Polyphony

I have a secret to confess.

Despite my many years as a choral singer, I don’t really choose to listen to classical music that much. In fact, most of the classical music I’ve been exposed to has been at a) my brother’s band recitals in school, b) that one Handel concert my parents made me go to and c) choir. I don’t think I’m alone when I say: sometimes I find classical music difficult to listen to. I just don’t always “get” it.

Fortunately, one of Sonoro Choral Society’s missions is to make music of all forms accessible to the lay listener/singer like me. We’re a teaching choir! And here’s what I’m learning about polyphony.

One of the cool things you can do with choirs that you can’t do with soloists is give each voice a different part. Many, many, many (all?) songs on the radio are homophonic which means they have one melody line and some accompaniment. The accompaniment (voiced, instrumental, or both) is designed to support the melody, but isn’t usually that nice to listen to by itself. [Side note: homophonic is not to be confused with monophonic which is a melody by itself with nothing else].

Polyphony, on the other hand, is multiple melody lines playing independently of each other at the same time. They are harmonically related, but usually rhythmically independent. It’s similar to a fugue in that a musical theme or “subject” is often passed from voice to voice with each voice expanding upon or changing the subject. But it is different from a fugue in that it doesn’t have to be as orderly. Here is a short video with a really great example of polyphony. He breaks down each snippet for you, so that it’s easy to hear the interplay.

I think polyphony is one of the ways Classical music can be hard to listen to, because the many melodies and rhythms can feel dense–cacophonous even. Fortunately, there’s a few tricks I’ve learned which make polyphonous music fun to listen to.

  1. Polyphony is really big in the Romantic era of music which valued music’s ability to produce intense and multi-layered feelings in the listener. So ask yourself: what does each melodic line have to say? How does it support or re-frame the lyric or emotional content of the piece. Are the voice parts in conversation?
  2. If there’s a theme, listen for it to pop up from the morass. How is it disguised this time? Listen for counterpoint like in the video above. Do they compete? enforce the main? How do they change the context in which the initial theme sits?
  3. Now that you’ve listened to the melodies weave in and out, metaphorically stand back from the music as if from a painting. How does it sound together? How does the piece as a whole swell and fade?

While researching for this article, I came across this quote from music expert John Rahn:

It is hard to write a beautiful song. It is harder to write several individually beautiful songs that, when sung simultaneously, sound as a more beautiful polyphonic whole.

He makes a good point, I think. I’m tremendously impressed by people who compose, but to compose TWO simultaneous, interdependent pieces? That’s cool.

Find out where Sonoro is singing polyphony at our events page.

–Johanna Hanson, Marketing Director and singer in Sonoro Women’s Choir.

Want more?

Here’s a little extra:

Sonoro Presents “Mysterium”

Sonoro is proud to announce our Christmas 2017 concert series, “Mysterium” featuring Felix Mendelssohn’s Three Motets for Women’s Choir and Organ, Op. 39 played by organist Dr. Curt Sather.

We will also be singing O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis de Victoria and many Christmas favorites.

Mysterium Web Link

We’ll be presenting two performances:

Saturday, December 2nd at 7:00 pm.
First Presbyterian Church
20 N Tacoma Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98402
Tickets Here

Sunday, December 3rd at 3:00 pm.
Steilacoom Community Church
1603 Rainier St
Steilacoom, WA 98388
Tickets Here

Tickets are $15 in advance at Brown Paper Tickets or $17.00 at the door.

Keep an eye out for sneak peaks and announcements on our Facebook page!

Or visit our YouTube videos from rehearsals like at the end.

About our Guest MusicianIMG_3043

CURT SATHER received degrees in Organ Performance from Arizona State University, and the Eastman School of Music, Rochester NY. After serving 13 years as Organist & Choirmaster at St. Barnabas on the Desert Episcopal Church, Scottsdale AZ, he joined the Benedictine monastery of San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy, where he also served as organist for several churches. He is currently Organist & Choirmaster of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Olympia, where in March of this year he performed the complete organ works of J. S. Bach on a 24-hour recital marathon.

Youtube videos

Sonoro Going to “Seattle Sings”!

And you should too!

 

We’ll be singing on Thursday, October 12 at 7:20p. Opening ceremonies start at 6pm. The evening ends at 9pm. The Festival continues until Oct. 14 at Seattle First Baptist Church.

This is a great opportunity to enjoy choral music of all types and flavors from local professional and amateur artists including Choir of the Sound, Swedish Singers of Seattle, and Choral Arts Northwest.

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About Sonoro’s Cell Phone Recycling Fundraiser

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Photo Courtesy of New York Times who has a great expose about cell phone afterlife.

Sonoro Choral Society is proud to partner with GRC Wireless to keep mobile phones out of landfills through their comprehensive recycling program. There EPA-approved recycling program safely handles hazardous waste and diverts useable materials away from the landfill.

How It Works:

Sonoro collects flip phones, mobile phones, and iPads and ships them to smartphonerecycling.com’s recycling program. Technicians erase personal data from the phones, resell useable phones or useable parts to refurbishment companies, and shred the rest to reuse the metal etc. They pay us between $0.10 to $350 per phone depending on quality and age of the phone. We use the money to provide quality music and musical education to our community.

How to Help:

  1. Collect all your old phones and iPads.
  2. Make sure they are deactivated and erase personal data. (They will be erased and reformatted again at the recycling plant.)
  3. Deliver them to your favorite Sonoro Choral Society member or mail them to

c/o Vanessa Cameron
Sonoro Choral Society
1604 181st St. East
Spanaway, WA 98687

   Include batteries and battery covers, but don’t include other accessories.

      4. Ask for a receipt, if you want one for tax deductions. We’ll handle the rest.

What to Recycle:

Donate phones and batteries including flip phones, iPhones, Samsungs, Blackberrys, HTCs, Motorolas, LGs, and iPads. Attach the battery and back plate to the phone, if you have them.

Don’t donate accessories or charging cables including earpieces, headphones, or bluetooth accessories, mounting accessories, screen or body covers.

By participating you:

  1. Support your local community arts
  2. Get rid of junk in your house
  3. Prevent mobile phones from filling up landfills and leaching toxins into the land and groundwater.
  4. Feel good about making something useless useful again.
  5. Earn our genuine gratitude.

Questions? Contact Fundraising Director Vanessa Cameron at songsofsonoro@gmail.com

Songs of Empowerment

12045367_10153624296054799_9207590057271539424_oWe have always been proud here at Sonoro of our commitment to empowerment for amateur artists. We empower our singers by providing them a supportive place to practice and grow in their art and by providing them high quality places to perform.

We also empower our singers–currently all women–by selecting meaningful literature and challenging music to perform. Historically, women-only choirs have been given frivolous, useless songs to sing. We often credit Brahms (1850s) for being one of the first composers to write large, important works strictly for women’s voices.

This season, some of our music is more specifically concerned with women’s empowerment. For instance, Voice on the Wind by Sarah Quartel was commissioned for an all girl’s choir to “celebrate 20 years of providing a place where girls find their voices.” It’s an earthy, a capella song accompanied by hand drum with the following lyrics:

I heard a voice on the summer wind
hoo wah hoo wah hoo
Who she is I can’t explain
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

I heard a voice on the summer wind
Blowing free and blowing strong
Strength and spirit in her song.
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

I heard a voice on the summer wind
Sounds familiar like my own
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

I am the voice on the summer wind
hoo wah hoo wah hoo
Strong and sure where e’er I stand
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

The singers, rooted and confident, finding their voice on the summer wind reminds me so strongly of Walt Whitman asserting his hale and hearty human-ness with his “barbaric yawp” in verse 52 of “Song of Myself”. In the poem, Whitman explores his place in nature, his exuberance at being alive, and his abhorrence of death while reveling over grass in the woods. Finally, he says:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me– he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed–I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

There is something obstinate and joyful about shouting wordlessly into the space between; something wonderful about finding your strength, untamed and untranslatable. That’s what we want for you and for our singers.

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Come here the Sonoro Women’s Choir sing “Voice on the Wind” and other delights May and June.

Summer 2017 Concert: Love and War…

About our concert:

The Sonoro Choral Society is excited to present an intense and powerful concert entitled, Love and War: The Conflict and Passion of Humanity.

This program will explore the intensity of the human existence from deep love and joy to the harshness of our conflicts and ultimately, the unifying qualities in these shared experiences. We are proud to feature a trilogy of songs by Keven Memley based on the poetic work by Sara Teasdale, named Reflections on Humanity, with Ms. Hope Bales on oboe.

We will also be presenting Eric Whitacre’s wonderful work, Five Hebrew Love Songs, featuring Ms. Gwendolyn Taylor on violin.The rest of the evening will range from exciting and passionate Spanish folk music to Broadway favorites!

Still curious? Read more about our concert pieces at the links below:

Tickets

This season, we are offering a discount for online ticket sales:
$15 for online tickets, $17.50 for tickets bought at the door.

Please note, if you buy a ticket online for one night, you may exchange the ticket for another night at no extra charge. Just show up on the night you want to attend and we’ll exchange it at the door. (Premium tickets will be exchanged for regular seating with no refund.)

If you belong to the congregation at Steilacoom Community Church, your ticket is free. However, you must have a ticket to enter the performance. Simply pick up a ticket ahead of time from your church staff.

Follow the links to buy online tickets for your night.

Love and War1_link Love and War2_link Love and War3_link