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comments/constructive criticism requested for a capella SATB quartet arrangement: "Of The Father's Love Begotten"

Hi everyone! This is my first posting here. Please give a look/listen to this mockup of my first a capella arrangement, for SATB quartet, of the hymn "Of The Father's Love Begotten". All comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

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Really nice, I particularly enjoyed the "unusual" chords! The B half diminished in bar 65 left me hoping it would go somewhere more modern, but that's no biggie! The final progression was quite delicious, however... It made me think once again that these chords were perhaps too "hip" for the traditional nature of the rest of the arrangement. In any case, this is just minutia and mostly down to taste. The only real criticism would be in the modulation to F, it's a bit sudden, feels not well prepared. I would struggle to sing that...

Off topic, I was really intrigued by the library you used, it seemed to sing the words at times and others not. What is it? Soloists of Prague by any chance?

Hi James,

A substantial and interesting work. I do not have time at the moment to really comment on it, but will return before long with some thoughts -

Gav

Thanks for your kind words; I am glad you enjoyed it. I am thinking of the chord in 65 as a G9/B with only an implied root, so yes, it is pretty traditional to resolve to a C. I guess I am pretty traditional at heart. All of the modulations are just slight variations of V7 --> I.

Yes, the Library used was Soloists of Prague. I bought the Choral Bundle a few weeks ago on clearance right before Virharmonic discontinued it. It took quite a bit of work to get the pronunciation to more-or-less work, but it is by no means perfect. However, it seemed a little easier to work with than EWQL Symphonic Choirs or Hollywood choirs, which I have also used. Do you own any of the Word-building types of choral libraries?

Claude Werner said:

Really nice, I particularly enjoyed the "unusual" chords! The B half diminished in bar 65 left me hoping it would go somewhere more modern, but that's no biggie! The final progression was quite delicious, however... It made me think once again that these chords were perhaps too "hip" for the traditional nature of the rest of the arrangement. In any case, this is just minutia and mostly down to taste. The only real criticism would be in the modulation to F, it's a bit sudden, feels not well prepared. I would struggle to sing that...

Off topic, I was really intrigued by the library you used, it seemed to sing the words at times and others not. What is it? Soloists of Prague by any chance?

Thanks, I will be happy to hear your input once you have time. And thanks for hosting this site.

Gav Brown said:

Hi James,

A substantial and interesting work. I do not have time at the moment to really comment on it, but will return before long with some thoughts -

Gav

Ah yes, I did as well! i.e. bought the bundle. I haven't used it yet, but I did have a play around with it to see what it could do and there's definitely a function that does legato on vowels, you should try it! It will improve your performance dramatically. I was quite disappointed at the lack of diphthongs, I'm wondering how I'll get around that in the future..

I also own the EW, a superior instrument no doubt and much easier to get it to do things properly. Thanks for the reply!

James Gilmour said:

Thanks for your kind words; I am glad you enjoyed it. I am thinking of the chord in 65 as a G9/B with only an implied root, so yes, it is pretty traditional to resolve to a C. I guess I am pretty traditional at heart. All of the modulations are just slight variations of V7 --> I.

Yes, the Library used was Soloists of Prague. I bought the Choral Bundle a few weeks ago on clearance right before Virharmonic discontinued it. It took quite a bit of work to get the pronunciation to more-or-less work, but it is by no means perfect. However, it seemed a little easier to work with than EWQL Symphonic Choirs or Hollywood choirs, which I have also used. Do you own any of the Word-building types of choral libraries?

Claude Werner said:

Really nice, I particularly enjoyed the "unusual" chords! The B half diminished in bar 65 left me hoping it would go somewhere more modern, but that's no biggie! The final progression was quite delicious, however... It made me think once again that these chords were perhaps too "hip" for the traditional nature of the rest of the arrangement. In any case, this is just minutia and mostly down to taste. The only real criticism would be in the modulation to F, it's a bit sudden, feels not well prepared. I would struggle to sing that...

Off topic, I was really intrigued by the library you used, it seemed to sing the words at times and others not. What is it? Soloists of Prague by any chance?

Dear James, I enjoyed your piece VERY much! The leading of the voices convey a wonderful sense of  transcendence what I always love. I would also very much like to listen to this in a string quartett version - would this be possible?

Gerd

Gerd, thank you for your comment! That is an interesting idea to try this as a string quartet, although I do not yet have experience in that area. So far, the only string library I have is Adagietto from 8dio, which does not include solo strings. I did buy the Total Performance Solo Cello from Spitfire Audio recently, but I do not have any decent solo violin or viola patches. I considered buying the Trio Broz instruments from Fluffy Audio, and may still do that soon, but I have spent far more than I should have on libraries this year already. I cannot currently justify spending big bucks on any of the better known string libraries.

Hi, James, if you can create an XML-file and send it to me (email(at)gerdprengel.de) I would love to create a string quartett version for you .with NotePerformer... :-)
 
James Gilmour said:

Gerd, thank you for your comment! That is an interesting idea to try this as a string quartet, although I do not yet have experience in that area. So far, the only string library I have is Adagietto from 8dio, which does not include solo strings. I did buy the Total Performance Solo Cello from Spitfire Audio recently, but I do not have any decent solo violin or viola patches. I considered buying the Trio Broz instruments from Fluffy Audio, and may still do that soon, but I have spent far more than I should have on libraries this year already. I cannot currently justify spending big bucks on any of the better known string libraries.

Gerd, thank you for your kind offer! At this time, though, I think I will use this as an excuse to try out NotePerformer, and compare it with the only orchestral piece I have written so far, from earlier this year, which used Spitfire Audio BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover. I will let you know how that works out!

Gerd Prengel said:

Hi, James, if you can create an XML-file and send it to me (email(at)gerdprengel.de) I would love to create a string quartett version for you .with NotePerformer... :-)
 
James Gilmour said:

Gerd, thank you for your comment! That is an interesting idea to try this as a string quartet, although I do not yet have experience in that area. So far, the only string library I have is Adagietto from 8dio, which does not include solo strings. I did buy the Total Performance Solo Cello from Spitfire Audio recently, but I do not have any decent solo violin or viola patches. I considered buying the Trio Broz instruments from Fluffy Audio, and may still do that soon, but I have spent far more than I should have on libraries this year already. I cannot currently justify spending big bucks on any of the better known string libraries.

Hi James,

I listened to it 4 times, with the last listen focused on the lyrics. This piece is a delight from beginning to end. It starts out with a strong intro that jumps right away into memorable melodic content. This is extremely important as many classicists start off with a long drawn out intro which I am bored with in a matter of seconds. So strong is this content that I kept wanting to hear it again. That is a good thing, because it means you left me wanting more. One final note on the beginning: you could have taken it and copied it to the end as a coda, and it would have worked. 

Throughout the work, the harmonies and interplay/exchange between voices seemed appropriate to me, a nice blend. The harmonies sound fresh and of our time, which I personally think is critical in choir music. Anything which is not a fit for our times reminds me of dreadful church days where we had to pick up those old worn hymns and sing in boring traditional 4-part harmony. It is clear that everything in this piece revolves around the rhythmic motif you start after the intro - 8th-16th-16h-held, and it is so strongly dominant when it recurs that I listened to see if I grew tired of it. I found that I did not, it is appropriate to the length of the piece.

Regarding the lyrics. The “bn” is interesting. It took me a bit to understand why you did this, but I believe I got it: it creates a natural grace note and adds interest. Let me know if I have understood your intent correctly or not. Overall, I very much enjoyed the way the syncopated lines move against each other, with an overall feeling of always falling. I suppose there are as many ways to do slurring on vocal lines as there are composers, but I was taught that one only slurs the notes of multi-syllabic words, skipping over if a slur could be mistaken for a tie, which you don’t seem to have done here.

There is one place in the piece where I felt there is a weakness. This is in the bar at 2:35 at the culmination of an upward run in all the voices up to S-d5  A-a4 T-f4 B-b3. It’s disharmonious and I felt incongruous with the rest of the piece. Each time I listened to it, which I spread out over 2 weeks, I checked myself to see if I could grow accustomed to it, but I didn’t and so I wonder if there is a stronger choice that could be made here.

The ending was perfect, with the choice to move out of key for the first chord of the cadence a clear signal that the end was upon us.

Well done, and thanks for sharing it with us!

Gav

Gav,

Thank you for your thoughtful, thorough analysis!

Regarding the rhythmic motif, I had wondered myself whether it might be too repetitive, so I had experimented with straight eighth notes in the final verse, but it seemed to lose energy and momentum, so I reverted back to the original rhythm. I am glad it does not get tiresome to you.

Regarding the "bn", you are essentially correct. Afters the "ahs" in verse one, I wanted a little variety - something hum-like, but with a bell-like attack. I find it easier to hum on "n" than "m", hence the "bn". Actually, the recording has "bMm", since the VI I used would not let me do "bn".

Thank you for the comment on the slurs. Having, regretfully, never taken any composition courses to date, I was not aware of that guideline. I will have to examine the literature on that topic.

Regarding the chord at 2:35, both you and Claude Werner commented on that. I can see that it could seem a bit jarring compared to the types of harmonies used throughout the piece. I will experiment around with that area and see if I can come up with something a little more in keeping with the remainder of the piece.

I am greatly encouraged by the responses I have received on this forum. As a hobbyist composer having only written a handful of pieces so far, it gives me hope that I am on the right track!

Jim

Gav Brown said:

Hi James,

I listened to it 4 times, with the last listen focused on the lyrics. This piece is a delight from beginning to end. It starts out with a strong intro that jumps right away into memorable melodic content. This is extremely important as many classicists start off with a long drawn out intro which I am bored with in a matter of seconds. So strong is this content that I kept wanting to hear it again. That is a good thing, because it means you left me wanting more. One final note on the beginning: you could have taken it and copied it to the end as a coda, and it would have worked. 

Throughout the work, the harmonies and interplay/exchange between voices seemed appropriate to me, a nice blend. The harmonies sound fresh and of our time, which I personally think is critical in choir music. Anything which is not a fit for our times reminds me of dreadful church days where we had to pick up those old worn hymns and sing in boring traditional 4-part harmony. It is clear that everything in this piece revolves around the rhythmic motif you start after the intro - 8th-16th-16h-held, and it is so strongly dominant when it recurs that I listened to see if I grew tired of it. I found that I did not, it is appropriate to the length of the piece.

Regarding the lyrics. The “bn” is interesting. It took me a bit to understand why you did this, but I believe I got it: it creates a natural grace note and adds interest. Let me know if I have understood your intent correctly or not. Overall, I very much enjoyed the way the syncopated lines move against each other, with an overall feeling of always falling. I suppose there are as many ways to do slurring on vocal lines as there are composers, but I was taught that one only slurs the notes of multi-syllabic words, skipping over if a slur could be mistaken for a tie, which you don’t seem to have done here.

There is one place in the piece where I felt there is a weakness. This is in the bar at 2:35 at the culmination of an upward run in all the voices up to S-d5  A-a4 T-f4 B-b3. It’s disharmonious and I felt incongruous with the rest of the piece. Each time I listened to it, which I spread out over 2 weeks, I checked myself to see if I could grow accustomed to it, but I didn’t and so I wonder if there is a stronger choice that could be made here.

The ending was perfect, with the choice to move out of key for the first chord of the cadence a clear signal that the end was upon us.

Well done, and thanks for sharing it with us!

Gav

 I enjoyed this. I like that it doesn't push vocal ranges to their limits. As a person who sings in a  choir I would give this a big thumbs up!!

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