UILDING A CHOIR is like rolling a snow ball. Good singers are attracted by hearing other good singers, but it’s difficult until “the ball gets rolling.” At first, many choirmasters will use music for three voices, and some feel fauxbourdon is suitable for beginners. Others feel that fauxbourdon requires highly sophisticated ears, even though it looks simple. In any event—whether you begin or end with it—don’t neglect sensational composers like John Dunstable (d. 1453) and Guillaume Du Fay (d. 1474).
To give you an idea how this “Veni Creator” fauxbourdon sounds, I recorded rehearsal videos—but it sounds much better done by a real choir (especially with 12+ voices):
REHEARSAL VIDEOS :
More than fifty singers will use this version for a special ceremony in Los Angeles with Archbishop Gomez on Tuesday, 31 May 2016—everyone is invited!
Sometimes, modern ears don’t enjoy the sound of extremely ancient music, 1 but I love it! Moreover, when I hear this type of music, I feel like I’m being given a special glimpse into how polyphony was first developed. Choirmasters working with more advanced singers might enjoy the Du Fay version sent to me by Mr. Rick Wheeler.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Circa 1905, during the creation of the Editio Vaticana (which is still the official edition of the Catholic Church), Dr. Peter Wagner warned against the employment of ancient modalities offensive to the modern ear:
“He recalled the refined taste of the Germans in matters of music, and the severity that they would express in evaluating the Vatican Edition if it were to present the rough edges of a bygone era which can no longer be tolerated today.”
Although I respect Dr. Wagner very much, he had a poor sense of Gregorian modality, if his plainsong organ accompaniments are any indication. (Saying this gives me no pleasure.) In 2008, we placed a whole bunch of Peter Wagner accompaniments in the Lalande Internet Library; so you can judge for yourself.