Conference Morsel: Singing the Great Composers
Date: April 16, 2014
(An excerpt from the interest session “Masters in Miniature: Singing the Great Composers with a Small Choir,” presented by David Rayl and Zebulon M. Highben during the 2014 ACDA Central Division Conference)
The vast treasure trove of Renaissance music provides a wonderful resource for choirs of all types. Consider a piece like Dowland's lute song "Come again, sweet love doth now invite." It can be performed unaccompanied, like an English madrigal, but it also works well with the accompaniment of classical guitar. See the following edition: Alternatively, but less desirable, one could use the harpsichord stop on an electronic keyboard. Treble choirs (for example a 7th or 8th grade female ensemble) can sing just the soprano line with guitar accompaniment. Because these lute songs are strophic, another performance option is the alternation of verses between those sung by an SATB ensemble and those sung by just sopranos. These lute songs have another advantage over the 'typical' madrigal by Morley and his contemporaries--the poetry is much stronger.
There are other works from the Renaissance that have the same flexibility in terms of performing forces. For example chansons such as Sermisy's "Tant que vivray" can be approached in any of the ways described above.
The authors strongly urge conductors of choirs of ALL types to explore the possibilities inherent in this vast and still largely untapped repertoire.