Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three-Way Chorus Circle

Back when we were discussing counterpoint, it sure sounded like a difficult sort of technique to learn. There's an exercise that makes it all much easier. If you're teaching a workshop, or working with your group on new techniques, it's worth giving this a try.

This exercise is based on another one we've covered earlier, Chorus Circle. Chorus Circle tries to teach participants the value of a simple, repetitive chorus, while reinforcing that non-driving team members can contribute and support very effectively by shadowing the singer.

In this exercise, which we will call, um, Three-Way Chorus Circle, we divide the class/group up in to three chunks, kind of like you'd do for Emotional Symphony. Just like Chorus Circle, you pick a title or inspiration for the song, and get cracking on a vamp that will support a chorus. Instruct just one of those groups to cook up a simple, mid-speed chorus that fits your music and the inspiration for the song. One intrepid volunteer from that group sings the chorus once through, then everyone else in that group sings it through once or twice.

Now that the first group has committed it to memory, keep the same vamp going and do the same exercise with a second group. The second group should construct a more wordy, faster paced chorus.

Then do the same with the third group, but create a less wordy chorus with nice sustained, soaring notes.

Finally - get group one to sing their part, layer group two on top, then add group three. They'll all sing compatible parts at different speeds, and they'll overlay quite nicely. If you can, conduct them! Raise and lower the volume of groups.

When we tried this at a recent workshop, I found that once all three groups were running, I could happily change the chord progressions in the accompaniment, and it all still held together very well.

Last, find a way to signal an end, and bring it to a close.

Hopefully you'll discover how easy this is! Even better if you can put it in to practice and pull it off during a show. If you find you're on stage with people that have done this exercise, you'll all get it, and hopefully find yourself doing some fantastic counterpoint.

Photo by Rusty Sheriff. Written by .

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