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12/29/2010 A Christmas Trololo Thank-yous. (See below for Still Alive)

This was a Racine community event. This win belongs to all of us. The audience was invited for the purpose of making this singing Christmas card. We especially appreciate Mrs. Bieri and the kids from the Gilmore M.S. Choir for joining us. Others included family members, students from other schools and local residents. The audience practiced for an hour with the kids while the band practiced in another room. Then we practiced coordinating everything for an hour. Then we ran three takes.

It is my great pleasure to work with 80 of the most terrific music ambassadors on the planet. They work very hard to entertain their families and you. Many kids came sick to the taping and some had to leave as they couldn’t keep their breakfast down. Someone wrote a comment on our Still Alive video that has stuck in my head. He said: “Imagine when these kids are in high school and their friends say “You were in THAT choir.” Being in choir is the coolest place to be!

Amazing parents at Gifford have supported my crazy ideas and allowed me to do strange texts and have their kids do unusual homework. Parents regularly check my communication blog to free me from having to get letters out. We couldn’t do this without them.

I have two incredible colleagues that bring amazing skills to our team. Katie McCormick is an extremely gifted choreographer, figure skater, pianist and choir teacher. I am your typical geeky guy with two left feet. I couldn’t begin to get the kids to do the things she can. She took the stereotypical moves of Eduard Khil and turned them into useable choreography.

The other is Angela-Janota Peavler. She is our strings teacher at Gifford. Angela has an eye for visual presentation and costuming. When we met to talk about Trololo I presented Angela with my desire to put the kids in masks. Eduard Khil performed Trololo with a plastic smile plastered on his face. The masks gave them that look. (With a little WTH mixed in). The parents picked out the masks for their kids. Angela took it a step farther and told me about her animatronic robot. She dressed him like Trololo Man and Trololobot was born. I also asked Angela to provide stage decorations to give the performance a holiday feel.

Other members of the team included Jeni Balch who suggested this piece back in April instead of the Rick Roll. Ken Norman directed the pit band. Brett Halladay saved the day when the kids knocked the robot’s head off. He also made the iconic backdrop from the original Trololo video. My daughter Hallie has played bells for us on Radiohead’s No Surprises, Still Alive and now on this one. Other helpers included Chris Janus recording assitant, Mike Cobb played Drums, Brad Karas who has been playing bass for me since he was a student at Park High School where I used to teach, Eric Weiss on trumpet, Cathy Gabbey and Angela Peavler on Violin, and Russel Skewes on Baritone. Gary Alvarado of A.V.A. Media Solutions filmed the event.

When I tried to find the music for Trololo I was completely unsuccessful. I resorted to a message in a bottle and emailed a Russian man that had donated a few $$ to our choir after “Still Alive” (thank-you PayPal) Aleksandr Kutznetov found the score on a Russian music site and then translated the opening credits for me. What a great world the internet is.

My son Donovan helped me with the video clips on iMovie. The new version had me stumped.

The Gifford Choirs have partnered with the Racine Dairy Statesman, The Choral Arts Society of Southeast Wisconsin, and the UW Parkside Master Singers. These fabulous local choirs give us mutual support and help provide our families with opportunities to join and hear adult choirs.

Media Attention:
We made it to G4TV’s <a href="http://g4tv.com/videos/50429/around-the-net-121610/"Attack of the Show ”
We made it into The Escapist Magazine
We made it into the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online:
We were talked about on WGTD public radio by Dave McGrath
We were mentioned in an article in the Huffington Post
We made it on the front page of KnowYourMeme.com were they called it “a memetastic performance” and then included us on the Trololo page, a more or less permanent place of honor in a new category called “Tribute Performances
The biggest surprise is that the number one website that led people to our video was one in Brazil Kibeloco.com got us 76,615 views

And we have an article coming out in the CaledoniaPatch.com on or after January 1.

—————————————————————————

5/8/2010 Still Alive Thank-yous
There are so many people and communities to thank.

The Escapist Magazine was the first to write an article about the choir. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/99500-Childrens-Choir-Sings-Still-Alive Andy Chalk actually read my blog and researched the story. That meant a lot to me and he did an amazing job! Then an even more amazing thing happened. The Escapist Magazine’s Mr. Chalk actually posted the second story including the rickroll. “Still Alive” Choir Says Thank You to The Escapist He got what the kids and I were trying to do. He risked ridicule from those who think revisiting a dead meme was a bad idea. Thanks Andy for taking a chance on us.

YouTube: Thanks for the awesome mode of communication you have developed for ordinary people all over the world to use. Thanks for hosting our videos. See our list of honors here.  We were the #5 top rated and #5 top favorited videos for 1 week and received over 30 other honors.

I believe it was many of our Anonymous viewers that first posted the video to Digg and Reddit. Thanks for seeing something special in what we did. I am in awe of the raw creativity that flows where I dare not even go. Thank-you. I would say more but for #1 and #2.

Reddit.com: 27,708 views, 829+ points, 334 comments. I especially liked that the narwhal bacons at midnight. I felt very comfortable in the style and in-depth, quality comments that I found by you. I also joined Reddit and spend too much time there now.  See here.

Digg.com: You got us 36,954 views of the original. 2340 Diggs and 246 comments. Being an outsider I didn’t understand how cool it is to have made it to the front page. Your comments were great. Thank-you.

Kotaku.com: 19,896 views, 261 comments, 151 tweets As an educator at one of the top scoring schools in Wisconsin for reading, I like the way you monitor your comments. Too much of a n00b to know if this is common or unique but it works for me. What does the little flame stand for? Views? Ratings? Look here.

ca.Kotaku.com: I don’t know why this is separate in the YouTube stats but we got 15,229 views from here. Thanks Kotaku!

G4TV.com: I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the kids posted here! Even a n00b like me watches enough TV to know what G4 is. The words “A Nugget from the Net” will stick in my head forever. Here’s the post.  22,644 views came from here. They sure didn’t like the rickroll video. After two comments the moderator locked it because it wasn’t a gaming video. No complaints, only thanks. Then unbelievably we got posted a second time!   This was in an article called The Many Voices of Still Alive This was a posting of the most interesting covers of “Still Alive.”  They said this about the choir : “We have saved the most unique version for last: an entire children’s voice choir performing a very pretty (and slightly creepy, considering the lyrics) rendition of “Still Alive” that makes me simultaneously think “what was that teacher thinking” and “why couldn’t my school have been this cool?””

Geekologie.com 21,679, 52 comments Thanks for posting us. Look here.

pixelatedgeek.com posted the original and once again the new video. Look here. Nelson, thanks, you have helped me decide on what’s next for the choir.

Michael Briel for supporting us and posting us to his YouTube channel (here) It amazes me that someone in Germany cared enough about what we did to offer advice and help to the choir.  Thanks, Michael, you give me hope in humanity.   Michael is a musician working in electronic music and has his own YouTube video related to Portal (here).

Halolz.com 18,383 views.  57 commets (322 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5) thanks a ton.  See here.

Thanks to the 105 bloggers that posted us.

Here are a few from Viral Video Charts (here):

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Now Gifford Community People to Thank

First off, thanks to these amazing 8 to 11 year old kids that worked their butts off to sing the first version and to woodshed it for the second time around. In preparing for the TV audition that came as a result of the Still Alive success, the kids learned two very difficult pieces in just 14 days from concept to execution. Can you imagine kids this age sitting in two 5 hour rehearsals on consecutive Saturdays? They are singing in three and four part harmony! The offers to attend choir events around the world are starting to roll in. Watch them on the videos page singing Acapella and Telephone. Unbelievable…14 days and only 9 days from first rehearsal to performance! The sky is the limit and I’m taking you there kids!

Next in line are our awesome parents. Thank for trusting me that this would be good for the kids. Pushing the edge of what is appropriate without crossing it isn’t easy. I was much more worried about No Surprises than Still Alive but still you are what made this work. I also want to thank you for all the work you did to get the audition ready. So many parents doing so many things. I will eventually name names but for now just know that the kids and I really appreciate what you have done. Whoever brought water to UWP saved the choir from loosing more kids to those wicked lights.

Our Administrative Team. Steve Russo and Jamie Syvrud. Thanks guys for giving me a very long leash.

Katie McCormick: Katie came to Gifford last summer when the former person in her position left unexpectedly. I got to be part of the hiring process and was very excited when Katie applied. She taught at St. Joan Antida High School, Milwaukee for 5 years before joining us giving her a very similar focus to mine. We renamed our school the “School of Choirs” and teach choral technique to all 1000 students. Katie has excellent skills as a choreographer and accompanist as well. She was the Director of Choreography for the audition pieces. I gave her free reign and she took it! Way to go, you got the kids to do things I didn’t know they could! Katie also is an accomplished figure skater and coach and recently competed in a major event in Minneapolis, MN. Thank-you Katie.

Rob Kroes: Rob is a rare find and was recently hired by our district to teach vocal music at McKinley Middle School. Rob was a student at UWStevens Point and student taught with me in spring 2010. Rob is no stranger to our school. He is not only an alumnus but has directed musicals in our summer daycare program. As he gradually took over my duties he freed me up to do more promotional work, email, arranging etc. I wanted Rob to be a part of this so I gave him the Rick Astley piece to prepare. We had no time to commit to this as the TV audition was all consuming. Rob taught the kids the moves and simple harmony, and selected the soloist in three short rehearsals. Having him hit the piano to give the tempo thereby making the el-wire dress light up was brilliant! I have rick rolled myself a couple times editing the videos with the sound off and seeing the dress light up. Thank-you Rob.

The Creative Team:
Donovan Senzig: Donovan is a young man that amazes me at the depth of his character. As part of the co-op program at WPHS in Racine he has been given the job of graphic designer for our school district. In that capacity he has done layout and printing of the Gifford music programs. He spends so much time online that I think he could actually consume Karen Plankton’s pot roast. I asked him to join the creative team because I value his opinion, experience, taste in music and insight. He suggested the rickroll when I was considering performing Fireflies by Owl City.

Angela Peavler: Angela is our Director of Visual Effects. She teaches strings in the room next to mine and heard Still Alive through the door over and over and became interested. I had originanlly intended on the flashlight bit with captured video of the game projected above the kids heads, maybe a kid playing in real time. Angela is a costume designer and had an idea to use sound sensitive el-wire to create a cake dress. The idea to start in darkness and silence and then have the dress light up as the volume increased was her idea. She also created the portals for the first video and then souped them up with two additional el-wire strands for the the second version. For the TV audition pieces she volunteered her husband to build a giant pow-wow drum so that I could add a touch of Native American culture to Acapella. She felt the epic drum would be really cool. I agree. Angela is one of the most under-utilized resources of the Racine music community. Her abilities and insight far surpass the position she holds at Gifford, Fratt and Goodland. She should be directing a major community strings ensemble. Thanks Angela.

Jeni Balch: This is one of my favorite parts of this story. Jenni commented on my blog after Still Alive was going viral about how her and her office mates were smiling all day about the Still Alive video. She told me she worked for a major game designing company. As I was starting to think about repertoire for next year’s choir I wanted to check out music from other video games. I couldn’t play the games as my time is too controlled. So I emailed Jenni and asked her for suggestions. She was thrilled and we spent the next two hours on line. She gave me a lot of good suggestions and then it came out that she worked for Blizzard! When the offer to audition came about, I invited her to be a part of the creative team. She joined us by video conference from TX. She is the one who suggested doing Telephone. Thanks to you our new internet friend.

Wendy Senzig: Wendy has been the accompanist for the choir for the past four years. She has also accompanied many of my other choirs over the past 22 years of our marriage. She is a valued and essential part of the team. Wendy has a degree in Voice Performance and runs a local music program. In addition to her help on these videos she had to run a single parent household for the past month as I became enthralled with YouTube statistics and then real work to get ready for the audition. Thank-you Wendy.

Mike Cobb: Mike has been an important part of my programs both at the High School level and at Gifford. He has played for talent shows and concerts with me for the past ten years. He comes prepared even when I have not provided him with any sheet music. He turned the Still Alive accompaniment from a synthesized percussion sound from the video game version, into something that worked acoustically. In the auditon pieces I had little control of the choir in performance. Mike was invaluable at these events. He is also applying to RUSD and again the district would be nuts not to hire this guy.

Jeremy Peters: Jeremy is the most talented high school musician I have had the pleasure to work with. He recently received a partial 4 year scholarship to Berkley on the violin. I saw Jeremy play guitar with his band at our church picnic. There were only a few people there but he played his music and interacted with the crowd as if he was playing at Millennium Park in Chicago. He plays violin on our Harvey Sollberger pieces on the video page, added acoustic guitar on Still Alive Take 2, and played the synthesizer on the rickroll. I sure wish we could have done Street Spirit (Fade Out) by Radiohead while he was still affordable! Thanks Jeremy.

—————————————————————————
Grants and Donations
Kids First Fund: A huge thanks goes out to this Racine community organization. The Kid’s First Fund gave us a $800 grant to help pay for the expenses of the UW-Eau Claire trip. This trip was essential to developing the choir as an organization. Parents had to make some hard choices about their child’s commitment to the choir. Having the busses paid for helped a lot of families to be able to afford to go. Thanks to the committee that chose our proposal.

The Gifford PTA: The Gifford PTA approved a grant for up to $2800. We used $2400 to help pay for busses and expenses. The trip would not have succeeded without you. Thanks also Gifford PTA for adding a line item for the Talent Show and increasing the budget for the musical for 2010-2011.

Your Financial Donations To The Choir Rock!
Listed by Classic Rock Band

$1-$9 “Queen”
Richard Clifford Edinburgh, UK
Mark Coffman Eustis, FL
Drew Snider ASU
$10-$24 “Van Halen”
Mary Bose and Family
Crenshaw Family
Atkins Family
Andersen Family
Rachel Benson
Jason Geurkink Austin, Tx
Kohler Family
Gail Mattie
Josh Parent Malone, NY
Theresa Petrovic
Schuster Family
Smith Family
Thorson Family
Wiesner Family
$25-$49 “Jimmi Hendrix”
Clemens Family
DeRosia Family
Hayes Family
$50-$99 “Pink Floyd”
Debbie Crenshaw
Melissa Dixon and Family
Kim Hays
Leslie Family
Wendy Nelson
$100-$149 “The Beatles”
Kim Jones
McIntosh Family
Francine Merritt
$150-$199 “Led Zeplin”
Jack and Wendy Senzig
$200 “The Who”
Brenda Torres
$750 Tri City National Bank (Thanks to the Kraus family for acquiring this)

Thank-you to all of the parents who generously gave of their time, brought water and snacks for the kids and helped keep Mr. Senzig organized for the Gifford Children’s Choir TV audition.

All Part of the Plan
I knew that Still Alive would be a big hit. Anytime you combine two things together that haven’t been combined the results are either a disaster or pretty awesome. An elementary school choir singing a video game song about an evil computer bent on your destruction was bound to work. It was my hope to bring attention to our school so that when well known performers travel through Milwaukee and Chicago and they want a children’s choir to back them up they will think of us. The other part of the plan was to bring choir up higher on the parents priority list. Many students miss rehearsals due to dentist appointments, minor physical discomfort and poor transportation planning by their parents. Face it, we are all crazy busy these days, so unless you can make what the kids are doing resonate for the parents they are going to do what works best for them and not the choir.

Thank-you all for this incredible experience for the kids and the indepth education that I have received. I didn’t even know Reddit, Digg, Kotaku, Geekologie, the escapist, or any of the other gaming communities existed. I had been to the Wizards of the Coast a few times, but I have used the internet mostly for communication through my blog, email, MySpace and YouTube entertainment. I didn’t know what a meme was nor how to pronounce it.  Now I have joined a couple of forums and have enjoyed the conversation about topics I care about. My big question is why is there not a choir forum like this or where is it? ChoralNet is good but doesn’t compare to the lively debate going on at any of the places listed above. Come on music people, correct me or agree with me, either way I want more. (edit 9/19/10: ChoralNet has gotten a lot better, MENC choral forum is also very good)

Thanks,
Jack Senzig
Director, Gifford Children’s Choir

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4 Responses

  1. Karen Plankton’s pot roast?

  2. The best music teacher in the world? Radiohead’s No Surprises and Portal’s Still Alive? Absolutely amazing stuff and all those kids will remember you forever. What a guy.

  3. I would love to sing the Trololo song in my school’s vocal music class. I was wondering if you could upload the sheet music for it onto this website for others to get it as well. As you said, it’s next to impossible to find online unless you know Russian so that would be greatly appreciated. Also, I’ve seen many people looking for the sheet music while searching for it myself so it would also increase your view count on this website and thus raise the publicity of your wonderful children’s choir.

    I assume that it is an old enough song to be in the free domain but if there are any copyright issues, I understand. However, just to be clear, I’m not going to be performing at an event and it’s just being used as an end of the year final solo piece so that shouldn’t break copyright infringement.

    Really, any info would be great, even a hint in the right direction to finding it if you can’t link to the sheet music.

    Cheers, and your choir has to be one of the most modern and innovative I’ve ever heard,

    Josh Cameron
    Grade 12 Male Vocalist
    Resurrection C.S.S.
    Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

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