The Choral Singer’s Companion
Canto ergo sum.
I have been singing in choirs and vocal groups of all kinds for more than half a century: children’s choir, mixed chorus, chapel choir, concert choir, chamber choir, symphony chorus, opera chorus, madrigal ensemble, professional chorus, early music ensemble, chant chorus, gospel choir, women’s chorus, G & S chorus, back-up chorus, and so on. As a musicologist who wanted to share my knowledge of the repertoire with my fellow singers, I first began compiling information for distribution when I was a member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus during my graduate student days at Harvard.
In many ways, choral singers are the ideal audience for a writer: musically literate, smart, and curious. Choral singing creates communities worldwide, and choral singers carry on traditions that in some instances are centuries old. It is both humbling and thrilling to be part of this tradition: singing The Planets, A German Requiem, or Messiah just as so many others have done since those works were premiered, or helping to recreate the glories of Hildegard’s music that first sounded almost 900 years ago.
The online essays in the continually expanding Choral Singer’s Companion cover a sample of pieces I have performed over the years. While they vary in content, they usually include a biography, information on the creation of the work, and some discussion of the piece’s structure. Many people are interested in knowing “what are some other good pieces by Composer X?” so there’s often a works list as well. There are plenty of tangents (History of the Mass; History of the Protestant Reformation; History of 19th-Century France, etc.) so that people can expand their cultural and historical knowledge while they’re at it. Plus a batch of translations. Plus various personal recollections. Plus stuff that is completely irrelevant (because everyone should know about War and Peace, for example). I’ve aimed for musicologically accurate essays that are leavened with a hint of irreverence. I hope I have succeeded.
The essays are dedicated to choral singers everywhere, with love.