Archive for the 'choral' Category

Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven

Guest post by Jan Schumacher

Beethoven is not primarily thought of as a vocal composer, but why not? The choral collection compiled by Jan Schumacher, which contains both well-known and unknown choral works by Beethoven and original transcriptions of Beethoven’s works by other composers, reveals a great deal of extremely attractive repertoire.

The widely-held prejudice that “he could not write for voice” sticks to few composers as much as it does to Ludwig van Beethoven. This may be due to the fact that his place in music history is primarily as a revolutionary symphonist and creator of incomparable chamber music like the string quartets and piano sonatas. To take this to mean that he had no understanding of the human voice or did not know how to write for chorus, however, is to draw the wrong conclusion. Beethoven, like nearly every other composer of his age and indeed until the first half of the 20th century (with a few notable exceptions such as Chopin and Paganini), was equally used to composing for voice and instruments.

It is when we try to label Beethoven that we develop what can be misleading expectations. For instance, though we often group Beethoven together with bastions of Viennese classicism like Mozart and Haydn, this designation would lead us to expect a vocal lightness in his works that we find in his contemporaries. Indeed, there are many pieces among Beethoven’s choral works that do satisfy these expectations and are very singable for many choirs. The vocal demands of the Mass in C major, for example, are quite similar to those of the late Haydn masses.

Yet we must also recognize that defining Beethoven as a “classical” composer is extremely limiting. Beethoven was ahead of his time in many respects, and in his choral works, this push toward romanticism manifests through greater demands on the vocalists, as we see in the choral parts of the 9th Symphony and in his greatest choral-symphonic work, the Missa solemnis. The extreme ranges required by the Missa solemnis do not represent a failure of craftsmanship, but rather a clear compositional intention. The contrasts in the Missa solemnis are in fact essential elements of the work!

We should also consider Beethoven’s demanding choral repertoire in light of later composers like Berlioz, Liszt, Mahler and Reger who also demanded the utmost from their choral singers. Were these composers criticized as strongly as Beethoven for their choral works? Connecting Beethoven with these later composers instead of with the Viennese classicists allows us to see that Beethoven and choral composition fit together very well and that it is worth examining his choral output as a whole.

A very popular work, even during Beethoven’s lifetime, was Meeres Stille und Glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), Op. 112. Beethoven set Goethe’s two-verse poem in a striking fashion: the first part (poco sostenuto, but alla breve time!) vividly describes the oppressive quiet and the vast expanse of the calm sea. In the lively second part Beethoven depicts both the surging and strengthening of the sea, as well as the inner joy and hope of the boatman who, thanks to the onset of the wind, can hope for a rapid voyage home. Beethoven demonstrates his vast compositional mastery in both the choral composition and the skillful orchestration.

Another gem that is performed much less often is the Elegischer Gesang (Elegiac Song), Op. 118, a short, restrained choral movement with string accompaniment. Beethoven composed the work in memory of Eleonore von Pasqualati, who died at the age of 24. She was the wife of Johann Baptist Freiherr von Pasqualati, a longtime friend of Beethoven’s. Musically condensed phrases of great intensity await the listener, which lead again and again into moments of softness and gentleness. The Elegischer Gesang may not be one of Beethoven’s major works, but it is a jewel well worth discovering. Together with the vocal and instrumental parts, a piano part has been handed down, and this can be used as an alternative to a string quartet. It is this version of the Elegischer Gesang that is included in the Beethoven Choral Collection.

BeethovenChoralCollectionQualitatively, there can be no doubt about Beethoven’s preeminence as a choral composer. It is only in terms of quantity that his choral output cannot compare with composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Handel or Bach. At first this seemed to be a problem in publishing a volume of Beethoven’s choral music, but of course there are canons, shorter choral movements, a few Scottish songs and excerpts from incidental music — e.g., König Stephan (King Stephen) and Die Ruinen von Athen (The Ruins of Athens) — as well as his oratorio, Christus am Ölberge (The Mount of Olives), all of which undoubtedly contain exciting discoveries for such a collection.

A number of choral arrangements of Beethoven’s instrumental works, as common and popular during Beethoven’s lifetime as they are today, are also included in the collection. Characterized by a noble, cantabile quality, Beethoven’s slow movements are especially fine models for choral arrangements, such as Silcher’s Persischer Nachtgesang, based on the second movement of the 7th Symphony, and the Hymne an die Nacht, based on the second movement of the “Appassionata.” Both of these are included in the Beethoven Choral Collection. Equally exciting are the discoveries of the Drei Aequale, originally brass pieces that were arranged for chorus by Ignaz von Seyfried and sung at Beethoven’s funeral, and Gottlob Benedict Bierey’s Kyrie, based on the first movement of the “Moonlight Sonata,” and Agnus Dei.

Inspired by these arrangements, we commissioned a series of new arrangements for the Beethoven Choral Collection. Leading contemporary composers such as Heribert Breuer, Gunther Martin Göttsche, John Høybye, Giacomo Mezzalira, Christoph Müller and Peter Schindler have contributed to the collection. Arrangements from Clytus Gottwald and Jaakko Mäntyjärvi are also included.

The Beethoven Choral Collection is a real treasure trove for all choirs celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, as well as for choirs looking to add a truly fantastic volume to their library. We hope that the collection will inspire all manner of church choirs and choral societies, including major cathedral choirs and ambitious chamber choirs, to explore Beethoven’s vocal works and to give Beethoven his well-deserved appreciation as a choral composer.

 


JanSchumacher

Jan Schumacher is University Music Director of the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main and Conductor of the Camerata Musica Limburg and the Chorus of the Technical University Darmstadt. With his ensembles he performs a wide repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to premieres of new works and jazz, and from symphonic orchestral repertoire to Big Band and vocal and electronic improvisation. He also directs seminars for singers, orchestras and conductors throughout Europe and internationally and is the editor for several choral collections at Carus-Verlag.

Discovering Mårten Jansson & Bärenreiter’s Jansson Choral Competition

MartenJansson
Mårten Jansson

Every time we listen to Swedish composer Mårten Jansson we can’t help but get swept up in the whirlwind of emotions he creates. His music is full of all of the compositional elements that choristers love to sing: sweeping melodic lines, open chords and expressive dissonance.

Ultimately, though, performers and audiences alike fall in love with his music because they are drawn to the fundamental honesty at its core. Jansson approaches traditional sacred texts with humility, and he openly shares his experience of it through his music in a way that amplifies the text without pretense or contradiction.

JanssonMissaPopularis

This honesty should not, however, be confused with simplicity or naïveté. Jansson’s stunning Missa Popularis, for instance, manages to connect us to a profound range of emotions, while uniting many layers of thought and tradition into the microcosm of a single piece of music. In addition to all of Jansson’s neoromantic tendencies, the Missa sits atop a foundation of Swedish folk dances and simultaneously also sounds strikingly Medieval. This is perhaps most obvious in the opening of the “Kyrie” and the “Agnus Dei,” but the feeling of the chant is present throughout the entire Mass.

By uniting modern constructions with ancient ones, Jansson not only brings his Mass into the long tradition of the sacred ritual, but also brings the listener into communion with that tradition and with those who have celebrated it for centuries. The past shines through to the present, and the present holds its hand out to the past. Time becomes circular in celebration of the ritual, and Janssons’s Missa Popularis allows the audience to experience that in the music itself.

JanssonMariaIV

A similar combination of modern and ancient also underpins Jansson’s “Maria (IV),” which simultaneously elicits a deep-seated sympathy for the universal, fundamental suffering of motherhood and brings to life Mary’s individual sorrow as the mother of a child who belongs not to her, but to all mankind. Commissioned by the Royal Swedish Court for the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2013, this piece served as the focal point of Bärenreiter’s Mårten Jansson Choral Competition.

Ten choirs from around the world entered videos of their performances of “Maria (IV)” in the competition, and those videos were judged by an international panel of choral experts. The top three choirs all received vouchers for Bärenreiter choral publications, and the winning choir also received a commission for a new Jansson piece to suit their particular needs.

Here is the video submitted by the winning choir, the Jugendkonzertchor Dortmund from Dortmund, Germany directed by Felix Heitmann. This performance was praised by judges as “an absolutely perfect performance” and one that “really felt like the ensemble wanted to tell you something they feel is important.”

The University of Denver Lamont Chorale from Denver, Colorado, USA, directed by Catherine Sailer, came in second place with a video of a live performance of the piece that judges praised for “a nicely balanced full warm sound” and “an equally great interpretation,” as well as “excellent and well-structured dynamics and agogics.”

Rounding out the top three was Warsaw’s Vocore, a much smaller ensemble of eight singers founded only in 2017. Praised for being “the most ‘together’ performance among the entries,” the judges appreciated the choir’s warm tone and clear and present middle voices.

Dark Is the New Bright

Guest post by Mark Cabaniss

Just 30 or 40 years ago, the Tenebrae service was foreign to many a church, despite the service’s ancient roots. The Roman Catholic Church embraced it early, but it has only become popular and more regularly practiced in Mainline Protestant churches (and even some traditional evangelical churches) in recent decades.

These “services of darkness,” as they are often called, have become a “bright spot,” one could say, for churches around the world that are looking for fresh and creative ways to impart the Holy Week journey.

Sacred music publishers have responded to the heightened awareness of Tenebrae with a variety of publications that are ready to prepare and present as complete Tenebrae services with appropriate music and narration.

Tenebrae is a special service for Holy Week that can be conducted on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, or any day of Holy Week when a church has a regular or additional special service.

The name “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin for “shadows” or “darkness,” and denotes a service of shadows. The Tenebrae service makes use of gradually diminishing light as candles are extinguished one-by-one to guide the congregation through the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’s burial. This increasing darkness symbolizes the approaching darkness of Jesus’s death of hopelessness in the world without God. The service concludes in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, being extinguished or carried out of the sanctuary to represent the death of Jesus. A loud noise may also sound, echoing the closing of Jesus’s tomb. The worshipers then leave in silence to ponder the impact of Christ’s death and await the coming Resurrection.

Tenebrae services generally should begin in a dark sanctuary lit only by five candles at the front, along with a sixth candle, the Christ candle. Each candle is extinguished as directed by the worship leader(s) during the service, with the Christ candle being extinguished near the end of the final piece of the work. Some churches desire the Christ candle not be extinguished, but taken from the sanctuary in front of a silent procession with the choir as they exit. Regardless of the approach you choose for the Christ candle, the congregation should part in silence. (This direction should be given in the program so that everyone in attendance can be fully informed.)

During a prelude, you may choose to have the choir process led by chosen choir members or laypersons carrying the six lit candles. Those candles are then placed in holders in front of the sanctuary.

The narration may be read by one reader or by several readers. If you choose to have more than one reader, the readings can be divided among lines and paragraphs as desired.

ItIsFinishedA new Tenebrae service for 2019, Mary McDonald’s It Is Finished, offers PowerPoint images that correspond to the mood of each piece being sung. These can be projected during the service to enhance the overall impact of the work and help bring to life the events depicted during Holy Week. The images change with the beginning of each anthem sung during the 30-minute presentation.

Another service option for Tenebrae is to serve communion during the work if so desired. This option further enhances and deepens the overall experience of the service, while engaging the congregants in the act of communion as Jesus did with his disciples during Holy Week.

In whatever manner you may choose to carry out Tenebrae, you’ll find this ancient service still speaks beautifully to today’s worshipers, especially when utilizing one of the newest or more recent published services that help guide and provide a compelling experience for all participants.

 


MarkCabanissMark Cabaniss is a music publisher, producer, writer and educator. He is President/CEO of Jubilate Music Group, based in Nashville, Tennessee. http://www.markcabaniss.com

Behold, A Savior by Jay Rouse and Rose Aspinall

We are delighted to bring Behold, A Savior! to you—delighted. We are storytellers; Jay with his piano, Rose with her pen. Our hope is that what we set down on paper, be it words or musical notations, will have a life beyond our vision.

 

We always strive to be servants of the work. This creative act is our annunciation. In this way, we keep Jesus alive in our hearts. But once we send it out into the world, it’s yours. It no longer depends on our piano and pen. It depends on you. We give this to you with a prayer. May He be born in you. May you become ever more alive in Him. And then, tell the story, His story and your story. Tell it in your own way. Tell it again and again and again.

 

Creating a new work has its own journey. This one is no different. As we talked through our thoughts for Behold, A Savior!, our desire was to create a collection that would serve you in multiple ways. We wanted to provide fresh arrangements of your favorite Christmas songs, as well as give you some beautiful, new original songs.

 

We wanted a work that offered you the option of meaningful and accessible dramatic moments without making them intrinsic to its performance. We realized that this could be a bit of a challenge. We’re happy with what developed, and we hope you will be too. So, in that light…

 

Need music to carry you over the Advent season? You’ll find it in this work.

It’s the first Sunday of Advent and you need a moment for the Prophesy candle during the lighting of your Advent wreath. You can easily present “O Come, Emmanuel, Rejoice!” along with the short Zechariah monologue either as a dramatic reading or with an actor in costume. There are equally appropriate moments for the Bethlehem candle, the Shepherd candle, and the Angel candle too.

Maybe your time is limited and you only want to read the scripture that ties to the song. That’s there for you too. You choose.

 

Need a whole piece to present for a special event?

This collection covers the broad sweep of the Christmas story with all its glory, as well as its most tender and intimate moments. We have provided an optional opening and closing narration for your pastor or lay person that will create a space for an altar call if you should choose to offer one.

 

Do you have a few good actors that would love to present a short monologue?

Adding dramatic moments without committing to a full-fledged production is easy with this work and can add another layer to your production. Monologues can be presented in Reader’s Theatre fashion if you want to forego costumes and memorization.

No matter how you choose to present Behold, A Savior!, if Christ is glorified, we will have accomplished our goal.

-Jay Rouse and Rose Aspinall

 

Rouse Jay_300 cmykAbout Jay Rouse

Jay Rouse is one of the premier choral arrangers in Christian music. He has over three hundred and fifty compositions and arrangements published, including over thirty major sacred choral works and fifty best-selling a cappella arrangements. Rouse is a Dove Award winning producer and has logged many hours on the road traveling in the music ministry. He spent over ten years as musical director and accompanist for Sandi Patty. Rouse continues to make a major impact on music for the church musician across the nation.

 

 

Rose-Aspinall 300dpi CMYKAbout Rose Aspinall:

Rose M. Aspinall is a writer living in small town, USA, Alexandria, Indiana, better known as the home of Bill and Gloria Gaither. At the end of 1983, she and her husband and children moved from Ohio to join the Gaither organization. She has now been part of the music industry for more than three decades. Twenty of those years she headed up the print-on-demand division of PraiseGathering Music Group.
Moving over to the creative side of the business in 2009, she now works as a freelance writer, lending her talents as a lyricist for top industry arrangers and publishing companies while continuing to serve as writer and associate producer for original PraiseGathering publications. She is also responsible for all dramatic scripts, producing and editing blog content, social media, and copy.
Active both on and off the stage in local community and church theater productions, Rose is an accomplished actress and gifted communicator. She often brings her written scripts to life on the conference stage. Her deep interest in the arts as it relates to the church is abundantly evident in her writing. Her great passion is redemption and restoration through storytelling.

She and her husband, Mark, are the parents of two grown daughters and the grandparents of six!

New School Year, New Warm-Ups

Do your warm-ups need a tune-up? Are you looking for effective warm-ups that still leave you with plenty of rehearsal time? Would you like to strengthen your choir’s ability to sight-read while also warming their voices up in preparation for singing? Two birds with one stone, anyone? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, Russell Robinson’s Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups is for you! This practical resource has been getting a lot of attention from directors nationwide, and we don’t think it will take you long to see why.

 

To see this resource in action, check-out the video below!

 

Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups:

  • Provides an easy and efficient way to begin each rehearsal.
  • Consists of twenty sequences, each consisting of four components (Warming Down, Warming Up, Diction, and Chordal) that prepare the voice and the mind for producing a beautiful choral sound. These sequences can be sung in order, one per day (Day 1, No1; Day 2, No. 2, etc.), or the director can choose to sing them out of order. They are not sequenced in order of difficulty.
  • Includes a Director Edition and Singer Editions. The Director Edition contains all of the vocal parts and piano accompaniments, in addition to a detailed introduction and User’s Guide. The Singer Edition, which includes the vocal parts, is octavo size, designed to fit comfortably in choral folders all year long. An Accompaniment CD is also available.

For more on Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups or to purchase, click here

 

For additional music and resources from Heritage Music Press, click here

 

 

Dr. Russell L. Robinson, Emeritus Professor of Music Education at the University of Florida, has made over 300 appearances as a conductor, speaker, consultant and presenter at festivals, workshops, honor choirs, all-state choirs and state, regional, national and international conferences in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada, the Middle East, and Australia as well as conducting venues, which include: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Boston’s Symphony Hall, the White House, and Washington’s National Cathedral. Dr. Robinson was the 2016 inductee into the Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA) Hall of Fame, and is a past President of FMEA, Associate Dean of the UF College of the Arts, National Collegiate Chair and Choral Adviser for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Dr. Robinson is a published author, composer and arranger with over 350 publications in print, including choral compositions, arrangements, articles, books, and instructional DVD’s.

 

Here’s a banner that could be used for the email:

 

New Resource for Choir Rehearsals: carus plus put to the test

A choir is a collective of different types of singers who approach rehearsals in very different ways: one can sing perfectly by sight, whilst another is always reliant on his or her neighbor. Some prepare for rehearsals at home, but most of the singers hope to get some direction from the conductor and practice their parts during rehearsals. Bringing together and shaping voices which have more-or-less secure intonation into a unified sound is a task which requires a lot of time and effort on the part of all involved.

In order to make this task easier, in recent years Carus has considerably expanded its range of new, motivating practice aids. Under the keyword “carus plus” practice aids are now available to suit the different needs of singers for over 70 works from the international standard repertoire – from Bach’s St Matthew Passion to many masses by Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert, and to Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël.

 

carus music, The Choir app

7331000u “How can we exploit the possibilities offered by new media to support individual practice for choral singers?”, asked Johannes Graulich, managing director of Carus-Verlag, and himself an active choral singer. As a response to this, carus music, the choir app was created in 2015, and has since gone on to become established as a helpful practice aid for thousands of choral singers. What is special about this app is not only the combination of music with an excellent recording, but in particular the so-called “coach”. If you select the coach mode, your own voice is reinforced by the piano as part of the overall sound, and through this it can be heard better as if you are in a rehearsal situation. As well as this, with the coach it is also possible to play pieces back at a slower tempo for practice purposes. “The app helps choral singers to learn the notes quicker so that I have more time for my interpretation”, is how conductor Klaus Brecht sums up practicing with the digital coach. He added, “when it comes to repeating passages, it is more patient than me; each singer can decide how he or she wants to use it.” Lots of singers in Brecht’s chamber choir Tritonus confirm that preparation for choir rehearsals is definitely more fun with carus music: “It was really fun to have the opportunity to practice the piece with the full sound at home”, one of the singers enthused. And one advantage which should not be underestimated – the choral singers, whose daily life is not exclusively devoted to singing, valued the straightforwardness of the app: “When you’ve got some free time you can have a quick listen, and you’ve got the music right there.” Those choral singers who learn their parts mainly by listening see the coach as an invaluable support.

Choral director Klaus Brecht regards the fact that first-class ensembles such as the Stuttgart Kammerchor can be heard on the app as a huge advantage: “Intonation is a strong reason to practice with the app, because you’re always practicing with a choir which has excellent intonation. And the difference between practicing with the piano is the fact that the singer is always surrounded by a very good choral sound, which hopefully soon filters down to him or her.” For choral singers a similar motivating argument: “I found my first listening to the piece super, because the recording is lovely and I always had the overall sound right there,” enthused one singer.

Here you could find all works with carus plus.

 

Carus Choir Coach – practice aids on CD

cover-medium_large_fileEncouraged by the enthusiastic reception of the choir app, Carus-Verlag gave further thought to the idea of the individual practicing: so that those who do not have smart phones or tablets can benefit from the coach, this is now also on offer in the form of practice CDs in the “Carus Choir Coach” series.

 

Vocal scores XL

cover-medium_large_file-1And we have responded to a frequently-heard wish from choral singers regarded printed music scores: for many works Carus also offers vocal scores in large print – the Vocal scores XL series – enabling, for example, singers with less than perfect eyesight to enjoy more relaxed reading.

Klaus Brecht’s chamber choir is convinced by the carus plus range without exception: “we’ve definitely saved two to three rehearsals with what everyone has done at home”, was one soprano’s opinion of practising with the app. And there was unanimity amongst the singers in the chamber choir, especially about the fun and motivation factor of carus music, the choir app, as one alto confirmed: “It’s really been fun to practise, because you can always hear this wonderful choir. And so I’ve certainly practised more than normal.”

What more could a conductor ask for?

 

 


About Take Note:

Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians, music lovers or those that want to learn more about it!

Shop at:

Sheet Music Plus

FREE Newsletter:

Get exclusive discounts and coupons
Sign Up Today →

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 391 other followers


%d bloggers like this: