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A Fantasy


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Hi all,

I wanted to share this piece with you all! I wrote this for a local competition for a community choir, and it's the first piece I wrote. I ended up showing it to my college choir director and he programmed it for us last year! I'd really like feedback on how to make this more friendly for high school voices, as it's too easy for college choirs and too difficult for high schools with all of the part splits, but I feel like the piece really relies on the open voiced chords in the climax. Any thoughts on that would be greatly appreciated! My parents recorded it with their iPhone, so the video quality isn't the best, but I figured that voices in any sense would be much better than midi. The piece starts about a minute into the video. Thanks for your thoughts! - Pat



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Hi, this is really good stuff, congratulations! I love the daring use of dissonances, it's very pleasing to listen to. Really well done, especially for your first composition!

A couple of thoughts on making the piece high-school-friendly:

1. The first note of the Tenors is not easy to catch - nowhere near impossible of course, but for a high school choir perhaps it's a bit hard. I know that in mine, the lads wouldn't be at ease.

2. M. 26: don't combine Basses on low F# and Sopranos on high G, especially in the ff, because the Sopranos will be so loud they'll cover the rest. Besides, high-school-aged Basses are seldom true Basses, rather Bass-Baritones, and they won't be able to produce a proper low F# ff: either they'll lose power or the note will be unstable and sound bad.

3. Be careful, you give the voices some hard jumps at times, avoid major 7ths, especially in the extremes of the range, they might sound sloppy. (Basses 2, mm. 36-7)


And also a few general thoughts on the piece:

4. This is a matter of taste, but I'm not a fan of two 2nds in the same chord, you have a lot of those (and often unresolved, or bringing onto another dissonance) and it seems like there's too much happening at the same time. For instance "(a-)lone", m. 10, "streams" m. 14, "temple" m. 16, "the" m. 22. My ear would prefer if you resolved one of the two seconds in the chord at some point. Major 7ths are dangerous in a choir the members of which may not have a trained ear, because they'll ultimately tend to drift towards a resolution. Besides, complex chords are more difficult to sing. E.g. if the choir has A - C# - D, those who sing D can listen to the C# and "keep away" from it, whereas if you have A - C# - D - E, the D-part is not sure where to go, wobbles around a few quarter-tones and, from my experience, takes a long time to be fixed.

5. I'm not one to criticise parallel fifths and octaves per se, because they don't disturb me, but I would recommend avoiding having both parallel fifths and octaves in the same sentence, as in mm. 22-5 where B1 and B2 are in parallel fifths and B2 is doubled on the octave by T2 as well. It's not that it damages the music, but it seems a pity to me because you are wasting opportunities for interesting harmonics.

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The biggest difficulty I see for a high school choir in this is the high dissonances for the Sopranos. When you're getting up into Fs and Gs at the top of the treble clef, most high school sopranos aren't blessed with a lot of control. Same goes for a lot of community choral groups. Let them have the security of a unison or consonant interval there and deploy your color notes lower in the chorus.

Also, who told you that this is not difficult enough for a college level chorus? There is a lot that a chorus can learn from a piece like this, even if the notes and rhythms aren't hard.

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@Marc O'Callaghan Thanks for pointing out the large gap between the basses and sopranos, I myself am a pretty low bass, and I love the way open voiced chords (as in a lot of Eriks Esenvalds' pieces) sound, although I forget to think about how hard they can be to sing/ tune for amateur voices! Now that you pointed it out, it makes a lot of sense about the octaves/ fifths, as there may even be room for a countermelody or something else!

@Adrian Quince Thanks for the feedback! As I've listened back to the recording, I agree that the quick dissonances in the soprano, especially in the climax, are really difficult to tune, and almost sound like errors sometimes! As far as the difficulty level, my professor sent it into his publishing house, and they told him that it is a little too easy for college and too difficult for all except the best high school choirs. They said it would be really difficult to sell and publish because of this!

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It seems to me like a bit of a lousy argument on the part of the publishing house... Dissonances are never very easy to deal with in a choir, and you have a lot here - the rhythms aren't very complex, that's true, but the harmonics are, and I don't see how a college choir would find it so easy - not all college singers are virtuosos.

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On 3/3/2017 at 7:02 PM, tentoria said:

As far as the difficulty level, my professor sent it into his publishing house, and they told him that it is a little too easy for college and too difficult for all except the best high school choirs. They said it would be really difficult to sell and publish because of this!

OK, take a moment to bask in the good news: you got a pretty specific reason it would be hard to sell. That means the publisher thinks something of the piece. That's a big win right there.

There are two things that I think you could improve while keeping most of your color tones:

1. Don't ask the singers to pick a dissonant note out of another line. For example, m. 9, beat 4, the Altos have a D then the Sopranos have a D/E cluster on the following beat. Why not have the Altos sing a C/D cluster on that beat instead?

2. Don't ask the singers to leap into a dissonance if you can avoid it. For example, m. 13 into m. 14, the Basses have to leap from a third (E/G) into a second (G/A). Not sure there's a great fix for some of these, but they're worth examining in any case.

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