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Newsletter Summer 2008

In this issue, we take take a look at the life and songs of one of our most popular composers Gabriel Fauré and we bring you some great advice for helping children new to voice work sing in tune. There's part three of our singers' glossary - the abundant 'C's. We profile the talented Welsh tenor, Efan Williams and take singing inspiration from a most memorable performance by the late great Maria Callas.

We also bring you Your Accompanist TV - our own selection of the best singing videos on You Tube.

Best wishes from The Your Accompanist Team

PS: We now have all our back issues of the newsletter available to view online. You can view them in the original format, or browse the articles by type.


Latest AddtionsWhat's new to the catalogue?

French composers are well represented in our latest-additions list this time. Apart from Fauré, there are more songs by Gounod, Massenet, Chausson, Duparc, and Saint-Saens.

We've also included some traditional songs as well as parlour song favourites like When You and I were Young Maggie by J A Butterfield and the lovely duet by Sir Julius Benedict, The Moon Hath Raised Her Lamp Above. Speaking of duets, we've got Rossini's Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti too fors any ladies who are feeling a little 'kittenish'.

For those of us looking forward to Christmas choral programmes (- never too soon!) there are two Peter Warlock favourites, Balulalow and Bethlehem Down as well as Berlioz's L'Adieu des Bergers - The Shepherd's Farewell - now with individually supported vocal lines). Finally, can't go without mentioning one of our favourites - Graham Peel's wistfully beautiful In Summertime on Bredon...

We hope you enjoy singing to them as much as we enjoyed recording them for you.

Latest additions: www.youraccompanist.com/latest

Collections: www.youraccompanist.com/collections

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Singing with Kids - 'Pitching it right'

Producing notes in tune? Not so easy. Often the people who are responsible for teaching this skill can't remember ever learning it themselves - it's just something they've always known how to do. Unlike instrumentalists, singers have to 'magic' their notes out of their whole bodies somehow. But what if someone just doesn't know how?

A question of confidence
How many times have you heard someone say, 'Oh, I'm completely tone-deaf?' Ask yourself, ‘What are they actually saying?' 'Who told him or her that was what was wrong?' Most of all ask yourself, 'Why did nobody help?' Sure, it might be an excuse not to join in - a bit like a reluctant cross-country runner. Fair enough. If someone chooses not to sing, ok, but so many times this is said by people who really do want to sing - witness the 'loosened' up wedding guest when the karaoke machine appears.

It's never too late to try
A common undiagnosed problem is that children who have suffered ear infections early in life ('Glue ear') have often missed out on what is now recognised as a critical phase in their development, but that doesn't mean they can't 'rewire' at a later stage in life. There's plenty anecdotal and researched evidence to say that it's never too late at least to try. It is better though if you can do something about it sooner rather than later.

Singing strategies
So if you're the one dealing with children; teenagers; adults who can't find their notes what can you do? Sounds obvious perhaps, but just keep at it - it will happen. You sing the note and let the child copy. Make it a game. Get them to help each other. Pair up ones who can with ones who can't and hope it's the positive that rubs off! Don't single out any child unless they really want to go solo. Absolutely do not go round the group listening to individuals and telling some to 'be quiet' (trust us, it happens) - or for that matter, to 'sing up'. 

If they can hear you speak, then they can hear you sing and they will find your note eventually. Mostly, the problem is that they haven't had the chance. Until you came along, probably no one has ever asked them to do it.

Sirening
One thing that works and you might like to try is getting them to 'siren' it . Get them to find a note just higher than their speaking pitch (if you can work it out). Then you sing one a bit higher and ask them to make a long continuous upwards sound like a warning siren - starting low (always) and rising until it hits yours on the way up. Stop them, when they arrive at the right note and say well done! Have another go and then another and another until they can see what placing a note feels like. Don't worry if it sounds like demented singspiel. In fact, don't worry about anything at all, just keep at it. It takes some doing especially with self-conscious and unwilling teens, but try to remember what Ghandi said, 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win'. Just insist.

Critical accompaniment
Nothing wrong with unaccompanied or 'a capella' singing but it takes confidence and experience. So initially, another thing that helps -apart from your singing with them - is the support of an accompaniment (well, we would say that wouldn't we - but it's true!). It doesn't matter if it's a piano, guitar, or harp, it can be anything that can provide a reliable reference point for pitch (make sure it's in tune).

Don't be persuaded that untuned percussion is a great idea. It will just make already poor intonation execrable for you (and for listeners at the end of term concert) It's just a distraction. Leave it in the cupboard for later when their pitch is more secure. Don’t let it re-appear until then. Ignore the protests. Just resist.

Get practising
In terms of suitable material, when they do begin to feel more confident, start simple and get it right before you move on. Nursery Rhymes can work for all age groups. Try simple well known hymns, work songs or sea shanties. If you're mindful of multi-cultural or heritage issues, try Ode to Joy sung to 'La'. Go for the tried and tested favourites rather than 'of the minute' material. There's a reason for why they've lasted and there's a better chance that they will be recognised and reinforced at home. Ignore the protests. It will come right. Just persist.

Image by kind permission of Reut C

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Singing Terms The Your Accompanist ABC of singing terms

'C' is for...

...so many things we can't fit them all into one edition! Look out for more singing C in the autumn.

'C' - the high variety. The tenor's 'holy grail'. Described whimsically by some as the 'money notes'. Good examples found in Donizetti's tenor aria 'Pour Mon Âme' from 'Daughter of the Regiment'. Hear them sung admirably by Juan Diego Florez.

Cabaletta - (from 'cavatinetta', a little cavatina) the fast and brilliant final section in an aria of usually more than one movement.

Cameriera - Means 'chambermaid' (also like 'servetta'- a servant girl). Very common in 17th & 18th Century operas for those delightful soubrette roles.

Canción - Spanish for 'song' - but also a type of lyrical Latin American music popular in the first half of the 20th Century.

Cantata - originally, Italian for any sung piece. Now the meaning has narrowed to describe short sacred or secular vocal works. Usually for single voices, chorus and instrumental accompaniment.

Canticle - a non-metrical hymn based on biblical text that's used in some Church liturgies. Can also just mean a song, poem or hymn that's religious in character.

Cantilena -a sustained flowing melodic line usually sung 'legato'

Canto Carnaliesco - 15th & 16th century Florentine part song - with the tune given to the tenor - sung in carnival processions and usually rather 'naughty'!

Cantor - someone who leads or directs the singing in Luthern Churches or Jewish Synagogues (spectacularly, Bach at Leipzig).

Cantus firmus - (Latin - 'fixed song'). In Mediaeval music, where a pre-existing popular melody (usually Gregorian Chant) was wrapped, very formally, in contrapuntal parts by the composer. The tenor got the long slow notes of equal value while the other parts provided the 'entertainment'.

Canzone - Even though the Italian word ending might suggest a 'big' song or ballad, it's actually a scaled down madrigal - a part song in that style, but much less elaborate and polyphonic. (Think 'Madrigal Lite').

Canzonetta - somewhere between ...the above and the following... but mostly for a solo voice line.

Canzonet (from 'canzonetta' - a little song) - light songs written in England in the 1600s often for single voice and lute. Later in the 18th century, just 'a song' e.g. Haydn's 'My Mother bids Me Bind My Hair' (Schäferlied) In this later form, they often have 'pastoral' references. (Think 'Little Bo Peep'.)

Carmen - Latin for 'a song' and an opera by Bizet.

Castrati - Male sopranos and contraltos of the 17th and 18th centuries, many of whom became fashionable and famous but who must surely have asked themselves if it was all worth it! Velluti, one of the most famous of these lived from 1781 until 1861.

Catch - a part song that works in the same way as a canon or round - i.e. the vocal entries follow each other, but are constructed in such a way that the words become mixed up and re-form with another meaning - sometimes,with doubtful results! The Catch Club ('The Noblemen and Gentlemen's Catch Club)', was founded in London in 1761 for sociable meetings and the singing of catches. A 'Catch Club' still exists in London, but they may not sing catches now...

Cavata - a short 'Arioso' section following an 18th century recitative.

Cavatina - (possibly developed from 'cavata') a song in an opera that's usually less elaborate than the average operatic aria - a short piece or air with a sustained melodic line. (Not just the theme from 'The Deer Hunter'). Famous one - Rosina's Cavatina from Rossini's 'Il Barbiere Di Siviglia' - although with the wonderful Rita Streich, not the most simple!

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Your Accompanist TV

Google video and You Tube contain thousands of amateur and professional performances of songs from the classical, opera and operetta repertoires along with huge selections of choir videos. It's great that such a huge haul of performance is available for free, but you can easily lose many precious hours looking for the really good ones.

We've created a section in the site dedicated to bringing you some of the the best: Tune in today, and if you find something that you think could be included, please let us know.

View Your Accompanist TV

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Newsletter

Issue 5
August 2008


In this issue:
New to the catalogue
Fauré's Life and Songs
Singing with Kids - 'Pitching it right'
Singer profile: Efan Williams
BBC's Last Choir Standing
Inspirations: Maria Callas
ABC of singing terms: Singing 'C's
Your Accompanist TV
We're on Facebook
About Your Accompanist


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Fauré's Life and Songs

Fauré was born (1845) in Pamiers, a market town near Foix in La Basse Ariège area of southern France - a rich, fertile region and just about as far from metropolitan Paris as any French town can be. But it was to Paris at the age of nine that he was sent by enlightened parents who recognised their son's talent. He secured a place on a full bursary, at the Niedermayer School, an establishment that specialises in Church music, and became an organist. Saint Saëns, his senior by only ten years, was one of his professors.

After receiving La Croix de Guerre as a young man for army service in the Franco-Prussian War, Fauré returned to Paris in 1871 to be assistant organist and accompanist to the choir at Saint-Sulpice, then later at the Madeleine Church - again following in Saint Saëns footsteps. Following a series of misunderstandings, the fraught and fragile engagement to his beloved Marianne Viardot was broken and he married Marie Fremiet. This was a rather unhappy marriage, as it transpired, but he remained married to Marie for the rest of his life in spite of his relationships with other women.

They had two sons and to support his family, Fauré supplemented his church income by teaching piano and harmony - composing during summer holidays but making very little money from it as his publisher bought the works and their outright copyrights for a mere fifty francs each. In the 1880s, after these tribulations, the previously cheerful Fauré became prone to bouts of depression. Described by him as 'spleen', this is reflected in many of his songs. Disappointed, self critical and uncompromising, he destroyed many of his works during this period.

By the 1890s, however, things had improved for him professionally. In 1892 he became inspector for the provincial conservatories and by 1896, was chief organist at the Madeleine. He followed Massenet as composition professor at the Paris Conservatoire, teaching, among others, Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger. In 1905, he was appointed its director, making changes in the establishment that upset many. He remained in this post until the deterioration in his hearing caused him to relinquish it in 1920. He died in Paris four years later.

This complex, quietly unsentimental, modernising and iconoclastic composer, whose work in developing harmonic theory was based on a complete mastery of classical structure, pushed the contemporary boundaries of harmony forward into the twentieth century. His beautiful but 'edgy' songs demonstrate this wonderfully. There are 96 in all. Along with his subtle unforgiving, unbroken rhythmic lines and staggering use of syncopation, they are ruthlessly ‘driven’, and demanding - perhaps not for the faint-hearted singer (or accompanist!), but worth all the physical and intellectual effort they call for.

Try the early and delightful Le Papillon et La Fleur (Opus 1 No.1); the later exuberant Notre Amour (Opus 23 No. 2); the inconsolable Spleen (Opus 51 No.3); the impressionistic Le Ramier (Opus 87 No.2) as well as all-time favourites favourites Après Une Rêve, Automne, Les Berceaux, Mandoline and Soir. You won't be disappointed.

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See all our Fauré accompaniments

View the Fauré Collection

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We are always keen to expand the accompaniments we have available, so if you would like a version at a different speed or higher or lower voice version, you can request it via our Suggest a track form.

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Singer ProfileEfan Williams, Tenor

Studying voice in Berlin with Janice and Jonathan Alder must be quite a change from being home in Wales for tenor, Efan Williams.

Efan's home is the village of Lledrod, not far from Aberystwyth, tucked between the majestic Cambrian Mountains and beautiful coastline of Cardigan Bay. Efan’s first language is Welsh, and the strong singing tradition of his country has clearly rubbed off on him. You can hear some clips on his profile page.

We’re very grateful to him for our Cymraeg page on the site and for taking time to tell us about his singing. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Efan!

View Efan Williams Profile Page

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If you would like to be featured in a future singer profile, please email:

profiles@youraccompanist.com

Catch up with our previous singer profiles

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Inspirations: Maria Callas

Hard to forget all the attendant biographical detail - early struggles with weight, marriages, divorces and so on, that led to those later reclusive years and left us with the abiding image of a tortured soul. But do try!

No matter what the purists say about doubtful intonation or tone production, when you watch her in action you'll find it hard to disagree that this was a truly wonderful 'performer' - capable of convincing the most reluctant listener that any unlikely operatic plot might just be credible.

She doesn't even need a set - see how she delivers 'Una Voce Poco Fa' (that cavatina again...) with that magical, 'ma...' moment!

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BBC's Last Choir Standing

As you can probably imagine, we've been following the developments in the BBC's Saturday night choir competition, Last Choir Standing. Now in it's fourth week of broadcast, there has already been much heartache and disappointment for those choirs who weren't chosen by the judges.

After this beginning, our anticipation of what's to follow is palpable. Any group of singers who even got to this first round has done well. Reducing the numbers by a half in the next round will probably be excruciating.

Some have already said, 'why can't we have nice singing without the pernicious element of competition'. Well, 'twas ever thus' as those of us who can remember music festivals from our youth must know. Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on your standpoint - it's the competitive element that often generates interest in an activity. Once we're over the 'gladiatorial' hurdle, then we begin to look for the art.

We were particularly moved by the engaging and talented Dreemz from West Bromwich who prove just how far singers can get by listening to one another. We only hope that the choirs not successful in the competition will still continue to enjoy singing together. It was great to see such a young choir brimming with growth and potential after such a short time together. They should be proud of their achievement getting through to the final fifteen.

Standing out of the crowd, are the rather epic Ysgol Glanethwy, whose passionate of performance Adiamus this Saturday immediately confirmed their class and sent them through to the final six. We've loved them since they sang Rhythm of Life in Welsh at the callbacks! (Catch it on the bbc website). We wouldn't be at all surprised to see them go all the way.

We're looking forward to lots more excellent singing gracing our Saturday evenings, or indeed any time we like with BBC iPlayer! If you're not based in the UK and would like to follow the competition, or if you've missed an episode, you can catch up on the official website: www.bbc.co.uk/lastchoirstanding.

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We're on Facebook

FacebookIf you're a member of the online community Facebook, you might like to know that we recently started a page for fans of Your Accompanist. It's a great place to make contact with other singers, ask questions in forums and get answers from singers all over the world drawing on a wealth of varied experience at all levels. You can write reviews about us to tell us what you think of our products and communications. You'll also get regular special offers and sneak previews!

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Feedback please

If you've enjoyed this issue of the newsletter, if there's something you'd like us to talk about in the future, if you've got a question you think we could answer or a singing tip you'd like to share with others, please let us know. Use our online contact form:
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About Your Accompanist

We make real piano rehearsal tracks for singers. All tracks are recorded by a real pianist on a real piano in a single take. You download them directly to your PC in MP3 format. They can then be transferred directly to any portable MP3 player (such as an iPod or, Sony MP3 walkman, Archos box or iRiver), or burned to CD.

They are ideal for soloists, ensembles, choirs and classrooms, for those who sing professionally, recreationally or secretly. The quality of the musicianship and sensitivity of the performances means that the accompaniments make great listening, even for those who don't sing along.

Our catalogue covers a large part of the standard repertoire and is growing all the time. We bring you a wide variety of genres and composers, and aim to cater for all vocal ranges and levels of proficiency. Each track can be sampled on the site so you can be sure you've got the piece you want.

We believe very strongly in the importance of music in education, and have a great deal of experience in the field. We hope to support music teachers, promote singing in the classroom and provide an effective low cost solution for singing teaching situations where good quality live accompaniment is not readily available.

All of our tracks are available for instant download, so if we've already got the piece you want, there's no need to wait for a CD via post. If you'd like something we don't already have, or you need it in a different key, let us know. If it's in the public domain and we can get hold of the music, we could have it online for you quite quickly.

Read more in our User Guide: www.youraccompanist.com/userguide.

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