A GOSPEL REQUIEM - Some notes on performance and rehearsal
This series of songs presents some thoughts about death from a humanist point of view. It roughly follows the format of the traditional requiem mass with nine sections mapping out an emotional and philosophical journey which explores the nature of mortality.
The texts are all taken from the traditional Gospel repertoire: some are lyrics to familiar songs; others are compiled from a variety of sources. This is mainly the case with the music too, but here some of the material is my own, written using the same idiom.
Most of the pieces are designed so that male and female voices can sing the melody if they do not want to tackle the harmony. Thus it would also be perfectly possible for the audience to join in with some of the better-known numbers such as "Down by the Riverside" or "This Little Light of Mine", or indeed any of the numbers if they were given the words and, possibly, melody-lines in the programme.
Gospel songs sound most convincing if a consistent "velvety" choral tone is employed. This can be achieved relatively simply by avoiding head resonance and suppressing the upper partials by using an "u" vowel sound in the larynx. This may require some practice and is achieved by lowering and widening the larynx. Some people find it helpful to make a low "ugh" sound whilst expelling air from the diaphragm as a preparatory exercise.
Whatever techniques are used, the songs should be performed with passion and commitment: whilst the subject matter is sometimes serious (or even depressing), the overall intent of this requiem is to bring joy to both singers and listeners.
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