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 resides with his wife and children.
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“Oh, the happy choir director who is hired to start work on a brand new choir, or who walks into his first rehearsal a total stranger to the existing group—what a fortunate man he is! The new choir director who is a former member of the choir, or a member of the congregation, or the nephew of the alto soloist, or a former altar boy, or otherwise well acquainted with the choir, is in for a few headaches.”
— Paul Hume (1956)

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Teaching Polyphony To Singers Who Can't Read Music
published 10 February 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

331 Choral HEN I SANG in college, the thing we hated most was solfège. We would plead with the director to “let us sing the words.” As a choirmaster, I’ve come to appreciate the great benefits of solfège.

Do some of your singers struggle when it comes to reading music? No problem! Use solfège.

You can observe how it works below. The bass recording has a little distortion—because of an error I made—and I apologize for this, but you’ll get the idea:

Video (Sopr)   •   Mp3 (Sopr)
Video (Alto)   •   Mp3 (Alto)
Video (Tenr)   •   Mp3 (Tenr)
Video (Bass)   •   Mp3 (Bass)

I plead with you: before listening to the polyphony, please become familiar with the Gregorian version. Only by knowing this melody will you be able to properly understand the beauty of Palestrina’s setting. To experience another section of Palestrina’s Vexilla Regis, click here.

Here is the score for the “Arbor decora et fulgida” by Palestrina:

      * *  PDF Download • Palestrina “Arbor Decora” (Polyphony Score)

Once the singers master their lines, they should practice against the equal voice recording or this equal voice video: