By Dr. Julie Carter
People often ask me how I select choral music. My general answer is, very carefully and after a lot of work!!!
As I’ve studied choral music for many years, taken classes, conducted choirs, attended many concerts and conferences, those experiences have shaped and guided my selection of music.
It is vital to select music that is quality music and, as far as is possible, represents the vast history of choral music available to us. That includes music of the masters, and music from the Medieval, Renaissance, Classical, Romantic, 20th c, and 21st c. I love music from all these musical periods! However, Soli Deo Gloria is a women’s chorale and prior to the 20th c. composers primarily wrote for mixed choirs. The primary reason for this was that women were not allowed to sing in the church for many, many years. Only a few composers wrote music for treble voices. Therefore, I am in constant search of quality SSA music from the early musical periods!
I base my selection of music primarily on if it speaks to me. The music must be superb, well-written, be in proper vocal ranges, be a good arrangement, have quality poetry and carry a good message. When I play it on the piano and sing it I want to respond with a “wow, this is great, beautiful, fun, etc.” If it doesn’t do that, then I don’t believe you, the audience, will enjoy it.
Other considerations in selecting music include, variety of style, tempo, key, language, and accompaniment.
Sometimes there is a theme that guides my selection — like Christmas, Music of the Americas, and so forth. Often there isn’t and I select music and look for a theme in it. In addition to the concert theme, the choir jokingly asks at the beginning of every semester, “what’s the secret theme this time”? For example, one concert program was full of music about birds. Another had frequently shifting musical meters and yet another frequently featured the Alto section (which rarely happens!). You get the idea!
SDG rehearses most Monday evenings from 6:30-8:45 at Clovis West H.S. from September through May, breaking for Christmas. We try to commit to at least one Saturday each semester to focus on our music and get to know one another better!
I’m very proud of our group of singers! They are hard-working, professional, responsiblle, eager to sing a wide variety of music, and come well-prepared. A conductor couldn’t ask for more! Aside from learning our music, I focus constantly on our sound. Do we blend, is the tone beautiful and well-produced in every section, do we employ the full range of dynamics, how is our diction? Sometimes by moving the singers into different formations the sound changes for the better. There’s a whole science to that, by the way, which I won’t go into here! But the singers know this and are very willing to stand in different arrangements. I think the most difficult part is for them to remember where they’re supposed to stand for different pieces!
The purpose of our choir is:
“To illuminate truth and beauty through choral artistry and to glorify God through a faithful interpretation of a millennium of choral music.”
We’re a group of singers with singing expertise, musical training, and a desire to give our very best to SDG so that we might glorify God through our music. This group is for a select type of singer as they must be committed to missing no rehearsals or very few, learning their music rapidly meeting all deadlines, knowing their music absolutely accurately and singing with deep expression. We want to bring the composer’s music to life and bless you with it.
We’re also fortunate to have a dedicated Board of Directors to support us and work on many of the “behind-the-scenes” things necessary to a group like this. We hope that one day we’ll be able to perform in Shagoian Hall to a full hall! In addition, I’d love to travel with SDG and perform in music festivals, sharing our music with those beyond the Central Valley.
I’m thrilled that we’re in our 9th season! Next year we celebrate our 10th and we’re all very excited about that. Be on the look-out for information on this celebratory season! In the meantime, I hope you’re marking your calendars for Friday, May 5 at 7:30 pm for a concert exploring music of the “Americas” from Canada and the United States to Mexico and South America. We’re also exploring a new venue for this concert at College Community Church Mennonite Brethren located just south of Shaw on the East side of the street. It’s a new sanctuary with beautiful acoustics! We look forward to seeing you there!