Great Choral Classics

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1 =Causeway Performing Arts= GCSE Music AoS 2: Shared Music (vol.8) Great Choral Classics in conjunction with

2 GREAT CHORAL CLASSICS Through our study of chamber music we have learned about the intimacy of performing with just a few other musicians. Now with the Great Choral Classics we are learning about team work on a much larger scale. With the combined forces of a large choir and orchestra it is possible to create some very exciting and powerful sounds. ORATORIO An Oratorio is a large choral piece written for vocal soloists, mixed choir (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) and orchestra. It usually contains a large number of short, individual movements. Each of these movements will have one of the following forms: Overture: an orchestral movement that opens the work Aria: a movement for the soloist(s), usually accompanied by the orchestra Recitative: a short section that drives the plot forwards, sung by a soloist and usually accompanied by just a few strings or continuo Chorus: a movement for choir and orchestra Orchestral interlude: a movement for just the orchestra The oratorio has a number of similarities to opera. It uses the same structures listed above and employers similar forces (orchestra, soloist and choir). Both opera and oratorio use the words to tell the story. However, unlike opera the oratorio uses religious text, which makes it suitable for performance in churches and cathedrals, where as opera is usually performed in theatres. The oratorio is not as theatrical as opera, and is generally performed without acting, scenery or costumes. MASS A mass is a choral work is based on Latin texts from the catholic communion service. It contains choruses, solos and instrumental in Toulouse. Most masses consist of six movements (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Gei). The texts are of repentance, praise and belief. Mass settings are different from other oratorios in that they are almost always in Latin, while most oratorios are in the language of the intended audience. For example, Handel composed the Italian oratorio La Resurrezione when living in Italy and the English oratorio Messiah after he moved to England. A Requiem Mass is a Mass for the dead, used to honour the deceased and is often heard in a funeral context. It omits the more joyful movements of the ordinary Mass and adds in others such as the Dies Irae ( Day of Wrath ). The Dies Irae describes the terror felt when standing before God at The Last Judgement. Verdi, who composed many operas, wrote a particularly dramatic Dies Irae in his setting of the Requiem.

3 WORKING TOGETHER IN CHORAL MUSIC There are a number of different combinations and relationships that exist between the different movements in a large choral work. For example, the orchestra might take centre stage in an interlude and then accompany the choir in a chorus, and the choir might have the focus of attention in a chorus but then accompany the soloist in an aria.within each movement the musicians might also swap roles in a similar, but subtler way. This means that everyone constantly has to be aware of how important their part is within the overall musical texture. They have to know how their relationship to the other parts changes as the music progresses. The conductor is responsible for keeping the choir, orchestra and soloists together. To conduct so many performers effectively is a difficult job. The number of people involved means that some of the musicians will be placed on long way from where the conductor is standing. The layout of the ensemble is often as below: Basses Sopranos Tenors Altos Orchestra Soloists Soloists Conductor If you have ever sung in a large choral work with the performers arranged like this, you will probably have found how difficult it is to read the music, watch the conductor (who is usually some distance from you) and stay in time with everyone else. Creating effective changes in tempo or dynamics require everyone to watch the conductor and respond to his signals at the same time - very difficult to do when there are so many musicians and some of them are much further away from the conductor than others! In our study of chamber music, we came across the following three textures: Contrapuntal Homophonic Melody with accompaniment

4 Different combinations of these textures can be used to great effect in choral music, in order to bring out the meaning of the words. A homophonic texture is ideal for emphasising the most important words such as ʻhallelujahʼ, ʻpraise himʼ or ʻhelp, Lordʼ. A contrapuntal texture might be used to represent a bustling crowd, flowing water or a battle scene. It can effectively be used to build up tension and excitement. Through their interactions, the four vocal parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) build up the harmony and texture of the music together. Each part can often sound rather disjointed and unmelodic on its own, and it may have little musical interest within itself. The interest comes instead from the way these parts are combined. Therefore, the relationship between these four parts within the choir is just as important as the relationship between the choir, orchestra and soloist. The choir members usually sing from a score that contains all four vocal parts, as well as a piano reduction of the orchestral part. Being able to see how the other vocal parts relate to and interact with your own is very useful in choral singing. Messiah is Handelʼs most famous work. He is said to have composed the entire oratorio in 24 days, during the summer of Messiah has three main sections, which tell the story of Christ's birth, death and resurrection. The text is a collection of verses from the Bible, compiled by Charles Jennings. Messiah was originally performed with a small orchestra and choir, but it has since been rearranged to include a greater number of instruments and today it is more usually performed by a large orchestra and chorus. It is often performed in churches and cathedrals in the run-up to Christmas. Listen to the famous ʻHallelujahʼ chorus. This movement demonstrates how a choir can work together in a number of different ways, using a variety of textures, to emphasise the meaning of the words. After a short orchestral introduction, all of the voices enter with a loud, homophonic statement of the words ʻHallelujahʼ, which is repeated several times:

5 The simple homophonic texture, and the silence is that occur between each repetition of the word ʻHallelujahʼ, really help to emphasise these words and to create a very dramatic start to the movement. The choir then sings in octave is the phrase ʻfor the Lord God omnipotent reignethʼ, which is doubled by the orchestra to create a monophonic texture: After these two very different musical ideas are repeated, they are then combined in counterpoint. Notice how ʻfor the Lord God omnipotent reignethʼ is first given to the sopranos in bar 22, and then pass to the tenors and basses in bar 25, before being heard in the altos and tenors in bar 29. It is quite common in choral music for the main melody to be passed between the different vocal parts, and that melody should usually dominate the musical texture. This means that everyone in the choir needs to know when they have the main melody, in order to sing out, and when their part is more of an accompanying role, in which case they need to be quieter. After this there is a dramatic difference between the phrase ʻthe kingdom of this world is become -ʼ I'm the much louder - ʻthe kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christʼ. The second phrase is partly more powerful because the choir sings at a louder dynamic and higher pitch, but also because the trumpets and timpani join in with the strings. This demonstrates how even the accompanying part can make a real difference to the feel of the music, here helping to emphasise the words sung by the choir.

6 The next phrase, ʻand he shall reign for ever and everʼ, is treated as a fugue. The basses enter first, followed by the tenors, altos and then sopranos. This order means that each entry takes the pitch of the music higher, adding to its excitement: Look at the bass part in this extract. After the basses enter with ʻand he shall reign forever and everʼ, they just have short and disjointed three-note snippets of melody. The base part is not particularly lyrical or interesting in itself, but it has an important function - to outline the harmony and give a rhythmic drive to the music, and it works together with the other parts to create an exciting musical whole. During the section ʻking of kings of Lord of lordsʼ, a new role was introduced to the choirthe sopranos and altos have two bar pedal notes, which sustain either the tonic or dominant of the current chord and rise in pitch each time the current changes. These rising notes help to strengthen the harmony and add further excitement of the music.

7 Notice how the texture becomes increasingly homophonic towards the end. The movement finishes with quick, repeated ʻhallelujahʼs. The entire ensemble is then suddenly silence for two beats, before the last ʻhallelujahʼ is drawn out for two bars. The homophonic texture, the loud dynamics, the full orchestra and choir, and the sudden silence all help to emphasise the words and create a really dramatic ending. CARL ORFF: CARMINA BURANA The German composer Carl Orff composed Carmina Burana in It is a large-scale work and what is scored for orchestra with the big percussion section, vocal soloists, a mixed choir and the children's choir. The text is based on 24 poems from a Medieval collection of poetry called Carmina Burana. The work uses relatively simple harmony and melody compared to other piece bening written at the same time, and it is largely the rhythm that drives the music forward. Listen to ʻO furtunaʼ, the movement that opens and finishes the work. This is an excellent example of how large forces can be used to build up tension and excitement. The work starts with a very dramatic opening. The choir enters with forceful, accents to ff chords, which are doubled by the entire orchestra. The sopranos and tenors powerfully sing out at the top end of their ranges, and many of the instruments have to play forceful, high pitched notes as well. The timpani play a strong roll in the second half of this four bar opening section. The combination of sounds from the entire orchestra and choir creates a very powerful start to the movement. After these four bars there is a sudden contrast in sound, as half the orchestra drops out and the dynamics come down to pianissimo. The strings have quiet pizzicato notes rather than loud bowed chords. Instead of playing large chords with six or seven notes in each, the piano has a simple four note ostinato pattern in the left hand. This four note pattern is repeated to 16 bars: Above this ostinato the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses all sing the same melody in octaves:

8 Notice how the Sopranos and tenors are now singing much lower in their range. As it is difficult to sing at the top of your range very quietly, this change in pitch allows the choir comfortably sing at pianissimo. Even though the melody and harmony are both very static at this point in the work, the rhythm gives the music a quiet energy and drives it forward. This leads to another sudden change in bar 21. The choir keep singing the same phrase, but it is taken up an octave and accented. The woodwind, trumpets, trombones and timpani start to play loud, accented crotchets. After having played low pizzicato notes, the strings are suddenly given very high in minims to bow forcefully. The sudden change in dynamic, the increase in numbers, the extra crotchet movement and the wider range of all add a lot more power to the music. This power increases towards the end, as the dynamic is brought up to fff, the sopranos and tenors sing even higher, and there are loud crashes from the cymbols. Listening ideas There are many other great choral classics that are just as exciting to listen to. Here are a few suggestions: Baroque Bach: Mass in B minor Vivaldi: Gloria Classical Mozart: Requiem in D minor Haydn: The Creation Romantic Verdi: Requiem Mendelssohn: Elijah 20th Century Walton: Belshazzarʼs Feast Rutter: Requiem Test yourself 1. Explain what an Oratorio is. 2. Name three great choral classics 3. Describe the different textures you might find in a choral work, and give examples of them. 4. How do musicians work together in a great choral classic to create a feeling of power and excitement?

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