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Recently wrote this for a joint choir but they turned it down because it is hard.  What do you think?  I'm still open to revision, but I'm not sure I could water it down and keep the integrity of the piece together.

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Fr. Emerson:

This is a fine piece - a very modern setting and evocative of the text. I think we need church music that is both contemporary and dignified - and this is the case here.

That said, I sing in a church choir of middling ability so here is what I see that would be a problem for us:


1. The different entrances right at the beginning might throw everyone off and it will be hard to get confidence and coherence thereafter.

2. The slight dissonance in the soprano and alto voices at measure 6 will be problematic.  A lot of dissonance, such as that at measure 23 and occuring throughout the piece, will be considered difficult.

3. The changes in meter, tempo and dynamics at letter A put the sopranos out on a limb and they will be anxious.

4. The 8/8 meter starting at measure 15 is exotic and probably unnerving.  It will likely require memorization to realize correctly.

5. You're back to a slow 4/4 at B - that is a lot of changes for just 21 bars into the piece.

6. One measure of 5/4 at measure 27 could be considered tricky.

7. At D everyone comes in at different times - scary for most singers.

8. More meter changes and key changes from E to F.

9. Yet another section at G.


So overall there seems to be several very different sections - meter, tempo, dynamics, texture, etc - in what is just a 5 minute piece.  Most choral music tends to repeat itself in two or three sections - maybe only through a key change - but in a way that does not require a lot of additional practice.  A choir typically needs to grind through one or two sections in a piece, and these will be repeated - perhaps with only minor variations - so that once the basic components are learned the rest comes quickly.

Well I don't mean to dump on your efforts - this piece sounds great - but I find when I write choir music you have to be mindful of the skills the singers bring.  Any choir could sing the St. Matthew Passion - eventually.  But only a great choir could do it in the rehearsal time allowed.

If you want an opportunity for some payback, here are some of my Psalm settings - very simple to be sure but our choir can pretty much sight-read them.  I would be interested in your opinion if you care to look.  If you have additional church music please send me a link to your site.

We desparately need choral music for the church that sounds as good as this piece - now your job is to write it so that an average choir can sing it!

Greetings,

I get your comments and you are dead on about why the choirs decided not to do this piece.  This is a fairly short piece and I do change character and mood through out it, because the text does as well.  The psalm is only 6 verses but it goes from the depths of despair to the heights of praise; therefore I heard the music do the same.  

 

I know a lot of choral music uses repetitive sections.  John Rutter comes to mind as one who writes one short melody and then repeats it in three or four keys.  However, that has to get old after awhile for both singer and listener.  Yes, it is expedient for rehearsals and shortens prep time, but it also limits the efficacy of both the piece and the performance.  IMHO.

Nonetheless, thanks for your comments.  I'll take them to heart next time I tackle a choral setting.

God's Peace,

Jason+


Paul H. Muller said:

Fr. Emerson:

This is a fine piece - a very modern setting and evocative of the text. I think we need church music that is both contemporary and dignified - and this is the case here.

That said, I sing in a church choir of middling ability so here is what I see that would be a problem for us:


1. The different entrances right at the beginning might throw everyone off and it will be hard to get confidence and coherence thereafter.

2. The slight dissonance in the soprano and alto voices at measure 6 will be problematic.  A lot of dissonance, such as that at measure 23 and occuring throughout the piece, will be considered difficult.

3. The changes in meter, tempo and dynamics at letter A put the sopranos out on a limb and they will be anxious.

4. The 8/8 meter starting at measure 15 is exotic and probably unnerving.  It will likely require memorization to realize correctly.

5. You're back to a slow 4/4 at B - that is a lot of changes for just 21 bars into the piece.

6. One measure of 5/4 at measure 27 could be considered tricky.

7. At D everyone comes in at different times - scary for most singers.

8. More meter changes and key changes from E to F.

9. Yet another section at G.


So overall there seems to be several very different sections - meter, tempo, dynamics, texture, etc - in what is just a 5 minute piece.  Most choral music tends to repeat itself in two or three sections - maybe only through a key change - but in a way that does not require a lot of additional practice.  A choir typically needs to grind through one or two sections in a piece, and these will be repeated - perhaps with only minor variations - so that once the basic components are learned the rest comes quickly.

Well I don't mean to dump on your efforts - this piece sounds great - but I find when I write choir music you have to be mindful of the skills the singers bring.  Any choir could sing the St. Matthew Passion - eventually.  But only a great choir could do it in the rehearsal time allowed.

If you want an opportunity for some payback, here are some of my Psalm settings - very simple to be sure but our choir can pretty much sight-read them.  I would be interested in your opinion if you care to look.  If you have additional church music please send me a link to your site.

We desparately need choral music for the church that sounds as good as this piece - now your job is to write it so that an average choir can sing it!

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