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Choral Music History Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019

Choral music entails the music sung by a choir. In this case, a choir is a musical assembly of singers. The size of the choir varies from a dozen of singers to a considerably large number of individuals as long as they can sing. Two or more voices sing each musical part to create a set of musical tunes.

The origin of this form of music is the traditional music that people sung in groups across multiple traditional cultures. This form of music dates back to 2nd century BC in the ancient Greece. With time, there have been improvements in this art with the refinement of standards and ways of approaching it. Example of ancient Greece music includes Delphic hymns and Mesomedes (Paine 12).

Nevertheless, other ancient cultures such as the ancient Persia, China, India, and Rome had choral music. With the passage of time, medieval and renaissance music were developed. Medieval music entailed the music led by a choirmaster through singing of the verses while the choir sang the refrain.

This mainly occurred during the 14th and 15th century when there was the need to improve the performance. The renaissance music entailed the sacred choral music performed across the Western Europe. Repeatedly, hundreds of masses and motets were composed for choirs that were either cappella or not. From this era, choral music has evolved and continued to become popular with numerous choirs across the world.

Because of the variation in the sizes of choral music singers, a conductor or a choirmaster leads them. Often, the choirs consist of four sections aimed at being sung in a four-part harmony, but in other instances, the parts could range from three, five, six, or eight. To enhance the outcome of the voices, choral music could be sung with or without the accompaniment of instruments. Cappella refers to the choral music without any accompaniment (Apel 141).

This form of unaccompanied music is in much favour since it is applicable in chapels and the secular world. Some of the instruments that could accompany choral music include orchestra but piano, flute or guitar. Since choral music meets a variety of needs, its performance can occur in many locations like the church, school halls, and opera houses. In some instances, choral music could involve mass choirs meant for special reasons as celebrations or entertainment.

During the composition of the choral music, there are equally important voices that require consideration. These voices include soprano, alto, tenor and bass (Forney 45). Soprano refers to the highest vocal range, which is common among female singers though some boys could exhibit it. Alto is the second highest vocal range, which is the highest male voice while for females it is known as contralto. This voice is placed just below soprano, but above tenor.

Tenor is the highest vocal range for mature males. This vocal is lower than the alto, but higher than the bass. For an opera performance, this voice is used to play the role of a hero. Bass is the lowest male voice. In a choral music performance, these voices are integrated together to produce the desired tunes and appropriate message intended to be delivered.

Additionally, during the performance, the layout of the vocals involves intermingling to portray the exact tune desired. Repeatedly, the arrangement of sections is from soprano, bass, tenor, and alto consecutively, with the conductor and the accompanying orchestra just in front of them. This forms the exact layout that most choral music performances adopt.

Based on the variation of the choral music composers’ concept, there are multiple types of choral music. Some of the major types of choral music include the cappella, anthem, cantata, motet, and oratorio (Juslin 71). The cappella music involves the choral music performance without the accompaniment of the instruments. This form of choral music is popular in churches or the secular world. The variation in the vocals of singers in a choir facilitates the expected voices and conveyance of message to the intended listeners.

Anthem is the choral music comprising of religious or political lyrics that may or may not have instruments accompaniment. This form of music is used to indicate the appropriate cultures that require adoption. Similarly, the music could serve as a form of passing appreciation in a formal manner to those who contribute significantly to the community. This explains the reason why this form of music is usually played in the formal occasions which encompasses all the people of a particular community (Paine 154).

Cantata choral music comes from the Italian word ‘to sing’. During the ancient times, cantata entails any musical piece that was intended to be sung. Over time, this musical form has evolved. Presently, it refers to the musical work that can be sung with multiple movements and accompaniment of instruments.

The messages conveyed by this form of music could exhibit a secular or sacred subject. Similarly the cantatas are structured with three arias which are recitative with an introduction for each. In addition, the performance entails alternation of the arioso (short lyrical piece) with the arias. This nature of music yields the expected outcome of entertainment through message conveyance (Ulrich 78).

Motet refers to any short piece Latin music that is sung at the course of or after the offertorium. This form of music describes the movement of the different voices against each other. The main reason for motets is to serve the interests outlined in the 13th to the late 16th century.

As the music is moral, any form of vulgarity is avoided. This music is meant for appropriate people who derive pleasure and understand finer details from hearing it. Other aspects aimed from listening to the music include education of people and advancement of art by those who have the desire for it.

Oratorio refers to the choral music composed with the intention of conveying the message in a narrative manner inclusive of an orchestra. Most of the narrative texts’ basis is the stories extracted from the bible or scriptures. Despite the fact that Oratorio’s basis is sacred subjects, it could facilitate the relay of semi-sacred subjects (Juslin 114).

Contrary to the opera, oratorio involves large-scale participants, but they do not have scenes that display acting or multiple costumes. In this regard, the main important aspect of the oratorio is the chorus and the narrator’s recitatives give it a captivating feature and guide the story’s progress.

After analyzing the choral music that suits the message conveyances, the integration of different form of choral music is likely thus resulting in unique forms of music. It is possible to extend this concept to any limit if the idea of mass movement and different types of vocals is considered.

Similarly, the choral music could vary from one geographical region to the other due to cultural variations and manner of message conveyance. Nevertheless, appropriate measures are vital considerations to ensure that the choir does as required following the designed structure of music during composition. This facilitates the maintenance of the concept of choral music.

Works Cited

Apel, Willi. Harvard dictionary of music. 2d ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969. Print.

Forney, Kristine, and Joseph Machlis. The enjoyment of music: an introduction to perceptive listening. 10th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.

Juslin, Patrik N., and John A. Sloboda. Music and emotion: theory and research. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

Paine, Gordon, and Howard Swan. Five centuries of choral music: essays in honour of Howard Swan. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1988. Print.

Ulrich, Homer. A survey of choral music. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,1973. Print.

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