3 tips for polishing
So much progress was made last Tuesday, and I see no reason why we can't do as well next week, when I plan to cover the rest of the mass. Then it will be time to rehearse the entire work as a whole, over the remaining two rehearsals before the tutti rehearsal. It's just going to get better and better.
Now that we're past the initial phase of learning the notes and rhythms, I'm going to be emphasizing three polishing aspects, and it would help a lot if you will do homework on all three:
1) If all your dynamics aren't already marked, do that, in RED. We know that Schubert gets a lot of emotional impact from his sudden shifts, and they're really exciting already, in rehearsal. They need to be absolutely consistently observed, though. As I now have mentioned quite a few times, our decrescendos are usually too abrupt. You can have fun mastering these any time you've got free time (driving?), and you don't even need to have your music: just do a gradual crescendo over 4 beats, followed by a decrescendo of exactly 4, extend that to pairs of 6, then 8. By yourself you can really notice the difference.
2) Pay attention to all consonants and make them more clear. They're what make the rhythm clear. Also, right now, though you're pronouncing the text, it all feels rather indistinct because the consonants aren't being given at precisely the same time. Now that you know this music so much better, an hour spent studying the Austro-German pronunciation guide, will really help to clarify your performance. And once all scores are up, and you're looking at me, the texts will communicate. After all, what sets choral music apart is: THERE ARE WORDS! And if they're unintelligible, why bother?
3) I've done the work of placing the sopranos and altos in seating that should enrich and beautify the sound. It won't take long to accomplish that task with the tenors and basses following next Tuesday's rehearsal. Your job now, again while you're alone, is to sing in front of a mirror to see how you form your vowels. Be honest with yourselves: is your mouth like a mail slot? Are your eyes engaged?
When you breathe, do your pull your shoulders up? Can you tell by your expression what the mood is? All of these factors affect tone quality. Honestly, though, the most important thing you can do is to listen to yourself: does the tone need more warmth? Experiment with more throat space. Is the sound tight and pinched? Experiment with more throat space. Are you using force rather than breath flow? Do you forget to fully inhale? Experiment with more throat space. Too much vibrato? Sing more softly, using plenty of breath flow.
I do hope you'll each do some of this work, this week. We do as much as we can in our rehearsals, but even thinking about these elements can make you more aware, which will add to our progress.
Thanks so much for all that you bring to our time together.