She Walks in Beauty is one of those songs that makes you dream about making the Tenor/Bass choir so you can sing it with the best in the state. This piece arguably has the most opportunities of any area piece for Tenors and Basses to show your dynamic range and diction. Let’s be honest…the panel is likely not wanting to hear a section with unison singing, so I will be focusing on pages 6-10.
Read the text with no rhythm and with feeling. Notice the words which carry the most weight in the lines. These are the words/consonants that need more emphasis. For instance, “brow” in measure 42 and “glow” in measure 48 are great opportunities to emphasize the word by leaning into the initial consonant. In measure 45-46, think about how you would say these three words if you were reading a story to a child. We use our diction in a way which paints the text!
To Vibrato or not to Vibrato
Ask yourself: what is my best vocal tone? Does it involve vibrato or not? Honestly, it does not matter if you use vibrato or straight tone, your singing just needs to stay consistent and stay in tune. She Walks in Beauty is such a soft and slow piece, which can make us channel a more choral straight tone approach. But be careful: under-singing/not supporting is not the answer. Don’t change your natural tone just to suit what you expect a panel to like: your best tone is what they’re looking for. More on this another day!
There are many crescendos and clearly written dynamics in the score that you must execute. When there is a big dynamic change written in the score, make sure that the two dynamics have clear contrast. You can also add some crescendos on longer notes and tied notes in order to create interest and direction in the line, such as:
Measure 27: “impaired”
Measure 42: “cheek”
Measure 53: “love”
All: Starting at measure 24, make sure not to get behind the beat at the beginning of this section. Careful tenors not to drag on consecutive eighth notes.
Basses in Measure 28: The editor made a little mistake here, aligning your “grace” with beat three instead of beat three. See how it looks like you sing with the chord in the piano? You don’t! “Grace” comes between the two chords on beat 2.
All: In measure 33 to 34 be aware that the piano stays strictly in time but you do not get a chord on measure 34 to help you come in so keep counting!
All: In measure 47-48 careful not to get behind on these consecutive eighth notes as well. Stay on top of the beat and send the energy forward so it does not stall.
All: In measure 61-63 careful of counting the ties correctly (dotted quarter note tied to a quarter note). I suggest writing the counts (1-2-3-4) in each of these measures to help keep track of where you are in each measure.
All: In Measure 64 notice that you do get a note in the bass of the piano on beat one to cue your entrance.
This text is so beautiful, so try your best to find an emotion connection to the poetry. Tell a story and make beautiful music… that is what singing, and this piece, are all about!