About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law. Many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.”
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

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The Easiest Way To Teach Your Choir Polyphony
published 4 August 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

Suppose you want your choir to launch into polyphony when “Asperges” is repeated, like this:


How would you go about teaching the notes and rhythm?

I suggest you use Solfège, the absolute best and easiest way to teach polyphony. How exactly does this work? Click on the links marked “Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass”—you’ll soon understand what I’m getting at:

      “ASPERGES ME” after Zachariis (†1594)   •   PDF Score (Singer)

SOPRANO : YouTube   •   Audio

ALTO : YouTube   •   Audio

TENOR : YouTube   •   Audio

BASS : YouTube   •   Audio

EQUAL VOICES (does not include Solfège) : YouTube   •   Mp3 Audio


Until the piece is sung perfectly in Solfège,1 do not allow your choir to sing the actual text. Solfège makes it so much easier to point out specific notes which need correction, especially in the middle of a melisma.

I RECOMMEND THIS polyphony score for the repeat only. For the rest of the chant, you might want to download this organ accompaniment, which I wrote out earlier this afternoon. Composed by Canon Van Nuffel, it’s as good as any other—and better than most. More resources for the “Asperges Me” are stored at the website honoring Saint Antoine Daniel, one of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America.



NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   Choir members sometimes ask whether Solfège syllables will be sung during Mass. Explain to them that Solfège is never used at Mass; it’s merely a tool to help choirs learn their pitches and rhythm.