Capital Choir’s term 2 begins this evening with a rehearsal at Central Baptist Church. Since this is the first Tuesday of the month, we will be upstairs in the auditorium. We will get back into the Puccini Mass and will also reprise the Donizetti Requiem for those attending the May Workshop this weekend. It’s time to get back to work!
When I’m learning a choral piece, I really need to learn the notes of my part before I can start to understand its relationship with the others. (And that is why I am not a musical director. That, and my temperament, and my shaky sense of pitch, and…) So I am a great fan of choral learning files.
My go-to site used to be Cyberbass. Here is the Cyberbass page for the Puccini Mass:
I can’t find the Fauré Cantique on Cyberbass.
Cyberbass uses a file format called MIDI, but these days the files cannot be downloaded, instead they are played from the web page via a browser plug-in. This works well enough with most browsers on most PCs; I don’t know about mobile devices. There’s a separate file for each choral part, plus one that combines all four. There doesn’t seem to be any accompaniment, still you should be able to follow the music with the aid of a score.
The site I have tended to use recently is Choralia. This site uses a technology called Virtual Singer (VS), as the choral parts are “sung” by synthesised voices. This sounds quite weird at first, but is surprisingly helpful (but don’t take it as a guide to vocal nuance or expression). Choralia offers the VS files themselves, but it’s much easier to deal with the MP3 audio files. Here are links to the Puccini Mass and the Fauré Cantique:
I prefer the “Voice with Metronome, Organ” option. You can (probably) play these by clicking on them in your browser, otherwise you can download them (yes, this is a bit tedious for the 12 movements of the Mass) and play them on any media player. I like to listen to them on my MP3 player at the gym.
Well, I guess the word is out: Capital Choir will perform Puccini’s Messa di Gloria later this year. The Wikipedia page has the information that the usual title is a misnomer, as it is a full Mass and not a true Messa di Gloria, which would contain only the Kyrie and Gloria. That’s fascinating, to someone with pedantic leanings like me. It was written when Giacomo Puccini was in his early 20s, as his graduation exercise from the Istituto Musicale Pacini. In this respect it has parallels with another piece we will perform, Gabriel Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine, which was written by the composer at 19 for a composition competition at the École Niedermeyer de Paris. (He won.) Both are remarkable pieces for such young composers.
I encountered the Puccini Messa for the first time at choir rehearsal this week, having unavoidably missed a few weeks. I still don’t know what to make of it. So I scanned YouTube for a few performances, as you do, and found several that didn’t really convince me. But I think I like this one:
One of the pieces that Capital Choir is learning at the moment is “Sure on This Shining Night”, a poem by James Agee in a choral setting by Morten Lauridsen. It is, in my non-expert opinion, one of those quiet but intense pieces that are not too difficult to sing but very difficult to sing really well. However, a choir called Vox Humana—with David Childs conducting—manages to sing it very well in this YouTube clip:
Capital Choir rehearsals for 2017 will start on Tuesday 31 January at the usual time (7:15 pm) and place (downstairs at Central Baptist Church, 46-48 Boulcott St, Wellington 6011). Far be it from me to spread rumours, but the word in the ‘hood is that one of the pieces we will be doing in the new year is Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine.
As promised in December, SOUNZ has published videos of Capital Choir’s Shaky Places premiere concert in November 2015. The videos are served from the Vimeo web site. There’s a separate one for each song, with Geoff Robinson’s reading of the poem followed by the Capital Choir’s performance. Here’s World (hat tip to Rachel McAlpine):
It’s pretty good!
And this search
shows the others, along with a few extras.
The word on the street is that the film of Capital Choir’s Shaky Places premiere concert in November 2015 will be released on the SOUNZ Facebook page at midday on Monday 12 December. So, in preparation, all you Facebookers should go to this page (the full name is “SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music”) and Like it. And the rest of you should keep an eye on the SOUNZ website.