Category Archives: Repertoire Corner

Repertoire Corner

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Repertoire Corner remains, I am afraid, rather infrequent, but I have some new music that I hope to review over the next few weeks, starting with Lin Marsh’s Serendipidy Solos

 

The Cuckoo Clock – Lin Marsh
[AB(2)]

I’m quite new to Lin Marsh’s work, but I’m pleased to say that this is a great example of music which has been specially written for new and young singers. The melody is fairly straight-forward, but there are variations as the music progresses, so it is worth taking time over learning this song. Once the basic structure is in place, there is plenty of instruction for dynamic variation and change of moods which need to be included to really give a great polished performance. Young singers should enjoy this song and other works by Marsh.

[lyrics and video unavailable]

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Part of Your World – Composer (The Little Mermaid)
[LCMMT(1-3);TG(2)]

This stalwart of the Disney songbook is a popular choice, but requires careful attention to really perform well. Watch for the rests – they come in irregular places! Once the rhythm has been mastered, this song needs to be sung with imagination to convey the curiosity and wonder of Ariel’s character. This might be a good song to use for introducing some theatre games to young singers, or exploring how to mix singing with semi-spoken phrases.

[Lyrics] [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

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Christmas is nearly upon us, so the next few repertoire corner posts will focus on some of the festive music available on the exam lists

Sans Day Carol – Anon
[AB(x);LCM(x);TG(x)]

This song is a bright and jolly alternative to the Holly and the Ivy, and tells the story of Jesus through colours. It does go at quite a brisk pace, so singers will need to ensure that they know their words and articulate clearly throughout the song. There are also several short runs which will need close attention to ensure they don’t become glissandos. There is plenty of scope for dynamic and mood variations between verses, so select those to be performed carefully!

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

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A Spoonful of Sugar – Sherman/Sherman (Mary Poppins)
[AB(x);LCMMT(x);TG(x)]

Just as with the Sans Day Carol, this is a song which requires precision and accuracy to be really excellent. Watch that singers perform exactly the right notes as written rather than what they think it should be. The tone should be brisk, but not halting – the goal is to create a fluid song, but one which is also precise. This should be a jolly song to sing, and a great choice for young singers.

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

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This week’s songs are both full of joyful music and cheerful thinking – just what we need when the evenings are suddenly that bit darker.

Funiculi, Funicula – Denza

[AB(x);LCM(x);TG(x)]

This is a bright and happy tune which requires a good measure of confidence to bring off. Time should be taken to ensure that the singer is certain of the words before increasing the tempo to  it’s full allegro. Each chorus section is a chance to demonstrate the ability to build in volume and intensity, making this song a great opportunity to develop performance skills at an early stage.

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

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I Whistle a Happy Tune – Rodgers & Hammerstein (The King and I)
[AB(x);LCMMT(x);TG(x)]

Unlike it’s Sound of Music counterpart, this Rodgers and Hammerstein number betrays none of the nerves of the characters who sing it. Instead, this should be sung jauntily and with the confidence that the lyrics speak of. All the words should be crisp, firm and confident – they need to be really well known. Watch the intervals at the end of the middle section – they need to be accurate even with the rallentando. The whistling is optional for exams, and does require some technical skill, but it is worth the effort to lift the central section.

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

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More songs of love this week, but this time they’re taken from two different cultural backgrounds. One is a traditional Antipodean love song, and the other strongly inspired by Russian musical traditions.


Pokarekare Ana – Trad. New Zeland (arr. Sarah Class)
[AB(3)]

This traditional New Zeland song was made famous by Haley Westenra, and should be treated with a light touch. The lyrics speak of a distant love, and need to be communicated with sensitivity. Watch for the large slurred intervals at the end of each line – the movement between pitches should be legato, but clean – there should be no portamento effect. Some of the intervals between the lines in the middle section are tricky, so attention should be paid to accuracy for each starting note.

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

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Somewhere My Love – Maurice, Jarre & Webster (Film of Doctor Zhivago)
[AB(3);LCMMT(2-4);TG(3)]

As with Pokarekare Ana, care should be taken in this song to ensure all the interval jumps in the vocal line are accurately placed. Each phrase should be sung through, avoiding the temptation to pause after the high note in the middle of the line. This provides a smooth, lullaby-like melody which echos the gently optimistic lyrics. The rallentando at the end of the second section should be used to create a build point, but there should not be too dramatic a drop in energy as the third section begins.

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

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Two songs on the “perils of love” this week.

 

 

Love Quickly is Pall’d – Purcell
[AB(4)]

This is a good introductory song for students who are beginning to tackle Baroque repertoire. Purcell incorporates quite a few vocal runs which should be practiced slowly at first to ensure that they are pitch-accurate before being sung at speed. Ensure all the rests are counted, and that students use both counting and listening to the piano to identify when to come in for each phrase. This song also provides a good introduction for teaching about perfect cadences, which need to be understood as part of the ABRSM’s Grade 5 theory requirements.

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

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Waiting at the Church – Leigh & Pether (Music Hall)
[AB(2);LCM(MT)(3-5)]

This is a great little music hall number, and should be sung with the performance context in mind. Rather than a clean bel-canto line, this song requires quite a conversational, almost spoken verse, and then a rousing chorus to get the audience to join in. This song can really be played for laughs and is great for developing acting and communication skills in advanced beginners who are looking to become more consummate performers.

Text. [Lyrics] [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

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Two love songs this week…

 

 

Greig – Tø Brune Øin / Two Brown Eyes / Zwei Brune Augen
[ABRSM 3(B); NC 2]

This is a fairly simple song melodically, but still needs a good acting performance to ensure the meaning is clear to the listener. The opening section needs to be light, but not staccato – sing right through the notes. There is a shift in mood in the middle of the song which needs to be communicated by the singer as well as the accompaniment. At the end of the song, there is a quick dynamic change alongside chromatic movement which needs to be cleanly executed to be sure of a strong finish to the performance. [YouTube]

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Bernstein/Sondheim – One hand, one heart (West Side Story)
[ABRSM 4(C); TG 4(A1)]

This seems like a very simple song at first sight, with a straightforward slow melody and repeating verses. However, the key challenge with this song is to keep not only a sustained tone throughout the song, but to shape each note so that it is rounded. The high point of the song in the B section also requires strong vocal control as the singer is required to crescendo and decrescendo on a single note. It is the dynamic variation and tonal control required that make this song both challenging and rewarding to sing. [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

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Welcome back to Repertoire Corner. This week, we’re contrasting two very different songs taken from the ABRSM Grade 2 list – both with more adult ideas in them than might first meet the eye.

 

Anon. English – The Coventry Carol
[ABRSM 2(B), TG 2(B)]

At first listen, this sounds a like a gentle lullaby to be sung around Christmas time. Instead, if you delve into the words, this is the mothers of the baby boys massacred by Herod singing a lullaby to Jesus. Throughout this song, the singer needs to engage deeply with the agony of these women who have lost their children, and yet still urge the baby Jesus to be quiet so that Herod does not find him. Carefully chosen dynamic variation will help to keep the simple melody from becoming repetitive. Take care with the end of each verse as the shift to the major key could easily catch beginners out. This song is also very long, so needs effort to maintain interest and concentration throughout. [YouTube]

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Bart – As Long as He Needs Me
[ABRSM 2(C); TG 3(A); LCM MT 5-6]

It is all too easy to sing this song as a flowing and pretty tune. It sounds so romantic. However, this is really a song about a woman trapped in a violent relationship, and in fear of her life, but unable to leave. It’s a 1960s version of the haunting “Maybe I Like it This Way” from Lippa’s The Wild Party. Instead, the lyrical melody should be sung more haltingly as though on the brink of tears, in desperation. LCM’s music theatre rating is a lot more accurate regarding the difficulty of this song. Even without the acting challenges, there are also vocal challenges since singers should also aim for a cockney accent over the top of basic good vocal technique. [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

file0001545806234Apologies for not having posted this for the last few weeks – I have been quite busy recently and forgot about it :(… Two songs for young beginners this week.

Traditional English – I Had a Little Nut Tree
[ABRSM 1(A); Trad. Song]

A gentle tune which would suit a young singer. The simple melody leaves plenty of room to communicate what appear to be sweetly romantic lyrics. This rhyme was allegedly written from the perspective of Henry VIII’s older brother Arthur who was betrothed as a child to the King of Spain’s daughter, Katherine of Aragon [source]. Of course, as with all nursery rhymes, don’t think about the lyrics too hard, or they start to have much more adult connotations. This song could be sung as quite a naughty rhyme, but perhaps that interpretation would be best left in the pub rather than the exam room! [YouTube]

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David/Hoffman/Livingstone – Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo (Cinderella, 1950)
[LCM S1-1; ABRSM 1(C)]

This joyful song from Disney’s Cinderella is sung by the Fairy Godmother as she uses her magical powers to change Cinderella from lowly maid to dazzling soon-to-be-princess. It’s quite fast, so watch that all the words are crisp and accurate before adding movement to this song that reflects the fun that this character is having while she’s making magic. Remember to sing this song to the startled Cinderella – try to use the upbeat nature of the song to reassure her not to be scared of the magic going on. A cloak would make an easy but effective costume for this song, and something to act as a wand would be a good prop choice. [YouTube]

Repertoire Corner

Two lullabies for you this week. Both beautiful, but both very different.

Reger – Maria Wiegenleid
[ABRSM 5(B); TG Int.Cert.(B); LCM(5)]

This song shifts frequently between major and minor tonality so the singer needs to be confident at adjusting between the two. The “chorus” element (“Schlaf kindline…”)of this song needs a good understanding of how to bring colour to long notes which should sit in the middle of the singer’s range. The German pronunciation should not be too taxing, and since the song is short, it should be manageable to sing in its original language. [YouTube]

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Brown, Jason Robert – Christmas Lullaby (Songs for a New World)
[LCM MT 6-7]

On a first listen this song sounds simple, but, like all of Jasno Robert Brown’s songs, it is surprisingly challenging. The chorus passage (“and I will be like mother Mary..”) has large vocal leaps which need to be executed with accuracy, while maintaining the same volume and tonal quality of the lower sections of the melody. The emotional communication of the song is also key as the lyrics are not explicit about the meaning (so much so that Brown reportedly had to explain them himself). This song should be sung with a sense of mixed emotions: joy, fear and most of all awe. Not a song for the faint-hearted, but a rewarding one to master. [YouTube]