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Author Topic: Sweet singing in the choir: a choral miscellany  (Read 2701 times)
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« on: April 12, 2019, 04:31:14 AM »

I used to have a topic of this name at my old forum that went AWOL. It served to take the strain off the "classical" thread and it can do the same here. The title comes from a line in the Christmas carol "The Holly And The Ivy".

We recently attended a concert that included these movements from a stunning new Requiem by the Spaniard Bernat Vivancos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM1de-iiEdg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCRJZTuzJ2g

http://www.classical-music.com/review/ives-romanc-ne-ieva-ezeriete-and-latvian-radio-choir-perform-vivancos-requiem
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2019, 01:43:27 PM »

My favourite a capella choral work right now is a toss-up between Herbert Howells' Requiem and this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn5ken3RJBo

"[Morten Lauridson's] O magnum mysterium is pervaded by the same tenderness and refinement found in Lux aeterna; indeed, this refulgent work was written in 1994, just before Lauridsen began to contemplate the composition of the larger score. The composer has disclosed that this motet is an ‘affirmation of God’s grace to the meek—a quiet song of profound inner joy’. With a text from Christmas Matins that has been set by such disparate composers as Victoria and Poulenc, Lauridsen’s O magnum mysterium expresses mystical awe at the mystery of the Incarnation as well as the very human tenderness of the Virgin Mary for her newborn child." [Source]
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2019, 03:28:24 AM »

This is for Silken, who I know looks in from time to time. It's my favourite version of this beautiful work with its extraordinary history:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piPiVndX7kw

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miserere_(Allegri)
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« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2019, 07:22:04 AM »

I have always been fascinated by architect J.M. Luthmann's concrete "cathedral" at the centre of Radio Kootwijk transmitter park (NL). Yesterday I heard an extraordinary choral work dedicated to the radio-telephonic transmission established between Radio Kootwijk and the Dutch East Indies in 1928. Called Mass Transmission, it was written by the polarizing American composer Mason Bates. It was the swooping electronics imitating the fine-tuning of radio signals that first caught my ear. After that I was riveted. (The full text is reproduced here.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQrsfzGd1Xo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Kootwijk

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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2019, 03:01:19 PM »

Youth is one of the most visually beautiful films I've ever seen, with some of the best film music, not least David Lang's hypnotic Just (After Song of Songs):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTGtgvMQFm8

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_(2015_film)
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2019, 02:51:25 AM »

I heard this movement from Dutch composer Joep Franssens' Harmony of the Spheres this morning. It suits my contemplative mood right now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6PJITm02lM

Joep Franssens' Harmony of the Spheres: a conductor's analysis
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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2019, 01:10:46 AM »

I was determined not to like this (I can't stand the choral arrangement of Barber's Adagio for Strings) but I think this vocal version of Mahler's famous "Adagietto" sounds fantastic. Maybe it wouldn't in the hands (or throats) of a lesser choir. See what you think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA1c9jZmdag

https://www.nytimes.com/1992/07/19/arts/classical-music-a-dirge-no-it-s-a-love-song.html
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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2019, 02:23:16 PM »

My chorister friend will be singing this moving choral work (SATB with SATB soloists) by Carl Nielsen with 15 others in an impromptu concert for a fellow chorister who is terminally ill. "Sænk kun dit hoved, du blomst" (with license, "Just bow your head, little flower") is one of several pieces that chorister requested. Truly heartbreaking.         

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A7meWbR9gI
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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2019, 06:24:29 AM »

I'm utterly unfamiliar with the music of Bohuslav Martinů, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the mesmerising vocal work I heard this morning was by him. "The Ascension of the Lord" (Nanebevstoupení Páne) comes from Three Sacred Songs (Three Legends), which Martinů wrote in 1952.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt4DM1uNe4M

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohuslav_Martinů
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« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2019, 03:49:42 AM »

Today's BBC Radio 3's Sunday morning feature "Sounds of the Earth", which broadcasts field recordings of nature around the world, took us to Russia's Lake Taymyr in the Arctic Circle in 1990. The sounds of nature alternate with (usually) three pieces of music, one of which today was this choral gem by Alexander Gretchaninov, "Lord, Now Lettest Thou":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd1LoFiqcIQ   

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Gretchaninov

http://magic-ays.com/Lake/LakeTaymyr.htm
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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2019, 01:54:20 AM »

Regrettably I had to attend a funeral yesterday (someone from our street) and the choir in attendance sang Max Reger's "Der Mensch lebt und bestehet nur eine kleine Zeit", not the easiest of pieces to interpret I'm told although an absolute gem:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0aD9pGm1TI

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Reger
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« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2019, 03:16:21 AM »

"My" choir had this big concert last night (and I mean big--it went on for ever). I've already linked some of the pieces they sang but not this breathtakingly beautiful Locus Iste by Paul Mealor, who seems to be something of a superstar among living UK composers (see the wiki page):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0stt4Vm8uO8

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Mealor
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« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2019, 01:16:51 PM »

I heard this today on an early morning programme of religious music. Kreek's Psalms (including this "Onnis on inimene"), which I had the honour of accompanying at choir rehearsals years ago, mean more to me since I visited the Baltic States and experienced the openness (at times, the desolation) of the landscapes there.   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGPLLedbSoc

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrillus_Kreek
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« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2019, 03:53:34 AM »

I've probably said this before but every Sunday morning on BBC Radio 3 (the UK "classical" station), they have this feature called "Sounds of the Earth", where they play a field recording of natural sounds (this can be from anywhere in the world) interspersed and sometimes juxtaposed with short musical interludes chosen for their appropriateness in some way. Today's "Sounds" came from somewhere in India and the last piece they played was "Dawn", the third track from Meredith Monk's 1990 album Book of Days. Everything on Radio 3 is listed at their website except this feature, which means writing it down when they mention it afterwards. All part of the Sunday morning ritual (along with the boiled egg). This is a live version by Alter Ratio:     

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCEr7y6vkJU

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meredith_Monk
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« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2019, 01:49:29 PM »

Bless you for keeping this going.

This morning at Mass, our setting was a new to me piece by Duruflé (not his requiem mass), who, along with some other later French romantics, is really growing on me.  The mass was buttressed by motets by Widor and Poulenc--our music director puts together nice themes.  There is something about the French that can be very understatedly powerful.
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« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2019, 02:18:20 PM »

Bless you for keeping this going.

This morning at Mass, our setting was a new to me piece by Duruflé (not his requiem mass), who, along with some other later French romantics, is really growing on me.  The mass was buttressed by motets by Widor and Poulenc--our music director puts together nice themes.  There is something about the French that can be very understatedly powerful.

Wow, JH, you're the first person to post here other than myself! I really appreciate that.

So you sing in a church choir. I used to accompany an amateur choir at rehearsals for many years.

The Duruflé piece at Mass may have been the sublime "Ubi caritas et amor", one of his Four Motets::

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1BTWCpEFRQ

The other three are "Tota pulchra es", "Tu es Petrus" and "Tantum ergo".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quatre_Motets_sur_des_thèmes_grégoriens

I'm familiar with much of Poulenc's wonderful choral music but only know Widor from his organ pieces. I shall look for his motets on YouTube. Another great favourite of mine, which must be familiar to you, is Fauré's Requiem, which fits your closing description perfectly.
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« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2019, 02:54:59 PM »

I actually don't sing in the choir these days--I used to, but since I moved to NYC this Summer I'm only a listener to the pro choir at the parish I've settled into.  It's cool to be able to listen to a pro choir several times a week, but also sad that I can't participate since I'm not a pro, and also it's a choir of men and boys so I'm excluded that way, too.

In any case, the Mass setting was Duruflé's "Messe Cum Jubilo."  We do a full ordinary of the mass every Sunday minus the Credo.

The Widor was "O Salutaris Hostia" and the Poulenc was "Salut, Dame Sainte" which was great because it's in French and the choir so rarely does anything in anything other than Latin.  Sung French is just so rich and musical.

Good times.

Added later:

Oh, and yes, Fauré is wonderful.  I was fortunate enough to sing his requiem last year around this time, for All Souls/All Saints/Remembrance time.  We did the "reconstructed" "authentic version" that's heavy on violas.  My current Church will do it as our Sunday Mass setting on Remembrance Sunday.  I'll be sad not to be singing it.

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« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2019, 03:28:35 PM »

I actually don't sing in the choir these days--I used to, but since I moved to NYC this Summer I'm only a listener to the pro choir at the parish I've settled into.  It's cool to be able to listen to a pro choir several times a week, but also sad that I can't participate since I'm not a pro, and also it's a choir of men and boys so I'm excluded that way, too.

In any case, the Mass setting was Duruflé's "Messe Cum Jubilo."  We do a full ordinary of the mass every Sunday minus the Credo.

The Widor was "O Salutaris Hostia" and the Poulenc was "Salut, Dame Sainte" which was great because it's in French and the choir so rarely does anything in anything other than Latin.  Sung French is just so rich and musical.

Good times.

Thanks for the titles! I noticed the "Messe" among Duruflé's choral works but ruled it out since it was for male voices. Now I understand, although it's a shame your NYC choir isn't mixed and open to everyone.

I can't resist posting the Poulenc piece, together with the other three "petites prières de Saint François d'Assise". They're beautiful. I'm not familiar with any male choir pieces--"my" choir was SATB. Good point about sung French--indeed, there are so many great "classical" vocal works in that language but almost all of them are secular. More food for thought for subsequent posts in this topic. Wink     

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eatyViNp720

And now I'll shut up for a bit, I'm talking far too much. Grin
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« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2019, 03:35:54 PM »

I actually don't sing in the choir these days--I used to, but since I moved to NYC this Summer I'm only a listener to the pro choir at the parish I've settled into.  It's cool to be able to listen to a pro choir several times a week, but also sad that I can't participate since I'm not a pro, and also it's a choir of men and boys so I'm excluded that way, too.

In any case, the Mass setting was Duruflé's "Messe Cum Jubilo."  We do a full ordinary of the mass every Sunday minus the Credo.

The Widor was "O Salutaris Hostia" and the Poulenc was "Salut, Dame Sainte" which was great because it's in French and the choir so rarely does anything in anything other than Latin.  Sung French is just so rich and musical.

Good times.

Thanks for the titles! I noticed the "Messe" among Duruflé's choral works but ruled it out since it was for male voices. Now I understand, although it's a shame your NYC choir isn't mixed and open to everyone.

I can't resist posting the Poulenc piece, together with the other three "petites prières de Saint François d'Assise". They're beautiful. I'm not familiar with any male choir pieces--"my" choir was SATB. Good point about sung French--indeed, there are so many great "classical" vocal works in that language but almost all of them are secular. More food for thought for subsequent posts in this topic. Wink     

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eatyViNp720

And now I'll shut up for a bit, I'm talking far too much. Grin

This morning the boys were on vacation so it was just "The Gentleman of the Choir" thus the ATTBB work.  I love the Anglican tradition of all male choirs, but if you're going to do that, you really should have another choir for amateurs and women!  I'm angling for it!

Tonight they're doing Schütz and Eccard which I hate to miss, but one can't be in church all the time.

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« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2019, 03:21:37 AM »

Oh, and yes, Fauré is wonderful.  I was fortunate enough to sing his requiem last year around this time, for All Souls/All Saints/Remembrance time.  We did the "reconstructed" "authentic version" that's heavy on violas.  My current Church will do it as our Sunday Mass setting on Remembrance Sunday.  I'll be sad not to be singing it.

Well at least you sang it last year. Fingers crossed for next year. Wink

I have this luminous recording of the Requiem under René Leibowitz on a dirt-cheap LP on the Saga budget label. I may be able to find out which version he used. (The violas are pretty prominent.)

According to Wikipedia though, this is the only (or only worthwhile) recording of the reconstructed version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPI0BeCuLe4

You've given this topic a new lease of life--thank you!
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« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2019, 11:03:59 AM »

You've given this topic a new lease of life--thank you!

Happy to contribute!  I guess I didn't realize such a topic existed here!  And as I mentioned, I am lucky enough to get to hear live choral music at least 2-3 times a week, so there's always something to react to.
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« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2019, 02:23:15 PM »

There is something about the French that can be very understatedly powerful.

On the subject of French choral compositions, I don't know if you're familiar with Olivier Messiaen's unaccompanied motet "O sacrum convivium". "My" choir gave one concert performance of this unearthly composition. There was one passage (I think here at 2:22) which went wrong every time--except during the concert! I wish I could have photographed the conductor's face at that moment...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0__tgrjTkc
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« Reply #22 on: October 29, 2019, 11:15:18 AM »

One final blast of French choral music (from me anyway) and then I have one or two other things lined up... 

"L'adieu des bergers" from Berlioz's oratorio L'enfance du Christ is sublime from start to finish but there's a thrice-recurring moment (first heard at 0:55-1:00) that reduces JK to a quivering jelly.

This shepherds' farewell suits my contemplative mood right now (not that I'm going anywhere):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWzYWQO9TfI

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27enfance_du_Christ
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« Reply #23 on: October 30, 2019, 07:43:16 AM »

My soprano friend has a wonderful singing voice but has great difficulty reading music--in fact she can hardly read music at all. Tongue This is where I come in. I play her parts on the piano into her smartphone and she can then hook it up to the speaker boxes (or an earpiece) and sing along, eventually learning those parts off by heart (a not inconsiderable achievement in itself).

The great new method we (okay, she) discovered recently enables her to record me playing her part on top of a full YouTube or Spotify version using two smartphones and a virtual assistant. Then she has all the cues she needs from the other vocal parts (and from the orchestra if there is one).

The last work we recorded using this strategy was Schubert's Mass in E Flat, for a concert next month. This is the version we used:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMPyjI4953g

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_No._6_(Schubert)
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« Reply #24 on: October 30, 2019, 06:15:50 PM »

My soprano friend has a wonderful singing voice but has great difficulty reading music--in fact she can hardly read music at all. Tongue This is where I come in. I play her parts on the piano into her smartphone and she can then hook it up to the speaker boxes (or an earpiece) and sing along, eventually learning those parts off by heart (a not inconsiderable achievement in itself).

The great new method we (okay, she) discovered recently enables her to record me playing her part on top of a full YouTube or Spotify version using two smartphones and a virtual assistant. Then she has all the cues she needs from the other vocal parts (and from the orchestra if there is one).

The last work we recorded using this strategy was Schubert's Mass in E Flat, for a concert next month. This is the version we used:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMPyjI4953g

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_No._6_(Schubert)

Schubert's masses are all quite lovely, and it's always interesting to hear about other musician's processes.  My mother is a professional accompanist and has done similar things for singers to help them learn parts.  While I think reading music is something most people can learn to do with concerted practice, the fact is it's just hard for a lot of people and I think anything that facilitates playing and performing is great.

I was fortunate enough to sing Schubert's Mass in C last year for Easter Sunday, which was really delightful. 
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