Programme Note

Speech choir for three treble voices a cappella. Latin text.

Composed for the National Festival 1988 of Folkekirkens Ungdomskor (The National Youth
Church Choirs).

First performance 19 June 1988, Fredens Church, Odense, by a festival workshop choir, directed by the composer.

Performed by Herning Kirkes Drengekor (Herning Boys Choir) and Mads Bille at the inauguration of the Europa Cantat Festival XII in Herning, Denmark, 21 July 1994

Notes on performing "Gloria Halleluja"
- from a letter to a choir director abroad

Long notes are to fluctuate a little, both in pitch and sonority, as it does in speech. Of course I here refer to a rhetorical way of speaking, not everyday chatter. (There was in Sweden and Denmark a tradition of speech choir in the '60ies and '70ies, so we have a kind of tradition). To practice this I take some ordinary word or words, and has the choir speaking them in unison with me in extreme slow motion, to give them the feeling. As a speaker in a large hall or open air, without a microphone.

Ambitus should be watched throughout the piece. As there is no definite tone frequency, any inaccuracy - for instance a glissando too steep or too flat may shift the pitch of the whole rest of the piece upwards or downwards, at least until a correction can be made.
The way to control this is for the singers to be very observant to the small shift in pitch in the
middle register and not to try to augment them. Then there is room for the larger melodic gestures without shrillness in high passages or grumpiness in low.

Tone or cluster. There will be a tendency, especially when practicing, for the singers of one part to come together on one single note, both in singing and speaking. Which is normally a very good thing in a choir, uniting the voices and phrasing and helping along a common expressiveness. The whole composition may be performed that way, and it will do very well with the shorter notes and more lively phrases. However, at least the long sustained notes call for a broader sound.

The best way to practice this, I have found, is to start with the unison sound all over, to get the common phrasing, articulation, dynamics and ambitus for each of the three parts until knowing the music. Then - in a second phase - to broaden it a little, making arrangements with the singers, who is to go a little higher or lower than the others, and who is to stay in the middle, and also to practice taking nearly the same pitch, but not quite, and then following each others as before. In the third and final phase there may have to be a little adjusting of the ambitus, because some singers now go a little higher or lower than before, so the general ambitus may have to be yet a little more reduced in the part in question, maybe even in general, in some passages.

- There seems to be, to my experience, in the very beginning of the rehearsing a moment of awkwardness or shyness, and maybe even a bit of laughing or giggling together, because this way of expressing yourself is very direct and connected with personal, everyday talk. It passes usually very swiftly as the music takes the scene and it becomes obvious that this piece is not for fun, it is actually serious music.

Henrik Colding-Jørgensen