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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"This was first breach in the walls of a fortress, centuries old, stoutly built, strong and robust, but no longer capable of responding to the spiritual needs of the age." [N.B. the "fortress" is a liturgy which nourished countless great saints.]
— Annibale Bugnini (19 March 1966)

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Video Demonstration • “Do Choral Vowels Matter?”
published 8 September 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

N MY COLLEGE YEARS, I often sang in multiple choirs during the same semester. One professor placed so much emphasis on proper “choral vowels” that choir members would get angry. I remember times when the entire rehearsal was dedicated to the vowel shape for just three chords. After one such session, malcontents approached this professor and berated him: “You spend too much time on choral sound; some of us don’t even know our correct pitches yet.” His response was: “You may be right, but I cannot stand the sound of amateur choir vowels.”   And he was right.

Amateurs sing “eee” with a big smiling faces, but the proper way is to round the lips. See and hear the difference:


Amateurs sing “ah,” but the proper way is to sing “aw” with soft palate lifted. This concept often frustrates choir members, but the middle of this video shows “Tah” vs. “Taw”:


In Saint Augustin’s Exposition on Psalm 42, he talks about those who doubt God’s existence. “Show me your god,” they demand. Saint Augustine replies: “I cannot show Him to you because you do not have eyes to see Him.” God exists, but the eyes of faith are required to see Him.

By way of analogy, choral vowels do exist, but you must possess ears to hear them. Many paths can lead you to these ears. Here’s one easy way to begin: whenever you sing “Do Re Mi” try to sing “Faw” (for Fa) and “Law” (for La). That will help you raise your soft palate, and with time your ears will hear the beautiful resonance of a lifted soft palate.