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.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
The soul is distracted from that which is sung by a chant that is employed for the purpose of giving pleasure. But if the singer chant for the sake of devotion, he pays more attention to what he says, both because he lingers more thereon, and because, as Augustine remarks (Confess. x, 33), “each affection of our spirit, according to its variety, has its own appropriate measure in the voice, and singing, by some hidden correspondence wherewith it is stirred.” The same applies to the hearers, for even if some of them understand not what is sung, yet they understand why it is sung, namely, for God's glory: and this is enough to arouse their devotion.
— St. Thomas Aquinas

ABOUT US  |  HEADER  |  ARCHIVE
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: