• Solveig Holmquist

Even with "snow day" we can still make progress

Surprise, singers! This comes to you several days early!

It's for the best that we play it safe by canceling tonight's rehearsal. That said, it occurs to me that some of this "found time" can be used to help us all progress a bit. I suggest that you treat at least one hour this evening as "Mozart Time" by using it to look closely at your scores, marking the German Latin diction. Believe it or not, you could probably do this for all of the choruses in just one hour. It bears repeating that the more you write something, the more it's internalized.

Case in point: the word "excelsis", which in Roman Latin we pronounce

something like "eggshellsees", but which in German Latin has a very

specific mid-point: "eks-tsel-zees". [NOTE: in this case I'm giving you

the pronunciation I wrote in my own scores as I was learning German

Latin. It took years for me to feel comfortable with it, so don't lose heart!]

I've been including these diction reminders in my Director's Notes for years, but when I give a reminder in rehearsal, I always see people suddenly writing in their scores. This is somewhat disheartening, because if all singers really took the time up front to prepare their music, we'd save a huge amount of rehearsal time that could be better spent on musicality. You pay me to teach you! Marking your score is a great way to learn.

A great question came in about another diction issue, that of dividing the syllables. Let's look at the first movement, and Mozart's treatment of the word "eleison". He always indicates it as a three-syllable word, and we know that by his use of hyphens: "e-lei-son". In this work, we'll do exactly that throughout the movement EXCEPT in a few instances where our editor, Robert Levin, made changes after the edition was printed. These changes were given to us (the chorus of the Oregon Bach Festival) in 2006. Please mark the word into four sections as listed below. In those cases, adding that division better defines the rhythm, becoming "e-le-i-zon". [NOTE! If you don't see something pertaining to you in this list, sing your part exactly as you see it, without separation.]

m. 8 Alto & Bass sing "i" on the 16th note

m. 16 Alto sing "i" on the 4th-beat F#

m. 23 Soprano sing "i" on the final 8th note

Alto sing "i" on the 4th-beat F#

m. 25 Tenor sing "i" on 4th beat Bb

m. 31 Alto sing "i" on 4th beat F#

m. 80 Tenor sing "i" on 4th beat B-natural

m. 88 Tenor sing "i" on 4th beat E-natural

m. 90 Soprano & Bass sing "i" on your 4th beat

So why were those places changed? You'll hear, as we sing the movement, that those instances are times of added drama, needing rhythmic emphasis. In other places, such as the sopranos' gracious line in mm. 62-64, a more shaped and nuanced phrasing is appropriate. Isn't it great that even in German Latin, there aren't always hard-and-fast, black-and-white rules? As is so often the case in music, the answer can often be "it depends", when thinking of what the composer intends.

I'll be using these notes to list text changes or special attention moments, since I'm sadly aware that in our big rehearsal room you can't always hear what I'm saying, or you don't always have time to absorb what I mean. But the ball is in your court, now! Mark your scores. Get your money's worth out of your director!

There's one big difference between the work you'll be doing tonight and the work we do at rehearsal: you can have a glass of wine at your side tonight! I know that's what I'll be doing as I study the score.

NEXT WEEK WE'LL START IN SEPARATE ROOMS, AS PLANNED FOR TONIGHT. Then I'll try to cram in some first-time reading of other movements.

Take care,


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