Procedures, methods, and techniques in church choir training.
Weigle, George Averill
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In choral singing the rehearsal is the life blood of the choir. A successful rehearsal depends upon through planning by the director. Music to be rehearsed have enough variety to make the rehearsal interesting. An appointed committee makes the rehearsal room ready by having chairs, lights, anthems, hymnals, ets. in readiness when the choir members and director arrive. A piano is always used for rehearsing choirs. The organ is used for rehearsing as the final procedure of the rehearsal. To gain the best material possible from the available talen, the director must put an audition into practice. The applicant is given a simple vocal test to determine his ability to sing on pitch, descriminate between intervals, reproduce given tones, exercises to determine his best notes within his range, voice quality, ensemble capability and genuine interest in singing. Correct breathing consists of three primary functions: the inspiration, or taking air into the lungs; the retention, or holding of the air in the lungs; and the expiration, or releasing the breath from the lungs. The breath must be controlled. It is controlled breath and not the amount of breath that determines the strength of the tone. Breathing should be done phrase-wise and not note-wise. The catch-breath is used to sustain long passages, with choral members staggering their breathing, giving the overall effect that the group is not breathing on long passages. Choral members should keep good posture to maintain proper breathing. Since rehearsals do not allow time for sufficient drilling in reading the director should offer practical suggestions and encourage outside practicing. Public school music programs are important in teaching the children to read music. Private music teachers should offer the students music theory as well as techniques. Rhythm and tempo are important to the music in order for it to be played or sung correctly. Rhythm is order in movement or the way in which the notes are grouped with respect to accentuation. Tempo refers to the speed t which the beats are taken. Tempo is determined by given metronome markings, Italian words, or words in the native language of the composer, sentiment of text, melodic character of the music, harmonic structure of the music, and metrical and rhythmical character of the music. The more crowded a composition is with details in interpretation the slower it should be executed. Varying the power of tone on a note or group of notes is called shading. The ear demands variety in music so the technique of dynamics is used to provide variety. The swell is the basis of most dynamic and emotional aspects of tonal coloring. Under the swell comes crescendo and decrescendo, which are used for single notes or long phrases. Crescendos express rising sentiment which is regarded as the first part of the swell. The decrescendo or diminuendo expresses a lowering of spirit which is the last part of the swell. Hazards to watch for in the unsteady pressure of dynamic levels are: irregular breath to vocal cords; mental attitude (uncertainty of notes, intervals); emotional reaction of singer (excitement, pressure); melodic line (skipping intervals, long phrases); distractions (audience, orchestra, daydreaming)/ Mental alertness and strict attention to the director will help to overcome these common faults. Dynamic changes are usually called for on repeated notes or long notes, two notes to syllable, ascending in polyphonic music. The position of a voice in a chord and its relation to that chord determines how well that voice will be heard. Balance is often jeopardized by too much treble. Higher vibrations in the treble voice makes it easier to hear. Treble voices should soften to balance with the male voices. Support may be added to tenor voices by adding alto voices to vital passages. Intonation is the manner in which tones are produced in relation to their key. When a voice varies from the proper key relation it is said to be flat or sharp. Extreme heat will effect intonation. Absorption of tones by drapes, curtains, etc., will deaden the sound so that the overtones are not heard. Mental fatigue and physical fatigue cause poor intonation. Small rooms or large rooms with low ceilings cause flatting. Places to watch for flatting are high notes at the top of ascending melodies, intervals from low to high part of voice, recurring intervals, descending melodies that turn up for resolution, and sustained tones where the breath is not properly supported. Causes for sharping are over anxiety, excessive effort, over sining, and tension both mental and physical. The support of the congregational singing is the organist's most important function in the worship service. The organist should have training in organ, voice, church music, and general all-round musical knowledge. The organist should be able to play any hymn in any hymnal expertly for the choir and congregational singing. He should know the familiar anthems' voice parts as well as accompaniment part. He should be a ready reader for any musical emergency. He should know the familiar vocal solos, cantatas, and oratorios. Above all he should remember he is not in a concert hall but it participant in Divine Worship. The three important functions of the organist are: leader of congregational singing; accompanist for choir; and soloist during preludes and postludes. Every group which endeavors to perform in public needs a sole authority which takes the responsibility of organizing, training, and rehearsing the group into a single unit to render music to the best of its ability. This is the purpose of the conductor. The conductor must give unity to groups of singers in rhythm, tempo, phrasing, breathing, unity in quality of contract, balance of tone, melodic prominence to homophonic music, expression, thought, emotion, and imagination. The conductor should have a thorough background in the fundamentals of music. He should have a keen ear and the ability to read scores. The mechanical movements in conducting should become second nature to the conductor so that his full attention may be directed to the musical interpretation. The conductor should have a personality that will reveal his qualities and enable him to make spontaneous contact with his group. The church choir director actually serves as an assistant minister, for his duties carry him to the congregation and the entire church membership. He should, therefore, work in harmony with the minister. For educational purposes one choir is not sufficient to meet the various age groups within the church. It is necessary, therefore, to organize and foster choirs which will give musical opportunity to all persons within the church. The Junior Choir's primary purpose is education not performance. They should sing in the worship service occasionally since it gives them a definite goal for which to strive. Their chief performance as a choral unit should be in learning new hymns and presenting them to the Sunday School. The Intermediate Choir, or Young People's Choir, is for the high school age. They are too old for the Juniors and too young for the Adult Choir. They are given the opportunity to sing at regular intervals in the worship service. This affords experience and training necessary for entrance into the Adult Choir upon graduation from high school. Obviously, the Adult Choir is the most important choral organization within the church due to its function in the worship service and its choral achievement. Its function is to support and foster congregation through their music which is offered on behalf of the congregation and is not addressed to them. Advantages for having an organized choir are several. The choir should have officers who can assume the responsibility for tasks that are necessary for the well-being of the choir. An organized choir gives the members a sense of unity and an official channel through which they may voice their problems. As elected officers they can comprise a committee which can work with the director on vital matters. Organization stabilizes the choir so that it is self-functioning, making it less dependent on the director as an administrator. Care should be taken not to over organize the choir and each officer must shoulder his or her responsibility if a healthy, efficient organization is to be maintained. The music committee should range from five to nine members and should be responsible for promoting the music program of the church. The members should be selected for their ability to administer rather than actual musical knowledge. A choir member should be represented on the music committee to serve as a liaison between choir and committee. A representative from the official board, preferably the chairman from the finance committee. The music committee aids the choir in obtaining new members, ding publicity for special programs, raising money for various needs of the choir, and giving the choir recognition by means of banquets and special services. The music committee should be responsible for the hiring of music leaders for the church and utilizing the entire musical resource of the church.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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