Signs of the Judgement is one of those songs that every chorister will look forward to performing. However, we find that it poses some particular challenges when preparing to audition it at Area. But remember, our ultimate goal here is to be able to sing this with the All State choir, so just a few more days of drilling in this music and you’ll have that to look forward to!
Accents and Articulation
This is pretty much all I care about in this piece! There are tons of accents in the score and some are more difficult than others to accomplish. Remember, if you really want accents to pop, it is best to give a little space on either side of that note in order to make it stand alone. You’ll need to be your own best judge as to how much is appropriate without making something sound too short. But a little lift or space will allow you to reengage your support and close your vocal cords for a resonant and clear sound. You can ALSO use consonants to your advantage in moments where an accented note has an initial consonant that can really fly.
We don’t advocate adding any accents like you would dynamics, however, most choral directors will ask for a bit of an accent, or at least special attention given when your own vocal line does something interesting that should pop out. For example, whenever you have syncopation, I’d like for that to get special attention so that the interest of that line really shows. For example, search your line in measure 11 for any time you sing a word or note either 1) coming out of a tie or 2) on a “weak beat” such as the 2nd or 4th 16th note of a beat. That is a good place to try to punch your melody through. I also like when the tie is dropped in “Hallelu-Hallelu-Hallelujah”. Think of syncopation as the composer’s choice of color, he could’ve done everything in grey with all parts singing together (homophonic) but he chose to splash in other colors, with each part singing a unique melody, so that is obviously an important moment!
You should go through and add phrase shape whenever you don’t have a dynamic indication in the score. Particularly, the standard crescendo over tied or long notes. Also, make sure that you create a ton of contrast when you go from a big moment to a soft one, there are several points in here that can be considered an “echo”.
To Bend or Not to Bend
Nearly every summer camp I’ve had students attend performed this song, and as is appropriate with the style, scooped, slid, and bent all over the place. That is absolutely what will happen in the All State concert, however, I don’t recommend you doing it unless indicated in the score, at least for your audition. I know, I know, it’s what you’re actually supposed to do! But I believe choir directors would rather hear a blank slate than hear a unique and carefully curated and appropriately performed cut that had added scoops and bends….perhaps in case that student decides to go rogue in the concert!
I’ve even heard choir directors telling students to not even do it when the score says to (ie: 12 & 17), which earns them a big eye roll from me. Look…it’s in the score, the composer literally asked for it, so do it. Let your freak flag fly for that one or two measures but don’t go overboard anywhere else.
Specifically, in measure 12 it says “slightly bend” so go for it, but S1s probably want to take it easy here as you are already singing an altered pitch. What you don’t want to do is bend from the D-Nat to the D#…that’s not what they’re asking for. Oh and S2s, in measure 45 you sing this same D-Nat with no indication to bend, sorry to burst your bubble.
You’ll notice on the official errata page that the basses are absolved from having to sing the correct rhythm on this piece because the track, both singer and piano, do it incorrectly. I wish that this leniency had been extended to every voice part because, firstly, it’s difficult to sing your own part correctly when fighting against an incorrect bass line, but second, each and every part actually has incorrect rhythms in the piano and singer practice tracks. Not only that, but many camps and clinics have often taught incorrect rhythm.
What I tell my students is that if they do what’s on the track they should not be counted wrong. It seems unfair to me that students who can afford to hire outside help, or have superhuman choir directors who go above and beyond their job description to coach them on the music and correct what is mistaken on the practice resources should have a great advantage over those whose only resource is the track.
Though, many choir directors will freely admit that they have never heard the practice track and wouldn’t know why the student is making a mistake. My logic is that, by doing what the track does, you will be making the same “mistake” as the majority of the other singers, which hopefully will clue judges in that there was a discrepancy in the track and even out the scores. But you have to wonder….will the student who goes the extra mile to learn and sing the correct rhythm be penalized for doing it correctly since, being in the minority of singers in their room who do so, might come off as…wrong? I wish I had a good answer for this!
There are also a few inexplicable tempo changes and I’ll reiterate, you will sound like you’re wrong, or at least insufficiently prepared, if you don’t go with the flow. So study up and do what the piano does. For example, mm 32 is indicated only as “deliberately” however, the first two beats of the measure go into half time before returning to tempo for beats 3 and 4. This makes the 8th note on the “and” of beat 2 twice as long as the next 8th. C’est la vie. Similarly, the indication in measure 56 is only “Broad” but it also goes twice as slow.
Sopranos, I know you may hate me for saying this, especially if you haven’t noticed yet, but there is a 90% chance that you’re singing measure 44 wrong (specifically, the last beat.) And by “wrong” I mean not as the score is indicated, though you may be singing it how every track and clinician has taught it. I personally have ignored this fact in my own teaching so as to not confuse people. Note that the S2 and S1 do not sing the word “see” at the same time. If you notice, there is actually a discrepancy between the vocal and piano part here, and the piano is supposed to be a simple reduction of the vocal parts since it’s a capella….so who’s to say which is “right”? But once again, at this point please don’t change a thing!
I know what you’re thinking “Given these issues, will this be a cut?” All I can say is: I sincerely hope that this song is not a cut at the Area audition, or if it is, then there will be a big ol’ disclaimer given to the judges. I don’t get to have a say in the cuts, nor am I, as a voice teacher and not a choir director, asked to judge and so I cannot say something at the judge’s meeting myself. In any case, students, please do not change a thing, confidently go in to the audition and sing just as you have prepared and DO NOT spend this week trying to compensate for the mistakes of the practice track! If you’re still anxious about this, speak to your choir director and ask them to email the Area chair or make a statement at the judge’s meeting on Saturday.
In summary, I know you’ve been working hard on this music for a very, very long time. Try to remember that camp in July or maybe your Region concert and how much fun this piece was to perform. There’s something really special about judging an audition that is full of joy and excitement, so in your audition, let loose and remind us what fun this song is to sing!