developing personal technique in private lessons, but they can specifically work on developing your ear with ear training exercises and singing with you in two part harmony. After a term or two (4 months to a year) you will have the skills needed to join a small ensemble, AND you will have received a much better experiential education than if you had spent the same amount of time in a small ensemble class. The technical knowledge you gain in private lessons will greatly enhance your experience in a small vocal ensemble.
Don’t take it personally. If you or your child is recommended to take private lessons before joining an ensemble, avoid the pitfall of feeling “rejected”. Realizing that we stand out and don’t really get what is going on isn’t a great feeling. Fumbling along and not having a sense of really knowing what were doing wrong is not fun. We don’t want to put anyone into a position where they are “faking it” just to fit in with their friends. When we feel like we’re not as good as others in our group and we don’t know how to speed up our improvement so that we can fit in can turn the experience from joyful to painful. When a child is suddenly “not feeling well” every time it’s time to sing that is a warning sign. Auditions help us insure that none of our students ever have to go through that. At Harmony House our goal is to serve each and every student to attain the skills they want, in the most efficient and inexpensive manner. We want all our singers to develop the skills to become a strong independent vocalists. This means they have inner confidence in their skill set AND they experience joy when they sing.
“Harmony House Music Studio in North Vancouver is amazing. I take voice lessons, group performance and vocal ensemble there and look forward to every class. Not only does it teach you valuable skills it gives you a stronger understanding and appreciation for music. The teachers cater to you personally, and are focused on improving your skills. They encourage you to dive into many different genres of music which you might not have even looked at before, opening your eyes to and allowing you to experiment with all the different music that’s out there.”
“Student input is always encouraged and incorporated by the teachers which made me feel equal and in charge of my learning.”
“My favourite part of Harmony House would have to be the group classes. While individual skills are foundational, the group classes create an opportunity for budding musicians to work with other students and expand their abilities in a low pressure, insanely fun setting.”