Monday, May 15, 2006
The Dale Warland Singers, Chanticleer, the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Swedish Radio Choir ... there are several chamber choirs that are of a professional rank. But it's difficult to break in to their repertoire. After many years of being ignored as serious musicians in this country, esp. in new music, many singers and choral ensembles are understandably leary of new music that's 1) difficult, 2) has no tradition, and 3) often has little understanding of the voice or the choral instrument.
But we should keep trying. With the successes of Part, Tavener, Ligeti, Swayne, and others, it points up the heights that can be achieved in new choral and vocal music.
But as Beth mentioned, even for "choral" composers (a nearly derogatory term until recently) it can be tough to find a good "match" between a composer and a willing vocal ensemble. But matches are often made, and not found. I've caused some spiritual and political dissent in ensembles with some of the texts I chose, but the workarounds are often better than the original if the issues can be worked through, and they didn't hire me to destroy their ensembles. Church choirs, even Unitarian ones, have a right to demand a party line, after a point. As so do professional ensembles as well, as they often specialize in one way or another.
But I believe strongly in the power of community -- and in the power of a composer as a voice for the community. If an artist has an obligation, then it's to the dialogue. I believe in the power of engagement, in the communications that develop between composers of one belief and ensembles of another. I've found that most ensembles will come to understand my religion: that I am a committed and devout musician. And the power in this belief will set you and many others free.