Madison Choral Project is deeply connected with the church. It grew out of the chant tradition, with melodies and polyrhythms that can be quite beautiful.
Today, there are many different kinds of choirs. The most common is the mixed choir, consisting of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices (abbreviated SATB). There are also male choruses and treble choruses.
Rhythm is the heart of any musical genre and is the first element to be considered when exploring choral music. Choirs have many options regarding tempo, from slow and contemplative to fast and loud. In addition, a choir can vary the intensity of its performance from soft to intense, and all of these changes are important for making a performance memorable.
Choral music is necessarily polyphonic–meaning it has more than one autonomous vocal line. The four-part choir is the most common form of a choral group, with sections for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. There are also three-, five- and eight-part choirs. The number of voices is often determined by a choir’s size and available talent rather than by a particular musical genre or style.
The rhythm of choral music can be quite complex. It is often based on a series of strong and weak beats, with accents placed on beats that do not align with traditional downbeats in a measure. This technique, known as syncopation, can add an interesting twist to a choral piece. While syncopated rhythms can be difficult for beginning musicians to pick up, they can create an exciting sound when performed well.
In addition to varying the rhythm of a choral piece, it is often necessary to add textural variety. This may be achieved using different harmonies or adding passages for solo voices. In some instances, a lone voice can be used to highlight an emotion or provide contrast.
Using a solo voice can also enhance the quality of a choir’s singing. Especially in homophonic passages (all parts sing the same rhythm), a solo can help to balance the voices and add an expressive quality to the choral performance.
Rhythm and Rhyme is a fun original Adron Ming song for Elementary or Middle School choirs that provides many opportunities to teach sight-reading, ensemble singing, and rhythm skills. Including easy-to-read sheet music and an accompaniment track, this piece offers a great way to explore choral singing at any level.
Choral music can be quite harmonic, with complex harmonies and interplay of voices that add depth and resonance to the overall sound. Choral music can also feature a variety of melodies and rhythms to create interesting contrasts and build tension. Experiment with melodic patterns, intervals, and scales to create compelling melodies and harmonies that engage listeners throughout your composition.
Chorus music is based on singing in unison and harmony, so it’s important to consider how to balance the two. Achieving a balanced texture is possible through the use of different voice ranges, as well as by writing idiomatic vocal lines that singers can comfortably sing. It’s also important to consider the rehearsal dynamics of your composition, including the need for space to move and ensuring that all singers can hear each other.
Harmony is the most common texture in choral music and can take many forms. A simple example is a chord progression: the lower voices sustain a base note (or “drone”), and other voice parts create harmonies above it. This is called homophony, often used in hymnals and patriotic songs. In a more advanced form, the melody may be in a different rhythm than the chords, known as melody-dominated texture.
Polyphony is a more advanced type of harmony in which multiple other musical lines support the melody. Chorale music, such as the ones from the Renaissance period, is often highly polyphonic. In the Baroque and Classical periods, choral accompaniment by instruments became more popular, with composers such as Carissimi and Bach utilizing this style.
A more recent trend in choral music is to include elements of jazz and other contemporary styles, with singers creating melodies and harmonies. This is sometimes referred to as free improvisation or a cappella singing.
How individual notes sound together is called timbre, giving a piece its unique sound. This program examines how timbre is created and how it differs across cultures, from Japanese shakuhachi to Trinidadian steel bands and Bosnian ganga singing.
Choral music can be performed with or without instrumental accompaniment. Still, the term is often used about groups of singers associated with a church, although they may also act in theatres and concert halls. If the group is large enough, it can be divided into sections called choirs.
The word choral is derived from the Latin for ‘group of voices,’ and it is generally considered that musical performances are choral when there is more than one voice in each part of harmony or melody. This means that polyphony is a vital aspect of choral music.
Traditionally, a choir is divided into soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts, with some choral works having eight or more parts. The voice parts may be sung in unison or polyphony, and the latter can be divided into four-part harmony (soprano, soprano I, alto I, and soprano II), three-part harmony (soprano, alto, and tenor), or two-part harmony (tenor and bass). A choral work is said to be a cappella when the parts are sung without any instrumental support.
As the music of choral composition developed, composers sought a more expansive sound range. Women were not allowed to sing in the church then, so they turned to young boys to fill the high soprano parts. The result was the emergence of a range of vocal sounds now known as treble and modal tones.
Even today, the choral form remains an important feature in the repertoire of modern composers. For example, Arnold Schonberg’s Gurrelieder uses a choir and an orchestra, and John Tavener and Arvo Part use a combination of chant and Eastern liturgy to produce an effect called holy minimalism.
Choral music can be either religious or secular, and many of the most significant works in this genre are large-scale, based on biblical or other literary sources, and intended for performances by a substantial number of singers. The oratorio is a particularly popular form and has been written on themes as varied as Jesus’ life or a classical hero’s career.
Groups of singers typically perform choral music. A typical choral group includes a mixed chorus, a women’s or men’s choir, or a children’s chorus. Depending on the composer, the chorus may sing unaccompanied or with instruments. The most traditional form of a choral group is one where the highest vocal line sings the melody, and other parts harmonize with it. However, more experienced choirs often perform with the voice parts mixed. This makes it easier for all the singers to hear each other and tune to one another. This also helps to reduce the tendency for singers to “sing for their section,” a practice that can lead to physical tension, vocal stress, and even burnout.
Chorus music is often more complex harmonically than instrumental music because multiple voices can sing closely matched intervals, producing a dense texture difficult to imitate with an instrument. However, a chorus can be equally interesting with a simpler sound because it delivers richness through timbre and rhythm.
The human voice has a remarkable variety of sounds, which can be utilized in many musical styles and genres. In choral music, the assortment of voice sounds often reflects the lyric interpretation of a text and is used to create specific emotional effects. For example, in a simple choral piece expressing joy, it is not unusual to use repeated rhythms or a bouncy melody to produce a cheerful effect. In a more serious work, such as Mozart’s Requiem, the choir’s singing accentuates the text’s beauty and solemnity.
Choral performers are very familiar with the expressive potential of the voice as an instrument and can express a wide range of emotions. This is especially true of professional ensembles, which can be versatile and play with the sound possibilities of the voice as an orchestral instrument. This increased awareness of the voice as an instrument also influences contemporary composers. The works of Toby Twining, for example, are examples of a style that explores the timbral possibilities of the voice, focusing on using the voice as a musical instrument.