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Mozart Requiem -- rehearsal aids and ideas?

Hi Folks,
 
I will be preparing the chorus for our symphony's performance of the Mozart Requiem next spring, and I am looking for ideas and aids to assist in the rehearsal process.  Anything from diction aids to personal discoveries that helped develop a great chorus.  I am so looking forward to this, and I want to do a good job.
 
I expect the chorus will be 40% accomplished adults, 30% talented high school kids, and 30% folks who want to sing this, but haven't been in chorus for a while.  Maybe as many as 80 to 100 in the chorus. 
 
We just did a credible Beethoven 9, so I think this performance can be very good.
 
Cheers, and thanks,
-Bruce
 
PS:  Is there a more appropriate forum for this question?
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on July 10, 2013 3:49am
Hi Bruce,
we find good quality learning CDs are a great help, I strongly suggest you purchase them, they will save you a huge amount of time and work! Have a look at http://www.editionpeters.com/london/musicforchoirsnewyorkcoachingcds.php
You may find more through the web: there are some other companies offering similar quality and websites such as http://www.cyberbass.com/Major_Works/Mozart_W_A/mozart_KV626_requiem.htm
where besides buying the CD all parts are freely available for on line practice.
 
Ciao, best whishes
 
Blanche De Sanctis
Florence, Italy
 
on July 10, 2013 5:10am
Try the website cyberbass.com for rehearsal parts....also, simply listening to a recording of the piece will give the musicians a feel for what it should be. I think this is particularly true of the students who may or may most have heard it in its entirety. It's a great piece. For fun, have them look up the Rolling Requiem the year after 9/11. History and music....
on July 10, 2013 6:55am
Make sure you know what the conductor wants in terms of tempos, whether he or she is conducting sections in 4 or 8 (some of the slower tempos can be done either way), etc.  To that, add breath marks, articulations, and dynamics (especially for balance in the contrapuntal sections).  Mark all of this, along with diction aids (like where consonants are to be placed in cutoffs) and mark the vocal score very clearly.  Be sure to use an ediiton that is in the public domain, then duplicate the marked score for every chorus member.  Include standing and sitting cues and instructions for turning past long solo sections.
 
All of this will make rehearsals go much faster, because everyone will already have the basic information.  The more you can share in a marked score without making it too cluttered, the better.  Include an English translation of the text.  (I usually put each phrase on the page near where the Latin words occur--not under the notes, but in a margin, etc.)  It is time-consuming for you, but it will pay enormous dividends.
 
 
on July 12, 2013 8:55am
Hi Bruce
 
You say that you have 40% accomplished adults in your choir. If you can have one accomplished singer for each part learn the music ahead of time, you will be able to easily produce very high quality part-predominant rehearsal tracks for all the rest by having them use our recording module and individually sing along with Naxos recording 8.557728 which is pre-approved for this use.
 
If you check out the free samples of our existing CDs of Messiah, Magnificat, and Gloria, found at http://www.singharmony.com/cd/  you will see what excellent rehearsal aids you can make using our technology.
 
Even if you don’t use this option for preparing your choir, I hope that once you have the work performance ready, you will produce part-predominant tracks for the benefit of others wanting to learn the music. There are three different options you can use for producing these tracks, and tutorials for each method can be found at this link: http://www.singharmony.com/contentProvider/intro.php
 
 Best wishes in learning this magnificent work.
 
Jim Taylor, President
SingHarmony®.com Inc.
on July 14, 2013 9:33am
Hi Bruce,
 
All of the other suggestions I see are great (Cyberbass.com, model chamber choir, etc.). With some hesitation I want to point out what may seem very obvious and offer a suggestion I found very useful in my last Mozart Requiem. As you may know there are several alternate versions of this work that was started by Mozart (borrowing from Handel and others) and completed after his death by Süssmayr. One of the most convincing editions is a "version" by Franz Beyer (published by Kunzelmann) but even that one you have to examine carefully the date of the publication to get the latest changes or risk problems in rehearsal. It seems the outer parts (Soprano and Bass) are pretty consistent with what we think of as Mozart, but Beyer has re-written Alto and Tenor voices to correct what he postulates as poor voice leading by Süssmayr. There are also changes to the orchestration, but the choral part changes are what we must be concerned about.
 
More to the point, the edition most of us inherited in our choral library (Peters, G. Schirmer, Kalmus, CD Sheet Music, Petrucci, etc.) will have a few note discrepencies when compared with the Bärenreiter Neue Mozart Ausgabe and there are significant changes when working with Beyer's edition/version. You need to know what Mozart Requiem the conductor is planning to present or you will experience some high drama when it comes to orchestra rehearsals.
 
The other thing I tried (admittedly with student players) was to bring the trombones into choral rehearsal after initial note-learning was completed by the choir. The trombone parts are Alto, Tenor, and Bass instruments and their main function is to double the Alto, Tenor, and Bass choral parts. As they double the voices and hopefully match tone and intonation, the real danger is that the articulations of the trombones will cover the consonants of the singers. The result will be the impression that the voices are too soft, but, in fact, the vowels (and trombones) are covering the consonants of the singers. If the singers can be coached to be very specific with their articulation and trombones have a chance to play inside the note values (not covering the initial consonants or final consonants) a greater result can be obtained. Most of the trombone players I work with also appreciate the extra time and attention to a part that feels like you are only noticed if you make a mistake.
 
Watching a rehearsal of pros playing and singing the St. Matthew Passion, I noted that the conductor first asked the choir to sing the chorales unaccompanied while the players listened (to articulation, shape, word stress, etc.) The players listened and marked their parts, following which they "played the words." The Mozart Requiem trombone parts need to play the words. It is my experience that taking the time for them to practice with the chorus helps them be part of the (choral) team.
 
Best wishes for a successful preparation and performance.
 
Joe Hickman
on July 15, 2013 8:15am
Greetings, helpful Listers!
 
(a)Blanche, (a)Phyllis -- I think our choir has gotten to the point that rehearsal CDs are an expectation.  I've been happy to provide these, although I sometimes wonder how much they are used.  Many singers pick up a copy, listen once or twice, and then rely on learning parts during rehearsal time.  Not much to do about that, other than make sure rehearsals are challenging, fun, and productive (you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him sing..., uh, practice...).  In past concerts, I have done MIDI files on my own, and have also purchased commercial MIDI and real-voice CDs.  We've used cyberbass, and a few other sources.
 
--- If anyone has a personal recommendation for a particular version of Mozart Requiem rehearsal CDs, that'd be great.  I suspect there are several options out there now.  I'm sure we'll go for one of these.
 
(a)Phyllis -- how time flies!  I had forgotten about the rolling Requiem after 9/11.  This is likely to be a great suggestion for engaging the interest of (especially) the high school singers.  Having them ferret this out on their own with youtube searches and such seems like a win. 
 
--- Has anyone on the list developed a structured approach to this type of activity, that I can pass on to the high school choir teachers?
 
(a)David -- Thanks for these suggestions.  Checking in with the conductor on these points seems so obvious, once you mentioned them.  I suspect I wouldn't have remembered to hit all of these issues with our conductor, but now that they're there, looking at each movement with these specific suggestions in mind will help make sure that (hopefully) nothing will fall through the cracks.  Also, David, if I read your suggestion correctly, marking up a vocal score, in advance, is the game?  And like you say, it has to be public domain, and then photocopying that? 
 
--- Has anyone done a side-by-side review of available editions (or know of someone who has), to know what the issues are?  (I expect some singers will want to bring in their own heirloom scores, and I'd like to know where the differences are, and, well, if they are so significant, that we insist on everyone purchasing a common edition.  I expect I'll do that regardless, since it can be such a time waster, allowing multiple versions in rehearsal).
 
(a)Jim -- Interesting idea.  I'll take a look at the site.  And, of course, since we will produce the definitive performance of this Requiem, I reckon our chorus has a moral imperative to share this perfection with the world.  <g>.  We'll see, and thanks for the offer and suggestion.
 
(a)Joe -- thanks for the words of caution on deltas between editions.  This can be a holy cow ouch (editions of Messiah and the Poulenc Gloria have been poster children for this problem, for me).  When the conductor and I spoke of this, we both said, let's use the Sussmeyer.  But I'm wondering, even that might not be unambiguous, huh?
 
--- Has anyone done the meticulous work of comparing editions of the vocal score (and the full score, for that matter)?  Or a particular edition to recommend, if "Sussmeyer" is the game?
 
(a)Joe, again -- wow, bringing the trombones in to a few choir rehearsals!  What a great idea (I also play the trombone, so there ya go).  And the suggestions about diction, and for example, having the chorus "pre-sing" chorales in the SMP, so the orchestra can hear the phrasing and articulation -- another terrific idea.  Why didn't I think of that?!
 
OK folks, what a terrific list!  And, for me, like I said, preparing a chorus for the Mozart Requiem, what an awesome privilege, and responsibility.  Gotta give a shout-out to Mozart too.
 
Cheers,
-Bruce
on July 16, 2013 11:16am
Hi Bruce,
 
A few words about the Beyer version of the Mozart/Süssmayr Requiem. It is a pretty gut-sy idea for a musicologist to take on the task to revise the orchestration and part writing in a work by Mozart, even one that we don't know exactly how much he dictated to Süssmayr. The most striking difference is heard at the end of Lacrymosa (at the line "dona eis Requiem.") This one may be the hardest to accept because we've heard the other one so much for so long. However, what is most convincing (to me) is the tweaking of the voice-leading of the Sanctus, which turns this movement into a cyclical re-statement of the opening of the Dies Irae, but in a major key. It is as though the intention is that the Dies Irae is the first "encounter with God" (earlier in the work) and the Sanctus is the next--at the altar of the Eucharist. The other place I especially like is the Benedictus, where the revisions of the orchestration make the use of the trombones very reminiscent of Zauberflöte--most surely to have been fresh in the mind of Mozart.
 
It is interesting to know that the fragment (incomplete) was first performed at benefit for the widow of the composer, with many of the solo parts sung by such artists as Schikaneder (librettist for Zauberflöte and the first Papageno). Beyer's work examined other music by Süssmayr and other music by Mozart to separate tendencies of part-writing and orchestration technique that distinguish the two. Especially in light of the research of Christoph Wolff, I think a real case can be made for using Beyer's version of the work, but you don't often see it being done.
 
My conclusions after reading, studying Beyer's version, etc. is to prefer Beyer's version but accept the fact that many do not.
on July 16, 2013 10:00am
Hi, Bruce
 
Only a simple idea: mark your own score in advance as much as you can and then scan and upload it to some place in internet where your singers can easily go in order to copy your markings to their own scores.
 
I wish you the best on your journey!
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