I am almost certain that I was the only person who woke up early on May 1st, made a cup of coffee, and watched for the clock to change from 7:59 to 8:00 AM.
Why would I do this, you ask? I’m a bit afraid to admit it…because that’s when the All-State music for 2017-2018 was announced!
The truth is, though, I’m not alone in this. If my students weren’t anxious and excited about it, I would be out of a job, so let me have my moment!
So…what’s on the plate for this year’s music?
What it’s got:
- Manageable and standard vocal ranges for all voices in non-Area music…less so for S1 and T1 in Area music
- A wide range of styles of singing, from very full to chant-like
- The languages are limited to English, Latin, and Italian this year. Most years there seem to be an inclusion of a fourth or even fifth language and very often there is a German piece.
- Really old stuff. Everything is from the past 100 years with the exception of the Handel…which is still 150 ish years more recent than, for example, the Byrd “Sing Joyfully” from last year. The Romantic, Classical and Renaissance periods are not represented at all (depending on where you put the La Danza).
The biggie….Poulenc’s Gloria. This year they’ve put an entire mass on the list with some movements reserved for Area. This is a 6-movement behemoth scored for choir, soloist, and orchestra, with text from the Catholic Mass. This piece premiered in 1961 so in the choral music world….like, yesterday. The modern composition means we will see some dissonance, changing meters and time signatures, lots of accidentals, and highly emotional writing juxtaposed with the traditional Latin text.
Next, we’ve got a single movement from Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum, “To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim“. This is a single movement of a larger work, similar to Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” of a few years back. This piece has a high tessitura and repetitive text, but is a great example of Handel’s choral writing.
I Am Loved by living composer Christopher Harris has already been dubbed my some of my students as “This year’s Flight Song.” This secular piece does have some similarities with last year’s piece, featuring singable melodic lines, and satisfying, lush harmony.
Signs of the Judgement made me say “Remember in my day when there was always a spiritual on the All State list?” I don’t know if that was necessarily true, but it seemed to be, and it was always the favorite with the students. This song, arranged by Butler, allows for a full, colloquial, soloistic singing style but the complexities in rhythm, harmony, and range are good reasons for it to be designated for Area auditions.
La Danza makes me so happy because it was written by an opera composer, Rossini. While this is technically a song from a set of songs, not an opera, the style of Napolitan song is always a show-stopper.
Ave Generosa is the most recent composition of the bunch by Ola Gjeilo, but based on ancient text from 1000 years ago and the style of composition hearkens back to that time. This stunning piece could not be more different from La Danza, making it a fabulous contrast and challenge. The text’s author, Hildegard von Bingen was the actual coolest woman ever and I promise to dedicate an entire post to her eventually!
Celebremus! by Luengen has similarities to the Ave Generosa and the Gloria, since it is Latin text disguised in modern music. It has both homophonic and polyphonic sections, some sounding like ancient chant, some quite dissonant…which is interesting since the Latin text is actually not sacred but secular. It is very difficult and exciting, and will take quite a bit of vocal mastery and detail work to attain a correct and beautiful performance
Fight the Good Fight With All Thy Might is a text that has been set over and over again by many Christian denominations. It is technically a 20th century setting of an old Hymn, making it strophic, or several verses of the same, or similar tune. The really exciting thing about this piece is the interaction between choir and accompaniment which will make it difficult but fun to perform.
O Vos Omnes…. You know the story….20th century composition based on ancient Latin text. Are you sensing a theme? There are some really interesting harmonies which give it away as a more modern composition, but I believe it should be performed with an ancient style. If you search around on YouTube you will likely find some versions of all-male choirs…but with boy Sopranos. Also many in different keys to suit the choir.
She Walks in Beauty is a text by Lord Byron that is has been set many times by choral composers. This piece is designated for Area auditions, although perhaps not because of it’s difficulty but to give the singer a chance to show off the beauty of their vocal tone. Similar to Fight the Good Fight, this song is strophic with each verse featuring a different voicing and harmonies.
So there you have it! The 2017-2018 All state choir audition material. Love it or hate it, you’ll be singing it for the next 6 or so months, so enjoy!