Sunday, April 01, 2007

Quiet at the back please!

I find it hard to believe, but I started my choir WorldSong way back in October 1997, so this is our tenth year of operation! We are planning several events this year to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

photo by Foxtongue

One of these involves a song commissioned especially for the choir.

We thought it would be great to try something really different, so we have commissioned Klaus Santas, a well-known choral composer based in London, to write us an extended choral piece that is possible to learn without written music. Santas studied with John Cage in Frankfurt in the 1980s, and has composed several operas which are regularly performed in his native Paraguay.

We are very excited by this new piece written in German and Spanish which we have recently started working on. The main difference for us is that we will be singing mainly without using our voices. This presents particular challenges to a community choir who usually express themselves vocally. Another added difficulty is maintaining a strict tempo whilst remaining completely silent. I have spent quite a lot of time developing particular warm-up exercises to help people keep time with each other by counting in their heads. At first it was almost impossible, but I’ve found that by engaging the body the choir are becoming tighter and more accurate by the week.

The new piece, entitled RUHE, is in three “movements”, each in a different key and each at a very different tempo. All three sections are in four part harmony, so there is quite a lot of new material to learn! Given that there is no actual noise coming out of the singers mouths, it is proving to be very difficult to pitch the harmonies accurately, even though they are fairly traditional major keys.

One final challenge for us is the length of the piece: 4 hours and 33 minutes. We are hoping to premiere it at our grand summer concert in Coventry, but are slightly worried that we won’t be able to fit enough other songs in to make for a varied evening of entertainment.

If you are interested in receiving a score of this piece so you can sing it with your own community choir, one will be available after our concert in July. In the meantime, listen out for sound clips on our website.

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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