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Duruflé Requiem choral parts....

Are the Duruflé Requiem choral parts  too difficult for an amateur choir anchored by a pro singer in each section? They work hard and are dedicated, but I don't want to bite off more than they can chew. They sing difficult music; for instance, we did three movements from Vaughan Williams FIve Mystical Songs. I'd appreciate any thoughts anyone has. Thanks.
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on May 7, 2014 8:10pm
I just performed this work on Apr 13 with my community choir, that seems similar to your group.  They had a successful performance.  There's a few entrances that are tricky - but if you identify them and go after them from the start, they can master them (for example, the SSA entrance at 5 measures after Rehearsal 2, or the alto at Rehearsal 66).  There is one passage that is about 5 measures long that is chromatically dense (Rehearsal 25), and this phrase is repeated in a different key later in the same movement (with a few small variations in the parts - 5 measures after Rehearsal 31).  Again, if you go after that early on, and have lots of rehearsal time for it to "settle in" their ears, they'll get it.  The last movement "In Paradisum" also ends with a full divisi phrase with chromatic harmonies, though in a triadic context (Rehearsal 101 - end).  The most difficult part, I think, is the the chant-related meter changes while keeping the sound in a chant-like flow.  This is not the usual concept of rhythm that most have in their ears today.  You will also need a soprano section that can sing a pure unison for those chant sections. 
Would you be perfoming this with orchestra or organ?  You need a really fine organist (and organ) to pull this off.  We used organ.  Our concert hall does not have one, so we rented a Rodgers Infiniti 361 digital (three-manual concert organ).
It is a beautiful and rewarding work.  I wish you the best if you decide to do it.
on May 7, 2014 8:28pm
I did the Duruflé as a teenager in just the kind of set-up you describe.  This was back (waaaaay back) when the only recordings of it were pirated cassettes of live performances.  Our Master was very dedicated and we loved being part of it all.  I can’t say much about the performance but it remained one of the great musical moments of MY life:  I am very grateful to all the conductors out there that bite off a little more then others think we can chew.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 8, 2014 6:24am
Michael touches on a point worth considering, IMO.  Sometimes choosing a work that challenges a group to the extent that the performance has a few flaws is still worth it, because what the group gains in embracing the music more than offsets the minor blemishes that might occur.  To me, the Duruflé is a work that's worth it.  I did it with my church choir some years back, and they may not even have been at the level that your choir is.  The presentation was far from perfect, but they appreciated the work a lot and grew to love it, as I already did.  And in the end, they appreciated and grew from having their musical abilities stretched, as Michael did.  It may be worth all the headaches in getting to the performance, and then some!  Good luck in making your decision.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 8, 2014 7:23pm
I found the hardest thing is that the vocal scores have no accompaniment printed underneath. My previous choir had a good amount of music readers, so having no accompaniment to figure out where they get their pitches from was the biggest obstacle to overcome. It's really all about how you present it to them. has a good part-learning site so that can help for personal work outside of rehearsals.
on May 9, 2014 2:59am
I had a chuckle when I read this - at my choir board's post concert evaluation, one of the things they mentioned about was just this (i.e., not having the full score).  They didn't like having to watch and listen to know when to make their entrances.  Yes, they really said that.  One of my board members said we should give folks the option to buy the full score, to which my response was "The full score costs over $40..."  They had the same complaint when we use the choral-parts-only score for RVW's "Hodie" two years ago.  Of course, when we use the full score, then the complaint is "It's so heavy."  ;-)  What fun!
on May 8, 2014 7:23pm
My wife and I sang this years ago in a church choir of less than 20 with organ accompaniment.  The organist/choir director was quite an exceptional organist.  Like your's, our choir had a pro in each section and the rest were pretty competent, most singing with other choruses.  We sang it liturgically rather than straight through as a purely musical performance.  It went very well.  As to biting off "more than they can chew," given enough time to work on it sufficiently, I would encourage you to "go for it" heeding the excellent advice of Steven Szalaj preceding my post here.  You didn't mention your accompaniment, but Steven Szalaj is correct.  You really need some strength there.
on May 9, 2014 11:33am
You do have the option to cut movements. In your situation, I would cut the offertory and the Libra me.
The last time I did this was with a men and boys choir in a cathedral service where the men had one rehearsal in total. If fourth grade boys can sing it, so can your choir.
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