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Expression in Choir Singing.

In a recent number of the  Organist and Choirmaster, an English periodical of much interest, Mr. Robert Simmons contributed the following on the above subject:

“We should have far better choral singing if each singer could bring himself to believe and practice this truth:—That the only expression which is really effective is that which is shown by every single voice, and that it is the bounden duty of every choral singer to notice and perform every mark of expression given in the music.

“With regard to marks of power, a terse remark, made by Mr. George Riseley, is particularly valuable, coming as it does from so able and successful a choral conductor, and because it applies to a very large majority of choirs. He once said, ‘The piano and forte are good, but it is the intermediate gradations of tone that are wanting.’

“The mf and mp should be distinct, and p should not be made pp.

“Professor Horatio Parker, while conducting a rehearsal of one of his works, gave the following instruction: ‘We should understand crescendo to mean “sing softly” in order that we may be able to gradually increase in power; and that diminuendo should mean sing “loudly” that we may be able to decrease the tone.’

“This novel way of putting it may help some to remember an important point.

“Crescendoes and diminuendoes should be gradual and not sudden, each progression being a little louder (or softer) than the one immediately preceding.

“When a forte passage is followed immediately by one which is marked p or pp, then be careful not to glide into the piano by means of a diminuendo. If the composer had meant a diminuendo he surely would have marked it. The sudden change is the effect he desires. Let us give him that effect.

“No mark of expression seems to be more neglected than the sf< over one note. This mark is always inserted for some special purpose, and if each singer would give the necessary emphasis on that particular note, the effect would well repay the little trouble taken.

“The old Scotch proverb, ‘Many a mickle makes a muckle’ is particularly apt with regard to choral expression. It is the sum total of the small effects produced by single voices which results in the great and pleasing effect heard by the listener.”


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You are reading Expression in Choir Singing. from the July, 1906 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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