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Recommendations: Rehearsal aids compared

Dear colleagues --

I'm a bit surprised how few companies are out there to produce rehearsal CD's for our singers. This could be an area where those with especially talented singers may be able to do some raising of funds for their groups.

Basically there are three categories of rehearsal aids I found: A) Full accompaniment with an instrument or synthesizer standing in for the highlighted voice parts; B) Full accompaniment with a real singer highlighted at full tempo (basically a full performance disc with one voice part standing out over the others); C) and Full accompaniment with a real singer and modified sections where the more difficult passages are slowed down for ease of learning.

Although I was looking specifically for Handel's "Messiah" discs all of these companies offer multiple major works rehearsal aids: Vivaldi's "Gloria" RV 589, Mozart's "Requiem," Rutter's "Gloria," Stainer's "The Crucifixion," and more. For each category these companies were reccomended:

A) Hammond Music Service's "Song-Learning System." Probably has the largest library of recorded masterworks in various editions, as well as individual octavos, such as arrangements by Mark Hayes and Mac Huff. Master CD's are available for duplicating or individual voice part CD's. has the most generous liscensing and variety of all the companies available. For example, for under $80.00 US they offer a 10 CD set with all the choruses, solos and recits, plus purely instrumental recordings once idependance has been achieved. The duplicating liscence allows for unlimited duplication for one ensemble. Directors or boards can buy one set of discs and make copies for all present and future members.

B) Berskhire Choral Festival tapes (I believe they send a cassette still, and I put it on CD) because they have a live quartet of singers singing, the actual notes, the words, etc. No synthesized sound. And the soprano and tenor are on the left channel and the alto and bass on the right, so you can actually hear your part pretty well by adjusting the balance. It costs about $30 or so and you get permission to duplicate as many as you need.

SingHarmony offers choral recordings of JS Bach's Magnificat, Vivaldi's Gloria and Handel's Messiah. Voice parts can be isolated by using the balance knob on your stereo, from only one part to none of that part, allowing for complete independence of the singer. Unique to this company is the "One of Each" offer that allows singers to purchase discs of their voice part for all three of the works they offer. Licensing is available.

After seeing their advertisement in the Choral Journal I looked into Part-Predominant Recordings. They have a large catalog of major works, including the Casella Vivaldi Gloria, the two large works by John Rutter, a number of Bach works and octavos for all ages. You may purchase a single, individual part CD or a Master CD set, which then allows the purchaser to purchase the allowance to make dupes for $3.00 per copy. An example is shown on the web site.

C) Rehearsal Arts was recommended a couple of times. With a catalog of 10 major works, including Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, they also offer "Study Spots" where the full speed recording is slowed for concentration on pitch, rhythm or language. Also foreign language works have the lyrics recorded individually, spoken by an individual for concentration on diction. They offer price breaks for quantity purchases.

Happy hunting to all that are interested!

"I'm young, I'm wild, and I'm free;
I've got the magic power of the music in me!"

-- Canadian rock band, Triumph

Craig C. Hawkins
Endwell Community Chorus,
The Celebration Choir at
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Endwell, NY USA
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on September 14, 2007 10:00pm
On my web site ( I've recently added a new type of rehearsal aids, which can be regarded as a fourth category. They are made with a synthesized voice singing the actual lyrics, rather than using synthesized instruments like I did before. Apparently, this new type of rehearsal aids is being preferred with respect to the previous version.

I would also remark that my training aids are free (even though donations of any amount are welcome).