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Choral Diction-English and Latin

Module by: Gordon Lamb. E-mail the author

Summary: This module represents a discussion of choral diction with particular attention to English and Latin diction. Questions are given to stimulate one's attention to specific diction problems and solutions. References are also provided.

CHORAL DICTION: ENGLISH AND LATIN

Although choirs perform in many languages, English and Latin are the two languages sung by almost every choir. English, because it is the spoken language in America, and Latin, because of the vast number of motets and masses in our choral heritage. Since there is insufficient room to discuss all languages choirs may encounter, these two were chosen because of their obvious importance to the many choral conductors in English speaking countries and (Latin) to conductors in all countries.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Experiment with vowel modification. How can you modify vowels to match the character of the text?

2. What local speech patterns are not conducive to good singing diction? What methods can be used to eliminate these patterns in choral singing?

3. What choirs do you know whose diction is good? What choirs have you heard whose diction was not so good?

4. Consider your own choral experience. Can you remember the manner in which choral directors applied the rules of diction in a rehearsal?

5. How many more words can you add to the list of those words that are most often mispronounced?

6. Can you sing the Latin texts using pure vowels rather than diphthongs? How can you best demonstrate these vowels to others?

PROJECTS

1. Examine several texts of actual choral works. How many diction problems can you find in each piece?

2. Apply the IPA symbols to several choral texts.

3. Using a text often set to music, number the primary and secondary stresses. Mark all unstressed syllables with a schwa.

SUGGESTED READINGS

Hillis, Margaret. At Rehearsals, New York; American Choral-Foundation, 1969.

Marshall, Madeline. The Singer's Manual of English Diction. New York: G. Schirmer, 1953.

Montani, Nicola A., ed. Latin Pronunciation According to Roman Usage. Philadelphia: St. Gregory Guild, Inc., 1937.

Uris, Dorothy, To Sing in English. New York: Boosey and Hawkes, 1971.

Vennard, William. Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic. rev. ed. New York: Carl Fischer, Inc., 1967.

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