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Thread: A question about choral music.

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    Midshipman, Forte Gary Blanchard's Avatar
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    Question A question about choral music.

    For most small choral groups, what are the most common voice ranges? I am thinking in terms of, say, a church choir. I am currently writing for soprano, tenor,alto, and bass. I am wondering if baritone should be in there? Anything else?

    Thanks in advance.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi Gary,

    In our church choir of about 15 members, we utilize the basic 4 groups as you have mentioned. Since the women outnumber the men two to one, there are times when we can divisi Sop or Alto; we have 2 tenors and 3 deep voiced basses, so for the most part we stick with the general 4 parts. This is an all volunteer choir.

    I've heard small groups of professional singers (voice majors perhaps) that do sing SSAATTBB with great ease.

    Kh

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    Midshipman, Forte Gary Blanchard's Avatar
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    Thanks. I imagine this work, based on the Tao te Ching, perhaps being performed by some Unitarian Church choirs. I might even be able to get an amateur choral group interested as well. I just wanted to make sure I was writing for the correct voices.

    I am sure that "real" musical training would have helped me a lot, but it is quite an adventure to take on projects that one is so poorly suited for. This way I wind up with a "unique" musical voice.

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    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Church music is a great example of choral music. I don't know about the range but it sounds heavenly. Its like the group of angels singing if conducted well. Perhaps the entwining of music with divinity increases its magic manifold. I had heard somewhere that the ranges used where SAB, SSAB and SSA, I am not sure though.

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    Apprentice, Piano
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    Well, I suppose that most small choir groups have the usual four voices (SATB). Unique voice huh? XD My choir group are all adult volunteers with little to no music background. Therefore for those with some knowledge of music, listening in on a practice session of ours can be...interesting... ;D

    Church music I'm not sure, but from the plainsong chorals I've heard it sounds like STB. Granted, they were all male choirs. I heard a polyphonic rendition of Angels We Have Heard On High and the ranges were SATB (using a mixed choir).

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    Commander, Assistant Conductor zlya's Avatar
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    If your dealing with volunteer choirs, you'll probably be dealing with quite an eccentric mix. My choir always had loads of ladies but it was almost impossible to get enough tenors. (There were even times when we had altos singing tenor--SAAB). If you're writing for very amateur groups, you might want to stick with SAB, but SATB is pretty much the standard. If you want more parts, split the sops and altos, but I wouldn't split the tenors or basses unless you know you'll have the men to sing it. Also, if you're unsure of your performers I'd avoid extremes of the ranges. Not all basses can get those low ds or even fs, and amateur sops won't be very happy spending too much time above the staff.

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    Midshipman, Forte Gary Blanchard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zlya View Post
    If your dealing with volunteer choirs, you'll probably be dealing with quite an eccentric mix. My choir always had loads of ladies but it was almost impossible to get enough tenors. (There were even times when we had altos singing tenor--SAAB). If you're writing for very amateur groups, you might want to stick with SAB, but SATB is pretty much the standard. If you want more parts, split the sops and altos, but I wouldn't split the tenors or basses unless you know you'll have the men to sing it. Also, if you're unsure of your performers I'd avoid extremes of the ranges. Not all basses can get those low ds or even fs, and amateur sops won't be very happy spending too much time above the staff.
    Very nice advice, especially since I imagine a Unitarian Church choir is the most likely group that would consider a work by a self-taught composer based on the Tao te Ching. The subject matter calls for a basic simplicity, so avoiding the extremes of the ranges makes sense from an artistic as well as from a practical standpoint. Thanks so much.

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