Quaker Notes Releases New CD
Between feature films, collegiate competitions, and television shows, you might say a cappella has been “having a moment” recently. Performing without instrumental accompaniment, singers take contemporary music and provide the main vocals and background, like bass. Katherine Vidoni, General Music Teacher and Choral Director, is in her 7th year directing Quaker Notes, the GSFS a cappella group open to 7th-8th Grade students. We spoke with Katherine about Quaker Notes, her own background in the genre, and why choral singing is so important for our students. You can order Quaker Note’s newest release here.
How Did Quaker Notes Get Started?
Quaker Notes was an established group when I started at Greene Street Friends. The group was small and mostly did traditional, English choral music. I suggested changing the group to be more like a collegiate a cappella group.
Have You Been A Member of A Cappella Groups?
Yes, I sang in choirs all through school and then joined an a cappella group in college. I was a member of The ConnChords, Connecticut College’s oldest all-girl a cappella group. After college I taught high school chorus, including an a cappella group, and found the contemporary a cappella I sang in college more approachable for students and flexible for middle school voices than other forms of choral music.
How Does Quaker Notes Select Its Pieces Each Year?
The students select all of our pieces each year. Students provide song selections at the beginning of the year and then I listen to all of them, watch the music videos, and determine whether or not they’d be appropriate and/or workable. After working my way through the list and selecting ones that will work, Quaker Notes picks the final song selections. I then turn them into a cappella arrangements. We also try to pick a song for the Fall that will work for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.
What’s One of Your Favorite Pieces?
I loved “Rise Up,” which Quaker Notes sang in Winter of 2014. It’s this Beyoncé song that’s not very well known, but so inspirational and hopeful. It’s actually the first track on our new CD.
What Was a Particularly Challenging Piece?
“Somebody to Love” by Queen was difficult because of the coordination between background vocalists and soloists. The song also has a huge vocal range for middle school students. “Halo,” again by Beyoncé, from this year’s Fall concert was another tough piece.
Why Do You Think Quaker Notes Is Such an Important Part of GSFS?
Singing in ensembles is a living analogy to life. You have to work as a team toward a common goal, and sometimes that means working to improve oneself so that the larger group can be stronger. Ensemble performance is all about finding that balance between being a confident, independent singer, while being a teammate who can support and fit into the larger group. We were watching the video of this year’s Winter Concert and one of the students had this revelatory moment when she said, “I need to be as strong as everyone else and can’t rely on others to let me know [when to begin, key changes, etc.] I need to make sure I am more prepared in the future.” The whole group, through this conversation, learned how they can use such videos as guides for how to improve their own personal performance, and in turn, strengthen the overall group. I have found a great sense of community from being part of choral groups throughout my life, and I love creating something to be shared. It can be difficult for middle school age students to express themselves, and performing music in a group like Quaker Notes provides an outlet for them to experience and express their passion and emotion.