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Would you put this note in one of your compositions?

British composer Paul Mealor has been advertising for a singer with a very low E in the locker. The note will be within range for some basses at least if you ask early enough in the morning. Listen to this clip for a demonstration.


 

The highest note in that clip is already in the range where composers start offering alternative notes for baritones. It is even possible to find entire bass parts that are two to three octaves above that lowest note. A greater number still only include the occasional low note at cadences. Parts centred on the 'middle' octave, the octave just above the highest note in the clip, with occasional notes higher or lower, are rare. A favourite example is the last verse of Edward Bairstow arrangement of Jesu, grant me this I pray, which is a chance for basses to enjoy being basses.

Very low notes disappear as the day progresses. They also become harder after singing anything at the very top of the bass register. I would suggest that composers wanting the lowest notes should be willing to let their basses off singing higher ones.

I am interested to find pieces that only ask basses to sing in their lower register. Is it even worth having a new keyword to distinguish them from standard bass parts? I like to think that there are choirs that have needed to promote all their baritones to cover the tenor line that would appreciate some repertoire without high bass notes. Have you written or arranged any pieces that way?

I applaud Paul Mealor's talent for publicity. Writing good music and attracting people's attention are two different though complementary skills. I speak to a lot of people that think his Ubi Caritas was well worth the attention it got. Just in case anyone wants to outdo him with an E flat, here is what it can sound like:

 

That one was unavailable almost immediately after I recorded it. That's probably just as well.

   Nigel.

 
 
on February 12, 2012 9:21am
OK here's my attempt at a D.  Can you hear any pitch in there?
 
 
 
on February 18, 2012 2:53am
There's certainly something. Some recording devices start filtering out sounds around that frequency because they think it must be extraneous.
I think the lesson mght be that the lowest notes we can sing well every time are higher than the lowest we can ever sing well and higher still than the lowest we can ever sing at all. But then something similar is true at the high end as well. There's a good case for offering "ossia" if the only reason for omitting a preferred note is that you don't think every choir will have singers that can manage it.
   Nigel.
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