Developing Choral Tone by Choosing the Right Repertoire…

by vernsanders on May 25, 2010

Last Friday I attended a wonderful break out session at the ACCC Podium 2010 conference (the title is above). Morna Edmundson, conductor of the Elektra Women’s Choir was the presenter, and she gave me permission to share this checklist with you.

Does this piece have a beautiful melody?

Does this piece have architecture/structure/shape?

Does the text of this piece create possibilities to explore expression, dynamics, and/or tone color?

Does this piece allow the singers to sing most of the time? (Will they spend at least as much time vocalizing as waiting?)

Do the vocal entrances in this piece make sense without a lot of mental fatigue?

Does this piece sit in a tessitura that is going to allow my singers to sing without boredome, tension, or fatigue?

Will this piece challenge my singers to use parts of their range that they might not otherwise use?

Does this piece allow my singers to hear their own tone and perceive the sound of all the voices together? (Does it avoid constant doubling at pitch or loud accompaniment?)

Will my singers be able to pronounce the words without hesitating before each upcoming vowel?

Are the rhythms worth the work to read them?

Is this score laid out to help the singers find their way?

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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May 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm

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Nancy Doughty May 25, 2010 at 10:57 am

Wow! What a lot of great questions. These really make you stop and think about how you select music for your choir, but continue to challenge them to be better more focused singers. Good stuff!

vernsanders May 25, 2010 at 11:12 am

thanks for the comment, Nancy. It was a great session, and they are great values to check.

Edward Palmer June 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Fine criteria by which to select a nice piece of music. This would eliminate a lot or music, I think. There are no (or few) perfect pieces.
In my opinion, there is a serious lack of vocal awareness in most choral conductors. With high personl technique and the ability to illustrate for a choir, the conductor has a leg up toward tackling any repertoire, even what may not meet your “requirements.” Robert Shaw was asked about the choral conductor and vocal study and awareness. Said Shaw, “The more, the better.” Hear the St. Pete JC choir on my website.

vernsanders June 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm

You’re right, Edward, it eliminates a lot of music…and most of it is not the best, in my opinion. You are also right in that there are no “perfect” pieces, although there may be a perfect piece for any given choir at any given time. And I think that Morna would absolutely agree with you: there is a serious lack of vocal awareness on the part of many conductors. That’s why the checklist, in my opinion.
Thanks for the comment.

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