Bel Canto

The Bel Canto curriculum explores historical, theoretical, and cultural aspects of a wide range of repertoire for treble and women's choirs. Bel Canto singers prepare music for multiple performances per year, including both the fall and spring Girl Choir concerts. Bel Canto was recently awarded Second Place in the national American Prize competition, has been invited to perform at several state and regional conventions of choral conductors, and has appeared as the guest artist with the Monteverdi Master Chorale (Stevens Point), St. Marys Youth Choir (Ontario, Canada), Viking Choral Festival, newVoices (formerly White Heron Chorale), Makaroff Youth Ballet, Lawrence University choirs and orchestra, and for the Sing Out Loud! and PIPFest women's choir festivals in Minnesota. They have appeared on Wisconsin Public Television and have a performance permanently linked to the WPT website. Auditions for Bel Canto are held in April for the following academic year.


  • SAVE THE DATE!  We have a new performance Sunday, December 3rd from 8:15-11:15 am at the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  Girl Choirs sing here regularly as a way to thank the congregation for their donation of rehearsal space to the Academy of Music.  This particular date is going to be a service about Mary (and women), and so I am particularly thrilled that we can be a contributing part. 
  • Homework assigned Sunday, November 12:
    • FANTASTIC rehearsal tonight, singers, even though we were down twelve of you.  Thanks for your hard work!
    • Everything must be memorized for next week.  That includes Oye and Mountain Nights (Listen to this version of Mountain Nights - sung by the LU women's choir this past February!  You'll have to forward the video to about the 47:00 mark to start the piece - yes, they do it from the balcony, in the dark.)
    • I will voice you on November 19.  Do everything you can to attend and be in full voice, please.  Our rehearsal will take place on the Chapel stage.  DO NOT ENTER OUR REGULAR ROOM - there is a final exam taking place there.
    • For those of you who did not attend rehearsal this week, we changed all of the "ng" humming spots (in Mata and in Mountain Nights) to a true "mm" hum, with lots of presence and forward buzz.  It's easy to sing this way when you begin the hum; it's trickier to maintain it for longer periods of time.
    • Everyone, please double check spots in Mountain Nights.  Each voice part has its own "issues" to clarify.
    • Suscepit Israel is getting really beautiful, but please shape the phrases as we worked last week.
    • Use lots of breath and sing more consonants in the A section of "Mata."  Review the translation and think about dynamics in the "night" section.  That imagery is so powerful!
  • Homework assigned Sunday, November 5:
    • Memorize all of "Mata" for next week.  Be sure you are thinking a lot about the consonants as you sing the instrumental section (voiced and non-voiced).  Be sure you have the chords in the middle (slow) section tuned properly.
    • Memorize all of "Suscepit" for next week.  Work on identifying the more (and less) important notes and shaping each phrase, particularly in the more-difficult second section.  Continue to think about word/syllabic stress as well as keeping your throat open.
    • Mountain Nights needs to be memorized by November 19.  Start working on it now.  S1 and A2, practice with the recording below to be sure you are singing the correct notes in the middle section (still not tuning the E-flat, especially).  A1 especially, be sure to drop the jaw to get a good "ah" sound (pinch your nose and check if the sound changes).  A2, practice the opening section on both "ah" and "oh"; keep jaw dropped throughout.  S2 and S1, work on keeping the "ng" nice and forward/ringy and the "ah" very tall - S1 especially  from 41-44 (so it does not become "uh").  If you are interested in the solo at the end, be prepared to sing it on November 12 during rehearsal.
    • Oye - review/learn all of it (we don't sing the beginning of verse 1, but we sing the rest).  Here is a video, if that is helpful.
    • Ave Maria is really getting beautiful.  Continue to work on shaping the phrases and counting the rests.
    • Review Sermonette.
    • CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who auditioned for the Mata solo - this was NOT an easy decision!  I would like Jenna Q to perform it this time, and she will be ready to sing it with us so we hear how it fits together this week.  Thank you SO much to everyone who worked up the solo - it was really fun to hear you all sing it!  xo
  • Homework assigned Sunday, Oct 29:  - Click to view assignments

    • We're into the home stretch, so it is critical to stay on top of your practicing!  We're a month away from concert!  NOTE:  if the weather is ok (not raining or wet), we will take a short nature walk on Nov 5, so be sure you have a jacket.
    • Review all of Mountain Nights.  Sing "ng" (with tall mouth posture) on the "mm" parts; altos sing on "ah."  Everyone sings "ah" in the middle section.  Keep as much open space in your throat as possible, both on the inhalation and while you sing. Although I don't always like the tone of their "ah," I like a lot of things about this recording.  Feel free to practice with it, and then be ready to talk about what you like (or dislike) about it on November 5.
    • Review all of Mata, and decide where the word stresses should be.  Be prepared to sing in mixed formation next week.  Really solidify the middle (slow) section - we made GREAT progress on this!
    • Continue to review Suscepit Israel.  Homework for next week: think about how to shape each phrase dynamically.  Do patterns matter?  Are there notes that are more important than others?  Syllables?  Etc.  Be sure to keep an open throat throughout as you sing.  Inhale on the vowel, keep your soft palate lifted, and keep the tone as relaxed as possible.
    • Don't lose any ground with Ave Maria and Sermonette!  :)
  • Homework assigned Sunday, Oct 22:  - Click to view assignments

    • Review and solidify all of "Mata" - those interested in the solo, please prepare measures 1-8 and 21-28.  You will sign up for an audition time on Sunday, November 5 at our next rehearsal.
    • Review and solidify all of "Mountain Nights"
    • Continue to work on keeping an open throat as you sing, particularly on "Ave Maria" and "Suscepit Israel"
    • When I ask you, this coming Sunday, to answer a particular question on an index card, simply write your name and your favorite Disney character.  Please do not share this information with anyone else in the ensemble.  I want to see who is reading these assignments every week.  Last week's conversation about the article was, shall we say, less than robust.  I could tell the three of you who read it (thanks, by the way).
  • Homework assigned Sunday, Oct 15:  - Click to view assignments

    • OVERALL - begin to really think about your tone/sound as you sing.  Inhale on the vowels.  Keep your mouth posture tall inside.  Keep your throat open.
    • Re-read the short article linked under "Rehearsals Resume September 17" below.  Be sure you have (or rewrite) your thoughts about what your personal Sermonette would be.
    • Work on memorizing the rests and entrances of Ave Maria.  Although I think this tempo is too fast, you can sing with this recording starting at about the 1:00 mark to practice holding your part in the canon.
    • Solidify all of "Suscepit Israel" on the text.  We made GREAT progress this week!
    • Mountain Nights - review and solidify the middle (4 part) section (measures 28-44).  Soprano 1 and Alto 2 be careful of the E-flats in your part.  Soprano 2 (top notes of S2 line) be careful in measures 36-41, especially regarding the B-naturals.  Alto 1 (bottom notes of S2 line) be sure to count as you move in the whole notes, then watch the E-natural and A-flat in measures 38 and 39.
    • Learn the notes and rhythms (you have read these patterns in rehearsal as warm-ups!) from 16-32.  Note we are in 5 parts; if you sang the top notes of the Alto 1 line in measures 9-15, you sing the bottom note of the Sop 2 line for this section.
    • Solidify your notes from measure 33-51 in Mata.  If you are comfortable with the Spanish, feel free to sing on that.  Otherwise, use "pa" as a neutral syllable.
    • If you are interested in the solo of "Mata" start looking at it this week.  :)
  • Homework assigned Sunday, Oct 8:  - Click to view assignments

    • Really memorize "Ave Maria."  Pay attention to tricky spots with rests, similar but slightly different phrases, and the start of each line.
    • Reinforce all of the Bach ("Suscepit Israel") so that you can comfortably sing your part on "doo" from beginning to end.
    • Memorize "Sermonette"
    • Reinforce notes (4 part - same as what you sing in "Ave Maria") in "Mata" from measures 33-43 (6/4 time)
    • Advance work that will make next week easier:
      • Look at your part in Mountain Nights (mm 28-44, 4 parts - "Ave Maria" split), especially (but not only) if you are a S1 or A2
      • Familiarize yourself with the rhythms for every part (clapping is fine) in measures 16-32
  • Homework assigned Sunday, Oct 1  - Click to view assignments

    • Memorize "Ave Maria" by next week.  Be careful of that opening phrase.  :)
    • Review the harmony parts in "Sermonette;" be prepared to sing the piece all the way through, with complete accuracy, next week.
    • Review your part (notes and rhythms) in "Mata" from mearues 9-15.  Remember:  5 part split (same split as Mountain Nights) with group 1 on Sop 1 line, group 2 on Sop 2 line, group 3 on top of A 1 line, group 4 on bottom of A 1 line, and group 5 on A 2 line.  (Important:  these assignments will not be the same throughout the entire piece.)
    • Review the beginning and end of "Mountain Nights" and be ready to sing with accuracy
    • Review "Suscepit Israel" through the middle of page 2 (what we learned last week) so we don't backslide
    • Look ahead in "Suscepit Israel" and be ready to answer the following questions regarding the middle of the second page through the end of the piece:
      • Do you see any rhythmic ideas that repeat - in your part or in other parts?
      • Do these patterns have any melodic shape that is consistent?
      • Do you see any sequences in your vocal line? 
      • Speculate:  what might be the most difficult thing about your vocal part in this section (notes, rhythms, patterns, leaps, etc)?
  • Homework assigned Sunday, Sept 24  - Click to view assignments

    • Girl Choir t-shirts are available only one more week - I forgot to remind you!  See link below.
    • Review first phrase of each line to "Ave Maria," make sure the intervals you are singing are correct.  Sing on text.
    • Review your notes in "Suscepit Israel" through second page, second system, 1st beat of fourth measure.  Use solfege to learn notes, but be prepared to sing it accurately on "loo" by Oct 1. Be aware of patterns (rhythmic and melodic).  Sydney - soprano 1
    • Look up definitions of harmonic minor and melodic minor (we had some discrepancies!)
    • Review your part in Mountain Nights through measure 27; make sure your part is solid.  A2 solidify notes/rhythms, S1 solidify quarter note moving patterns and your note of the whole tone scale in the beginning.  Learn measure 46-end for Oct 1.
  • Homework assigned Sunday, Sept 17  - Click to view assignments

    • Learn all the notes to "Ave Maria," preferably on solfege
    • Experiment with improvising over melody of "Sermonette"
    • Learn all of your notes on "Mountain Nights" through measure 27 (Divine is S1 bottom line, Lily is S2 top line); use "loo" as the syllable to sing on
  • Rehearsals resume on Sunday, September 17 - Click here and complete the following homework for that rehearsal

    • Learn the "lead" (melody - top line) of Sermonette.  (If you missed the retreat, this was mailed to your home.)  -- Please note that this is not the same key that is in the Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross recording, nor the Cannonball Adderley recording.
    • Read about what was happening in the United States in and around the year 1956, when "Sermonette" was written
  • Riser Schedule:  Those of you in YO will not have riser setup duty (you will be scheduled for strike duty only), but are still expected to arrive to Bel Canto in time to begin at 5:45 pm weekly.

Riser Schedule

  • 2017-18 Calendar - Click the button below to download and print the yearly calendar for Bel Canto. This calendar was updated on 9/1/17

2017-18 Calendar

2017-18 Dress Rehearsal and Concert Dates

  • Tickets for the December concerts are available for purchase through the Lawrence University Box Office.
  • Please note: The Box Office will close on Wednesday, November 22 for the university's winter break. After the box office closes, the tickets will only be available for purchase online.
December Dress Rehearsal
Date Friday, December 8
Time 3:45-6:30 p.m.
Location Lawrence Memorial Chapel
December Concerts
Date Saturday, December 9
Time 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Location Lawrence Memorial Chapel
Webcast 7:00 p.m. concert will be available to
watch online through Livestream


March Dress Rehearsal
Date Friday, March 23
Time 3:45-6:30 p.m.
Location Lawrence Memorial Chapel
March Concerts
Date Saturday, March 24
Time 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Location Lawrence Memorial Chapel
Webcast 7:00 p.m. concert will be available to
watch online through Livestream


Choir Materials

  • Girls must bring a black three-ring binder and two sharpened pencils to every rehearsal.
  • Music is the property of the Academy.

Concert Uniform

  • Black performance dress purchased by each participant.
  • Girls are to wear black, closed-toed, flat-heeled dress shoes, and black pantyhose.
  • Necklaces will be provided by the Academy and must be returned after each concert.
  • Post-style earrings for concerts are acceptable, no hoops.
  • Hair accessories must be small and the color of the hair. Hair must be its natural color

Electronics Policy

Cell phones, iPods, electronic readers, and other electronic devices are strictly prohibited during ensemble rehearsals and back stage during concerts.   If a family emergency takes place during a rehearsal or concert, please contact the ensemble manager.

The institution will comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and DPI's Nondiscrimination Provision for all students.

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