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Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb - conduct solos?

I am considering programming Benjamin Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb for a concert next year and am a bit curious... since the work is scored for SATB soloists, SATB choir, and organ, is it common practice for the solos to be conducted or for the solo movements to be "conductor free?" Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreicated.
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on April 22, 2014 3:04am
Each solo has tempo and dynamic changes that the organ and vocalist must make together. The tenor solo is very slow and, I feel, is much more musical when the organ and vocalist are precisely together. The alto solo has several pauses and important tempo changes that must be conducted. The other two have similar demands. You could lower the baton at times, but keep the pulse of the tempo in your big toe to be prepared to jump in to keep them together. Best wishes for a successful performance.
Mike Partain
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on April 22, 2014 6:14am
As an organist having played this wonderful piece several times, I beg of you not to conduct the solos.  Watching the soloist and a conductor is more frustrating than helpful.  You are likely to be ignored anyway and if the soloist takes an unexpected turn, then a good organist will follow that soloist, not you--much like secco recitative.  Have a couple of good rehearsals with them, get them started, and then get out of the way.
Best wishes for a moving performance!
Lenora McCroskey
on April 22, 2014 8:22am
Good question.  I have worked with this wonderful piece in capacity of director, soloist, singing-coach and keyboard, and I think Lenora's suggested routine is perfect: "Have a couple of good rehearsals with them, get them started, ..."     Sometimes we are the starting wind, and our best gift is to prepare them well, and  let them fly.   If your soloists are a little inexperienced, you might consider asking them to briefly discuss with you and the keyboardist their interpretive thoughts during the rehearsal.  {"That's lovely; why do you think you're feeling a pause there..?"}  That might encourage earlier artistic thinking, rather than those "sudden turns" that Lenora refers to.  Some less-experienced singers focus on notes, technique, etc., and may not begin to emote until the performance.  Of course, in any situation, we can all be open to the spirit of the moment.
And I echo both Michael and Lenora's wish for a rendition that moves the hearts of all involved!
on April 22, 2014 9:16am
I cast a vote on the "yes, conduct" side. I sang the bass solo long time ago, and I accompanied a performance of this last fall. We were in a very reverberant space, and the distance from the pipes to the singers invited the tenor especially to drag. This was complicated in our case by the organist/soloist sightline not being very good. Soloist security will be better if they're conducted, and clear up questions about who is in charge.
on April 22, 2014 7:24pm
"Who is in charge"? The Music is in charge! Conduct if the organist can't hear the soloists or it's not together, and don't if not (which, if you've had proper rehearsals and you've booked soloists who are skilled, you shouldn't need to do - as has been pointed out by the other replies).
on April 23, 2014 12:35pm
As one who has sung the alto solo a couple of times, now, I am grateful for a conductor, especially after the pauses.  I could have probably done it with just the ogran, but where we were located, there was quite a bit of distance between me and the organ, and my back was to the organist.  I think the proximity of the organist and the soloist is an important factor in this decision.
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