When you first open the Poulenc Gloria you may start to feel disoriented. There are a ton of changing time signatures and key signatures, accidentals, complicated rhythms, et cetera.

Following is a list of ways to begin your studies and preparation so that it isn’t quite so daunting.

1. First, you’ll want to start color coding. I would recommend:

  • Use one color highlighter and mark all of the key signatures when they change.
  • Use another color highlighter and mark all of the changing time signatures. Then, every time the time signature changes, write in large print how many beats there are in a measure. For example, if the time signature changes to 5/4, you highlight the time signature and then write 5 above the staff.

2. You’ll notice under the Latin text there is also English text. I’d recommend, since this will be auditioned and performed in Latin, using white out correction tape (not the wet paint kind) and block out the English. This will give you a larger margin for your scribbles and keep your eyes from being distracted. There are moments where the English text required the editor to add or change rhythm, for example, when “hominibus” becomes “men of good will” there are more syllables. Find those moments and also white out any extraneous notes that are in the way of the notes you will be singing. Hint: the stem of the notes will face down and the notes will be smaller.

3. In each movement, you’ll notice there are only a few words but they are repeated several times. Each time a section of phrase is repeated, it tends to be set to the same rhythm. Map out the different text phrases in each piece and highlight each iteration of the text with the same color.

Gloria text demonstration
In the first movement, “Gloria”, there are three distinct phrases of text.

4. Note any enharmonic pitches. A pitch is enharmonic to another when they sound the same but are called different things. For instance, F-sharp and G-flat, or solfege Fi and Se sound the same but look different on the staff.

By identifying enharmonic notes and phrases, you will be able to note patterns in the melody and realize that many phrases repeat although they look different.

In the example below from the Alto line of the first movement, the first two measures sound almost exactly the same as the third and fourth measures,with the exception of one interval, although the phrases look very different.

Enharmonic exercise
You’ll notice enharmonic pitches are circled in the same color. The red arrows indicate the single interval difference between the two phrases.

5. I would not recommend taking the time to write in solfege syllables for this piece due to the number of accidentals and altered syllables that result. It may be helpful to solfege certain phrases in a key different from what is written in the key signature.

Solfege Gloria
On top of the staff is the solfege for the key of G, the written key signature (quite a mouthful). On bottom is the solfege for the key of D. Which would you rather sing?

There are patterns and motifs all throughout this piece which means that you can learn a small amount of material and know the majority of the piece. We will dig into more of this piece very soon. Stay tuned!