Friday, August 03, 2007

Random Bits Part 3

Dateline: Seattle. Tallis Scholars Summer School
• A Palestrina discussion, after a question from the 2nd Altos about whether they could move the syllable “num” to a different note, putting them in synch with the rest of the choir. Peter Phillips finally said, “Feel free to ignore that because I’m here now……” His voice trailed away as we all mentally finished the sentence, “….and he’s not.”

The printed music comes with little or no dynamic markings, and the performance notes I’ve marked in my copies say things like “gentle,” “suppressed excitement,” “very, very spacious,” or at one particularly big moment, “pile in like a rugby scrum.” This is something that Peter Phillips feels quite strongly about. In his words: I don’t like the rigid thinking that goes along with dynamics. You go suddenly into a 19th century sound world when you start thinking about the music that way.

• On our struggle to maintain the pitch as three separate units (the 5-part choir, the 4-part small group, and the men doing the chant) rehearsed the Miserere: I’m sorry about the pitch crisis that just infects this piece. When Mendelssohn heard it performed at the Vatican, he recorded the fact that the soprano was singing high “C”s, and he also noted that it sank a minor third – so we’re in good company.

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