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Assigning singers from another section to a voice part

Polling you on this question: What are the pros and cons of asking sopranos to supplement the alto part and vice versa in a unison treble passage? Example in reverse - treble unison section of the Bairstow "The King of Love" - asking altos to join the sopranos.
on March 10, 2016 5:59am
Robert, I can't think of any downsides, unless you're asking your altos to sing out of their comfortable/useable range. I often ask altos to support an exposed tenor line as well, and tenors can help the basses in similar situations.
on March 10, 2016 6:20am
Do what is best for your situatio.  If they have the range there should be no problem.  Other considerations - Is it an auditioned choir?  Do you know each voice?  Intonation - is it affected by changing ranges?  What about vibrato?  Your question is brief, but the replies my be long.
 
on March 10, 2016 7:12am
Just do it.  If they can't handle it, they will tell you.
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on March 11, 2016 4:13am
As an alto - I can sing up to G5 with excellent vocal warm-up, E5/F5 without it. The issue is that my high notes are very hard to sing piano - my voice is like a dramatic tenor raised up a 4th/5th. The higher my voice, the more dramatic and operatic it sounds. 
 
So try to imagine heroic tenors singing together in unison with altos - the effects would be similar.  If you like it, why not?
 
Because average alto has about perfect 4th lower tessitura that average soprano, think in that way. Subtle piano Eb5 from altos is as difficult/easy as subtle piano Ab5 from sopranos. 
on March 12, 2016 7:58am
If pitch is what matters, then any available singers will do. It doesn't even have to be an entire section. A few voices can reinforce without taking over. There are times when a composer is thinking also of vocal quality. Think of Bruckner, Locus Iste, at 'Irreprehensibilis est'. Basses can sound reprehensible there, although it is within their usual range. Duruflé's Ubi caritas begins with carefully split choirs. Some singers find the rests are harder to get right than their notes.
In your Bairstow example, I think he wrote originally for York Minster choir. Sopranos were trebles and altos were countertenors. Female altos will sound similar enough to female sopranos that they can sing without detracting from the effect.
There's one other consideration. Basses and altos often have to leave the exciting, spotlit passages to tenors and sopranos. If they get a chance to shine, it can be nice to let them enjoy it without competition.
     Nigel.
 
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