Walking in sunshine : choir
by Betty Beath (1981)
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Library shelf no. 783.12542/BEA 1 [Available for loan]
Walking in Sunshine was commissioned by the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Society for Music Education and my brief was to write six vocalise for two-part choir to a standard for performance by 10th, 11th and 12th grade elective music students. I hoped to write a work which would develop the imagination as well as the musical skills of the performers. I saw the two-part aspect of the work suggesting the relationship of two friends. For example the first vocalise Greeting suggests a meeting after a period of separation; the mood of the second vocalise Tenderness was expressed through use of the dorian mode; a good gossip was likely to be on the cards and so the third vocalise Gossip provided a point of contrast, followed by Playing the Fool, Parting, and finally Walking in Sunshine. As the titles suggest a particular mood, this becomes important in the interpretation and performance of the work. The aim was to express and to communicate, without benefit of words but at the same time to establish mood and atmosphere.
In the preface to the work I invite performers to feel free to devise movements and props. I suggest, too, that the vocal sounds as I have written them should be taken as a guide only, students or teachers should feel free to use alternatives. Each group of students will have its own strengths and these particular strengths should be used in the work where appropriate. For example it is interesting to work with available instrumental colour and vocalists will generally appreciate the addition.
Imagine, for example, the first song, Greeting, accompanied by flute playing an octave higher than the soprano vocal line and the song sung as performers move on to the stage. Imagine Tenderness accompanied by clarinets supporting the vocal parts, Gossip with percussion marking the beats throughout. Playing the Fool with double bass and glockenspiel added, Parting for unaccompanied voice with an introduction and conclusion by guitar and Walking in Sunshine would work well with recorders.
As to technical aspects phrasing is probably the most important. Dynamic directions are abundant in the score and, if realised, help bring life to the work. Recognition of the importance of line and the sustaining of line through passages with long held notes or through passages which have wide interval leaps is one of the 'skills' which may be developed.
The vocalise have a variety of familiar time signatures 4/4, 6/4, 2/4, 6/8 and 3/4 and sometimes these change within a particular work. Rhythm is fairly simple and conventional. Students are required to sing two against three and there are points of syncopation but, in practice, there have been few problems in this area.
As to tonality the vocalise are loosely asociated with the modes. It was my point of reference in determining the fundamental tone for each of the six vocalise and so I began with the Ionian progressing with each vocalise through the colours of the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian and Adelian modes. I describe the tonality as neo-modal.
In working with students on the first performance of this work I had the opportunity to discuss the development of the writing itself; to reveal the construction, use of material, contrasts, patterns etc., in fact the process of writing as I experienced it. An unexpected pleasure was to see that this had a beneficial effect on compositions the students were developing at that time. There was a genuine interest in discussing and solving problems.
All in all my hope was that Walking in Sunshine would provide interest and enjoyment for all those who may participate in its performance.
Instrumentation: 2 part choir, alternatively 2 voices or 2 instruments and piano.
Duration: 7 min.
Difficulty: Medium — Year 10, 11th and 12th grade elective music students performance standard.
Contents note: Greeting -- Tenderness -- Gossip -- Playing the fool -- Parting -- Walking in sunshine.
Commission note: Queensland Chapter of the Australian Society for Music Education.
Performances of this work
28 Oct 81: St. Margaret's Anglican Girls' School, Brisbane. Featuring Brisbane Girls Grammar School.
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