- ''This article is about musical choirs. For other meanings of the word, see Choir (disambiguation).
|Table of contents|
2 Choral music
3 Famous choirs
4 See also
Structure of choirs
Choirs are often led by a conductor or choirmaster. Most often choirs consist of four parts but there is no limit to the number of possible parts. However, other than four, the most common number of parts is three, five, six and eight.
Choirs can sing with or without instrumental accompaniment. Singing without accompaniment is called a cappella singing. When singing with instrumental accompaniment, the accompanying instruments can consist of practically any instruments, one or several. For rehersals, a piano accompaniment is often used even if a different instrumentation is planned for performance.
There exists a large number of different types of choirs, among others:
- Mixed choirs, perhaps the most common type, usually consisting of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices, often abreviated as SATB. Other typical divisions include SSAATTBB, where each voice is divided into two parts, and SATBSATB, where the choir is divided into two semi-independent four-part choirs.
- Male choirs with similar divisions to mixed choirs, but with boys singing the upper part (often called treble instead of soprano) and men singing alto (in falsetto), also known as countertenor.
- Female choirs, usually consisting of soprano and alto voices, two parts in each, often abreviated as SSAA.
- Male choirs, usually consisting of two tenors, baritone, and bass, often abreviated as TTBB (or ATBB if the upper part sings falsetto in alto range, as is common in barbershop-style singing).
- Children's choirs, often two-part SA or three-part SSA, sometimes more voices.
- A show choir, a less common choir type, is a choir in which the members sing and dance, and it may be somewhat similar to a musical.
Choral musicA great number of composers have written choral works. However, composing instrumental music is an entirely different field than composing vocal music. Inclusion of text and to cater the special capabilities and limitations of the human voice makes composing vocal music in some ways more demanding than composing instrumental music. Due to this difficulty, many of the greatest composers have never composed choral music. Naturally, many composers have their favourite instruments and rarely compose for other types instruments or ensembles, and choral music is in this sense not a special case.
One of the first great choral composers was Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643), a master of counterpoint, who conclusively showed some of what could be done with choirs and many other musical ensembles. Monteverdi, together with Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), demonstrated how music can support and reinforce the message of the lyrics. They both composed a large number of music for both a cappella choir as well as choirs accompanied by different ensembles.
A century later, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was the next to make his prominent mark in history. Due to his work as a cantor, he came to compose an overwhelming amount of sacred choral music: cantatas, motets, passions and other music. He is also famous for his vast output in chorales, essentially stylistically harmonised hymn-tunes. Bach's influence through his choral writing on the development of classical harmony is not to be underestimated.