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pateceramics

The Lord Is My Shepherd

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Posted (edited)

Someone on another forum was asking for music for their church treble choir that's just starting to learn to sing harmony.  They are good at partner songs and call and response.  So this is church appropriate and uses lots of unison and call and response, plus a little bit of harmony.  Since it has so much unison it needed a piano/organ part to do some of the heavy lifting harmonically, but I'm not a pianist.  If you notice that any of it would require really awkward fingering please let me know!

I'm attaching a pdf of the score so you can read along.  I think this would also be really nice for treble choir plus women's choir, with the kids taking the first unison section, and then the adults joining them.  Or for an easy anthem some Sunday when the four guys in your church choir are all out of town, and all you have are sopranos and altos.  

Thanks for listening!

Here's a youtube with the score rolling by in case that's easier:  

 

 

Edited by pateceramics
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Hi Pateceramics!

This is a lovely piece. After reading the purpose behind its composition, I understand why some of the choices were made. So, let's get down to it.

The one thing that truly bothered me in this piece was the change of pace between sections. Up until m. 23, there had been no stopping the eighth note pulse. This brings a lot of attention to the "leadeth me" words. That, combined with the somewhat awkward harmonic language there, kind of jarred me. My instinct, as a composer, would be to continue building the motion here. Especially since it is followed by another iteration of the theme, that could be a moment to build the dramatic motion of the song where I feel it comes to almost a full stop here.

The piano part is perfectly playable to me, and not awkward fingering-wise. Some of the voicings and harmonic choices are suspect to me... I'm not always sure what harmony you're going for. Like in m. 2, that is a iii leading to vi which is sort of a dominant motion, but kind of altered to be modal.  I like it! But, it's just not obvious. 

And, what makes that challenging is you sometimes resolve to the V at the same time you move to the vi, which creates this dissonance. This is also nice! But, harmonically confusing. What is does is make the song feel harmonically stagnant and uneven. In a simple tonal piece like this one, I got bored halfway through. 

Thank you for sharing it!

-B

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Thanks for your thoughts, Bagheera!  I chose to stop the eighth note pulse at measure 23 to put the singers more in charge and expose them a little bit.  It's a little less supported and a little more vulnerable, which feels appropriate to the simplicity and trust of the text.  Structurally, it might make more sense to start from that position of vulnerability and then start the eighth note pulse when the text is repeated for a feeling of increasing lushness as the piece proceeds, (reverse the first and second sections), but given the easy difficulty level I'm going for with this piece, I was concerned that younger singers, or less confident adult singers might sound too timid if I didn't support them in the beginning so they could feel like they were off to a confident start.  Once they are off and running, I think they will tolerate taking control of the tempo and singing with good breath support, but I think if I started too simply they would drag and get quiet and breathy.  I hope that makes sense!  

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Hey,

This is very nice indeed, as usual!

I have nothing to say, really, except maybe that the accents on "shepherd", "pasture" and "waters" are a bit strange: the rhythm and melody (when the quarter note rises, e.g. b.7) mostly draw attention to the second syllable, which makes it sound like "pastúre" when, as you obviously know, it should be "pásture"; same goes for "shephérd" vs "shépherd" or "watérs" vs "wáters". Not that it's crucial, but I would tend to switch the rhythm and have quarter-eighth instead of eighth-quarter. Similarly, holding the second syllable as you do, for instance, at the very opening or in bars 20-2 with "pasture" is something I would recommend avoiding. Granted, I sing in a French-speaking choir, which means our attempts at singing in English tend to be rather dismal anyway, but from experience and even from hearing native English choirs or singing on my own, having to hold an "er" sound, as will be the case in all three occurrences here, is very awkward (especially with an American accent :grin:).

Other than that, I enjoyed this piece very much. Thank you for uploading!

Best,

Marc

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Thanks for your suggestions, Marc!  Yes, American choir directors do spend time reminding their members not to sing "burred r's."  But good choirs know better.  Interestingly, some of the people I know who are the worst offenders about it are people who moved to the United States as children.  I think they worked so hard as children to internalize a standard American pronunciation because of comments about their accents that now they find it hard to stop!  

Interestingly, I find that sometimes putting the stressed syllable on on unstressed beat makes you sing with a little more thought to the words.  It forces you to think about what you are doing and give that unaccented beat a little push, and actually can bring out the text in a very sensitive manner.  You can't just sing the text in a note-note-note fashion.  It can help add some natural flow to the line, like a good Irish fiddle tune.  You are right, though, it is something that may need to be emphasized with a less-experienced group of singers, and could eat up some rehearsal time, particularly given the easy difficulty level I was aiming for here.  

Thank you for your thoughts!  

-Maggie

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