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Ave Maria (SATB Divisi)


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This is the first choral piece I've been able to finish in about two months. It's a motet-esque setting of the Ave Maria. It takes some strong influence from Bruckner's setting, and you can hear it very clearly right at the beginning of the piece. I really enjoy this work, and I'd appreciate your feedback, as it helps me improve my writing.

Thank you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think there are lots of good things in here. I listened to your older choral pieces on this site, and I think this is easily the best one yet. It's more rhythmically and texturally interesting and varied, and you do some nice things with text setting and melody, especially in the long melismas. I like the textures in spots like m. 13, where you have different levels of rhythmic activity in different voices, but the words are still intelligible because of the long sustains and melismas. It's a kind of simple polyphony that doesn't obscure the text.

I found the score hard to read because of a lot of simple things you could easily fix. (1) When you have multiple rhythmic lines on the same staff, the stems of the top line should go up and the stems on the bottom line should go down. So the tenor divisi in m. 49 is one of the only divisi parts that's actually notated correctly; most other divisi parts (and the piano part in general) are hard to read because there are slurs and stems crossing over each other. (2) In voice parts, dynamics are usually written above the staff so the lyrics can go right below the notes.

Compositionally, there's a nice sense of building in mm. 33-36, so I'm curious why the tenors and basses drop out in m. 37. The part at 37-40 really feels like the climax of the piece (especially given the meaning of the text... this is well done) but having only half the choir singing here undermines this sense of climax. I think keeping the tenors and basses in until the end of 40 would make this moment much more effective (and then having them drop out in 41 would really enhance the subito pp. You'd be orchestrating to match the dynamics, so to speak, rather than against the dynamics.)

There are some very small issues here and there that might make certain chords hard to balance. They're quite minor, so I'll only mention a couple. Choral singing is such a rich sound that 3rds (especially minor 3rds) in the bottom half of the bass clef usually sound murky and unstable, so the downbeat of m. 31 would sound better if you just put the top basses on a G3 (and it would be smoother voice leading as well). And the low E in the basses at m. 11 won't come through at forte... so to avoid it being overbalanced by the tenors, you could double it up the octave in the upper basses (especially since a lot of baritones won't be able to sing the low E anyway). Lots of little things like that become more apparent when you hear the piece sung live... and this piece certainly deserves to be sung, so I hope you manage to get it in front of a choir.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would add to NRKulus's suggestions about balance to remember the relative sizes of each voice section.  Tenors are almost always the smallest section in a choir thanks to (stupid) ideas about gender.  A lot of men feel like it is unmanly to sing unless you have a deep bass voice, so choirs are usually constantly under-tenored compared to the other sections.  Men with higher vocal ranges often don't audition.  So... never split the tenor section unless you are also splitting all the other sections.  At the very end of this piece you split the tenors, but not the altos (who are frequently the largest section in a choir).  You can easily give the T1 notes to the alto 2s instead.  They sit easily in the alto range and you'll get better balance.  

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