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Choral Verse Speaking Elements: The Material and Voices

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In choosing materials for choral verse speaking, the group must remember that the range of materials suitable for choric interpretation is wide. Voices may either be light or dark. This use of light or dark voice refers not to the pitch but to the resonan

The Material

In choosing materials for choral verse speaking, the group must remember that the range of materials suitable for choric interpretation is wide. The choir should proceed slowly first by choosing simple materials and later on progressing to more difficult materials. In choosing the material for choric performance, the group must consider the author's intent. If the literary work is intended to share an extremely individual and private experience, then it is probably better for a single interpreter but if the selection speaks for many people, even though expressed in the single voice of the writer, it is suitable for a choir. The group must remember that the stronger the work is, the more suitable it is for choral performance by many voices. This is true of patriotic selections and subjects that have great dignity and depth. Also, the presence of strong masculine voices in a choir is especially helpful in these cases.

Another important factor in selecting material is the kind of climaxes the writing contains and the way they are achieved. Material that depends on sharp contrasts or on accumulation for the climaxes often is most effective with many voices.

Of important considerations in the selection of the material for choral speaking are the richness and the importance of the sound pattern of the literary work. Tone color and all the subtle aspects of rhythm often can be brought out more effectively by a group with different voice qualities and levels of pitch than by a single interpreter.

Voice Classification and Division

Voices may either be light or dark. This use of light or dark voice refers not to the pitch but to the resonance of the voices. A light voice does not mean high but it refers to a voice having fewer overtones and undertones than a darker voice. As compared to music, the difference is like that between a violin and cello wherein both instruments can produce the same note on the scale but the resonance is different.

The classification of voices within any group can only be relative for there may not be any voice that is undeniably light or dark within the choir. However, by comparison, some voices are darker than others. Members of the choral verse group must bear in mind this fact during the moment of performance: never push your voice up or down from its natural range for if you do, the result will be artificial; besides, it violates one of the basic rules of good interpretation by calling attention to the performers and away from the literary work. Just be sure there is good breath support and your throat is relaxed so that you are using your natural voice properly. Exaggerated vocal quality is sometimes useful for humorous effect.

Division of the material into units will determine the division of the voices into various groups, that is the material may be divided into units so will be the voices be arranged into groups, speaking only specific parts of the whole selection. This division of the voices into various groups is the result of the director's decision or the outgrowth of group discussion on the selected material for choral performance.

In dividing the voices into various groups, the director must bear in mind the following points:

  • The size of the group and the quality of the available voices
  • Voice arrangement will come from the demands of the material itself, for in the material, there may be lines or sections that call for strong voices while others will need a lighter touch. Also, tone color and connotation and the senses to be aroused are factors that will determine voice division.
  • The type of climax is also another determining factor in the arrangement of the voices into various groups. Climaxes are built in numerous ways. If you build a cumulative one, you may wish to add voices as the tension builds. Or you may prefer to use the effect of unison and simply to increase volume as the tension builds. If the climax is sudden and depends on sharp contrast, you may want an abrupt change in voices to emphasize it. If the selection diminishes after the climax, you may want to decrease the number of voices to enhance this effect.
  • Ask yourself how a particular unit was meant to sound and then decide whether the effect can best be attained by a single voice, by unison, by two, three, or any number of voices blended for a particular quality or by a clear division between light and dark voices.


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Michelle Lascuna

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