Angela’s Guide to Learning the Missa Solemnis – Part 4

aea181dadc47ed5aff1e2b97ae5dafdcWith only a week to go until the course, here are a few more tips from Angela.

HD: We always start the weekend with warm up exercises. Are these something we should do whenever we’re going to sing for some time, even at home?

AK: Well, a few exercises are good to help with technique, even with how you should stand. More than anything, they’re a mental thing to get you out of still being stuck in the traffic jam, or some other stress, and ready to sing. At a rehearsal you’ve got to feel differently from how you would were you sat at your desk or trying to get the kids to have a bath. With a big choir, if the singers have been practising on their own, then even just a few warm up exercises, say singing arpeggios that sound nice, help people to think, ‘Ah, that sounds ok, this is going to be good.’ It gets them in the right frame of mind.

HD: Some warm up exercises seem to be more about relaxation than voice production.

AK: If people are all tense [Ang makes sounds of fear and panic], they can’t make a nice sound, so you want to calm them so the sound that comes out is rich and encouraging.

HD: How should we make the most of the rehearsal time in the course?

Angela and her younger daughter, Sarah, rehearsing solo sections of Pergolesi's Magnificat

Angela and her younger daughter, Sarah, rehearsing the solo parts of Pergolesi’s Magnificat

AK: When I sing with a choir, I really enjoy just trying to sing my part in my head, or hum it very quietly, against another part that’s being practised, just to see if I can fit it in, find my notes. So when, as conductor, I’m rehearsing a particular part that’s not yours, say the tenors, you should be following the tenor part and looking how your part fits in with it. Unfortunately, many people just switch off – or talk – and think it’s nothing to do with them, whereas they could be… you can be… rehearsing all the time, even when you’re not singing.

HD: When there’s a new entry, coming in can be quite scary, could you give us some tips about that?

AK: Well, people get really panicky about the note to come in on, but if they’ve learnt it properly, they’ll instinctively come in on the right one. When it gets into your brain, it’s just there. It can make life too complicated if you’re looking at other parts, thinking the note you want is in the bass line, etc. It’ll be too late because the entry will have gone in a flash. In Classical composers [like Beethoven] and Baroque composers, to a certain extent Romantic, the harmonic structure is such that the note you come in on is unlikely to be way out, it will fit, you’ll get a feel for it.

To give confidence, I do try, don’t always succeed, to look at parts to prepare them that they’re coming in and give them a signal, whereas if people have got their head in their copies worrying that they’ll miss the entry, they probably will! Then it’s hard to get back in – you can have lost it for a long time.

HD: So some of it’s about looking ahead. Sometimes I extend the music lines at the end of a page and write in what’s coming next, especially if it’s the final note of a phrase, or a new entry that starts a the top of the next page.

AK: Yes, so that you’re not caught out. Or you could just put the note you’re going to come in on and the word. In some of the scores, when we look at them after a concert, there’s tiny writing in them that singers were probably trying to read during the performance, and wondering what it was they’d written. By then they would have missed what they were supposed to be singing. If you’re going to write something in, and I really hope you will, write it big enough to read, and big enough to read without holding your copy under your nose!

We hope you’re enjoying rehearsing. We’re really looking forward to next weekend, when it will all come together. It’s going to be great.

(The other parts of this Missa Solemnis series can be found here, here and here.)