joining the choir, SATB choir, Uncategorized

All About That Bass: Life in LVM by Alex White

Having previously sung in a choir and barbershop during my school years, it wasn’t until after university that I decided to pick up singing again. After a quick ‘google search’ for choirs in Leeds I found Leeds Vocal Movement and decided to inquire and maybe give it a shot.

Rosa was very welcoming and after one rehearsal I was hooked! And after sticking with it, to this day we have covered multiple genres and emotive music led by our very enthusiastic conductor Caitlin.

Leeds Vocal Movement singing led by Caitlin

Personally I think it is great to do some midweek singing and get rid of the stresses of the day. I always feel more refreshed the next day. It runs like any society would at university with multiple socials throughout the year and the pub after rehearsal. Can safely say it is worth it!

internship, joining the choir, SATB choir

More Than Just Accompanying by Sylvia Jen

As a pianist, I have accompanied soloists, ballets, musicals, and various kinds of ensembles, but never an adult’s choir, only children’s or youth choirs. I was finally given the chance to accompany an adult’s choir when I was appointed the accompanist intern to Leeds Vocal Movement. And what a journey it has been!

I learnt many things during my time with the choir. The first major thing is seeing the Kodaly method in action, which Caitlin (our amazing choir conductor) uses to hone the skills of the choir to help them pitch and tune more accurately as a group. It works wonders as the choir became better at keeping in tune without the aid of the piano as the year went on. I knew about the Kodaly method and the Solfege system, but have never used it to learn or teach music. Working with LVM has opened my eyes to the benefits of the system, and I’ve started to apply some of Caitlin’s techniques in my own teaching (I teach piano to kids). Caitlin has been keen to offer advice as well which just goes to show the open sharing culture of this friendly choir community.

Secondly, I got better at sight-reading, particularly four-part and sometimes six-part choral music! Even though this is an unauditioned choir, the quality of singing and complexity of music is not lacking. Certainly, not all the music that we sing is highly complex, as we learn pieces from all kinds of genres. However, I did find that I was playing more complex music than I had done for youth choirs, which really pushed my boundaries and I’m grateful for the challenge.

Lastly, I learnt about all sorts of things that are non-music related as the choir members come from various backgrounds, some are musically trained, though most are not. This makes for really vibrant and interesting conversations, which one can always find at the weekly pub gatherings after choir rehearsals.

I love that this choir isn’t just about singing and performing choral music (and me accompanying that), but it’s a community of like-minded people that come together to learn, socialise, and enjoy music-making, and I’m so proud to be a part of that!

joining the choir, SATB choir, Uncategorized

My Journey to LVM – Holly Angel

 

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Leeds Vocal Movement hard at work!

I have always loved to sing. When I was in primary school, Friday assemblies where everyone sang together were my favourite thing. I once got moved to the front of the group while rehearsing for a school play because I was singing so enthusiastically. I jumped at the chance to join my high school choir, and at sixteen I fell in love with Glee and Gareth Malone. When I joined university I couldn’t wait to join the choir. I was really surprised to be the only non-music student there. I had joined as an “enthusiastic amateur”, the person who loves something without understanding it. I couldn’t have told you what the musical terms meant (I’m a little better now) and if you asked me to sing you a G sharp I’d have no idea (still don’t!) but it was there that I first fell in love with choral music. It was divine, passionate, emotive, and utterly moving. I loved it.

When I graduated university in 2013 and moved back to my home city, Leeds, I was looking for a new choir. I did some googling of Leeds choirs and was disappointed but not surprised to find so many choirs were either up to the age of 18 or didn’t have a specific age but consisted of people who were in their 50s, 60s, 70s…where was the choir for young adults? Luckily, I happened to find one that fit the bill – Leeds Vocal Movement.
Leeds Vocal Movement would generally be considered a small choir – I think the most we’ve ever boasted is roughly 35 members. But what has never been small is the passion! While my university choir introduced me to the wonders of choral music – Handel, Faure, Britten – this choir has introduced me to a much wider range since then – folk songs, contemporary covers, traditional pieces and modern choral music (Eric Whitacre is a choir staple!). It’s hard to pick one favourite piece because there have been so many great ones, but a standout piece for me is one called “Name That Tune” by Grayston Ives. It’s a mashup of multiple classical pieces – Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss. It took the choir a good six months to perfect it, and there were so many laughs along the way as we fluffed different parts. We really made it our own, and that’s one of the most special things about being in a choir to me – taking a piece, adding unique touches to it and having a lot of fun along the way!
I was asked to manage social media not long after I joined the choir and it was a really fun challenge thinking about different ways to sum up rehearsals with pictures, videos and tweets. It’s no easy feat trying to raise the choir’s profile without the money for a marketing campaign but over the five years I’ve been working on it I think our name is gradually becoming more known through Leeds and hopefully will continue to do so.
During my time in the choir we’ve worked hard to give something special to our audiences, whether that’s creating a Christmassy atmosphere and bringing a smile to passers by as we carol to raise money for different charities, or our own concerts that we strive to fill with a variety of musical styles so that there will be something for everyone to enjoy. As much as we get out of performing for others, we also gain so much ourselves, from learning different musical techniques (such as Kodaly) from our conductor, to understanding more about what we really love to sing as a choir and as individuals. So much of the fun is that you never stop learning and growing!
Leeds Vocal Movement has been a wonderfully unique choir to be part of – relatively new (less than ten years old), young adult, secular and unauditioned – brimming with people of different skill levels and musical experience but all bursting with the same musical passion. I’m proud to have watched it grow and change over the years and I hope it will long continue to provide a place for young people in Leeds who love to sing with somewhere to go and express themselves and share the joy of music with others, both members and an audience.
Librarian's corner, SATB choir

Librarian’s Corner: Locus Iste

About Librarian’s Corner:

Leeds Vocal Movement loves to sing music from a wide range of genres, and my aim is to better understand what we are singing. This blog adds some context and analysis to the notes on the page, for the benefit of members and listeners alike!

Locus Iste – Anton Bruckner (1895)

Josef Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) was an Austrian composer and accomplished organist during the Romantic era.[1] Bruckner was heavily influenced by the works of his German contemporaries, in particular Richard Wagner; however, he also studied Baroque and Renaissance composers, including J.S. Bach and Palestrina.[2] Bruckner’s sacred works often depict this mixture of Romantic and early music influences, and his motet Locus Iste is no exception.

The influence of early music

Bruckner wrote many sacred works, including over thirty motets. Motets are defined simply as “a sacred choral piece, usually unaccompanied, in several parts”,[3] to allow for the diverse range of pieces associated with the form. Composers between the 13th century and the present day wrote motets, but they were most common in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Typical features of Renaissance sacred works include the use of modes,[4] Latin text, and polyphonic textures.[5] These characteristics are found in the motets of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina,[6] who was a particular influence on Bruckner’s works.

Three hundred years on, motets became popular with Romantic composers like Brahms and Bruckner, despite its progressive musical developments.[7] The Romantic era was defined by a step away from the “rules” of earlier musical styles; composers rejected the musical “boundaries” that were prominent in the Classical era, while celebrating and emulating the composers that popularised them. This included a conscious movement towards adding emotion and meaning into compositions, through techniques like the use of dynamics, a lack of strict musical forms and variations of traditional harmonic progressions.[8] Alongside this was the revival and adaptation of early music traditions; the Catholic Church particularly encouraged the use of polyphony and Gregorian chant in 19th century sacred music.[9] As a devout Catholic, the influences of both early music and of the Catholic Church can be spotted within Bruckner’s Romantic motets.

A blend of eras

Locus Iste is a clear example the Romantic era’s revival of early music. This motet was written as the dedication of the Votive Chapel of the newly built Linz cathedral, which is made clear from the title ‘Locus Iste’, meaning ‘this place [was made by God]’. The piece is the setting of a Latin gradual:

Locus / iste / a / Deo / factus / est

place / this / by / God / maded / was (This place was made by God,)

inaestimabile / sacramentum;

priceless / mystery (it is a priceless mystery,)

irreprehensibilis / est.

without reproof /  it is (it is beyond reproach.)[10]

Bruckner’s motets consistently depict influences of early sacred music; along with the Latin text, hints of polyphony are found among the otherwise homophonic[11] texture, such as the varied rhythms of the four parts in the penultimate phrase. The long, slow vocal lines throughout the piece and the use of modal chords are particularly reminiscent of Renaissance Gregorian chant.[12]

Another early music influence is Bruckner’s use of the melody to emphasise parts of the text, known as word painting. This is most obvious in the bass line; scholars have highlighted “the isolation of the bass part at structurally important points”[13] as evidence of word painting, for example initiating the ‘a Deo’ phrases in the first and third sections, and prompting the climactic rises at ‘inaestimabile sacramentum’.

However, the Romantic characteristics in Locus Iste cannot be ignored. Bruckner’s use of dynamic contrast is a clear step away from early music; there are very few gradual dynamic changes, and the sharp piano and forte contrasts between the sections provide the high level of passion that defined the Romantic era. [14]

This passion can also be found in the use of harmony,[15] such as the use of accidentals and chromatic progression at ‘irreprehensibilis est’. This diversion from the more traditional harmonic progression in the first two sections shows a similar movement towards the Romantic style; here, we find the harmonic freedom allowed by Romanticism, embedded in the slow, majestic vocal lines of Gregorian chant.

Bruckner in present day

Today, Bruckner is better known for his symphonies than his motets; his 4th, 7th and 9th symphonies have stood the test of time particularly well.[16] However, Locus Iste remains one of Bruckner’s most famous motets, and among his most popular sacred works.[17] It has continued to be a favourite within choirs and choral societies, and will no doubt be filling churches with its Renaissance and Romantic blend for years to come.

Written by Rosa Stevens – Choir Manager and Librarian

Reference list

[1] http://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/periods-genres/romantic/

[2] http://www.jamescsliu.com/classical/bruckner_motets.html

[3] http://www.classical-music.com/article/what-motet

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_(music)

[5] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polyphony

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-qWPOjzGYU

[7] Miller, Ronald L. The Motets of Anton Bruckner. The Choral Journal, 37(2), pp. 19-25 (p. 19). Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23551779

[8] https://courses.lumenlearning.com/musicapp-medieval-modern/chapter/romantic-era-explored/

[9] Miller, Ronald L. p. 19. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23551779

[10] http://www.jamescsliu.com/classical/bruckner_motets.html

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophony

[12] http://www.jamescsliu.com/classical/bruckner_motets.html

[13] Carver, A. (2005). Bruckner and the Phrygian Mode. Music & Letters, 86(1), 74-99 (p. 88). Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3526032

[14] https://study.com/academy/lesson/characteristics-of-romantic-era-music-emotion-dynamic-contrast.html

[15] http://blogs.bu.edu/guidedhistory/moderneurope/erwin-wang/

[16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gljRZ-3BlcM

[17] https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/bruckner-sacred-choral-works-2

Feature image source: https://bit.ly/2r8m4ME