Unmasked : SATB choir
by Anne Norman (2021)
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A 5-part SAATB choral piece to celebrate the return of choral singing following the sorrows of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lyrics are taken from Kahlil Gibran's poem Joy and Sorrow. Long live choral music and the joy of singing in a choir!
This work has an optional theatrical component with choir members wandering on stage wearing PPE masks while soloists sing with their mask hanging from one ear. Some passages are sung through masks by all choir members. One singer is required to laugh and weep in two different passages - very subtly so the audience could mistake it as real. There are brief moments of an interplay between muffled and non-muffled sounds. All masks are tossed away on the final chord. Dynamics are not marked in the score to leave an element of interpretation by the ensemble. Dynamics are dependent on the interplay of solo and tutti passages (which may be determined by the choir director) and on how many total singers are in the choir. Alternatively, it may be performed by only five singers.
This is a reworking of a much simpler three-part piece I composed in 1988 while living in Kobe, Japan. I overhauled it in May 2021 with the excitement of hearing choirs starting up again in Melbourne.
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) - writer, poet, visual artist & philosopher - was born in Bsharri, Lebanon. Gibran emigrated to Boston with his mother and siblings at the age of two and at the age of 15 went to Beirut to study at the Collège de la Sagesse. Upon his youngest sister's death in 1902 he returned to Boston, also losing his older half-brother and mother the following year. Mary Haskell became Gibran's lifelong patron, paying for him to study art at the Adémie Julian in Paris in 1908. There Gibran met the sculptor August Rodin, who reportedly called him the "William Blake of the 20th century." Joy and Sorrow was published in Gibran's book The Prophet in 1923.
Instrumentation: SAATB choir (or 5 part vocal ensemble).
Duration: 5 min.
Difficulty: Medium — requires score reading skills. Moments of 5 part harmony. Some solo passages. Some use of overtone singing.
- Inspired by: COVID-19 Pandemic
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