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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“Every experienced choirmaster’s work is founded on the following three axioms: (1) Few boys have a really good natural voice; (2) No boy is able to control his voice and produce good tone without training; (3) Most boys have a good ear, and considerable imitative capacity. It is on the last of these axioms that the choirmaster must begin his work.”
— Sir Richard Runciman Terry (1912)

Volunteer Choirs • Rehearsal “Tricks”
published 22 August 2017 by Jeff Ostrowski

ERY WISE WORDS were spoken to me thirteen years ago by a priest: “Only two people in the whole school are forced to publicly demonstrate their work: the choirmaster and the coach. The other teachers can fool around all year without consequences.” When your choir sings at Mass (or when your school children perform a concert) everyone will see whether you have failed. The same is true of the coach—and mulligans aren’t allowed. Only our colleagues realize how difficult and stressful our vocation is. The singers certainly don’t know what the director goes through, and before becoming a director I was undoubtedly the world’s most annoying choir member. 1

I recently uploaded an SATB Eucharistic hymn whose melody by Heinrich Isaac (d. 1517) was harmonized by J.S. Bach. Did you notice the solfeggio markings? They appear on the PDF score, which I hope you downloaded. Here’s how that sounds:

Your singers will always resist solfeggio at first, but you must not give them the option. And believe me, when you get in front of a volunteer choir, solfège will save your life.

We hope to release a whole bunch of rehearsal techniques, repertoire lists, presentations, and scores from the 2017 Sacred Music Symposium. Keep an eye on the blog each week, because that’s where they will appear.


1   I still shudder at some of the comments I made to Simon Carrington when I was still a freshman in college.