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accompanist issues/questions #1254210
08/22/09 07:12 PM
08/22/09 07:12 PM
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northern California
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Barb860 Offline OP
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Anyone out there accompanying choral groups?

I would like to know how you rehearse with your singers:
1. In 2-3 part music, are you expected to play your accompaniment part plus the 2-3 vocal parts at the same time? Or do you play just the accompaniment and let the director sing the parts to teach the singers? Or do you play just the vocal parts with no accompaniment?

I am trying to make efficient use of my time as an accompanist. I am not able to sight-read accompaniment parts plus the vocal lines at the same time. My director expects this and I therefore have to work my buns off at home to be able to do this. We have rock, spirituals, classical genres.
So much music and there has to be an easier way. I've been doing this for several years for a younger choral group, so the music is much easier. Now we have older, more advanced singers with harder music as well.
Any suggestions welcomed as long as you are nice smile


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Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Barb860] #1254288
08/22/09 09:50 PM
08/22/09 09:50 PM
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piano bench, usually
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heidiv Offline
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Hi Barb860,

I've never accompanied a vocal group, but I did sing with a community vocal group (women, 3 part). The accompanist played just the accompaniment part. It was a very amateur group. In fact, I was one of only a few who read music. The conductor highlighted each part on the score for each section. Even those who couldn't read music were able to somewhat follow along.

When the conductor heard something she didn't like she would stop and ask the accompanist to play each part separately so the singers could hear what it was supposed to sound like. Because most ladies didn't read music, our director and conductor would make tapes of each vocal part so the nonmusicians in the group could learn the parts by ear.

It's hard to believe the director would want you to play the accompaniment part and the vocal parts simultaneously. I would think it would be somewhat redundant, and more for the singers' sake than the audience's. But if this is what he/she expects...

Sorry I don't have any more advice. Perhaps someone with actual accompaniment experience may have better suggestions for you. Good luck!

Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: heidiv] #1254299
08/22/09 10:17 PM
08/22/09 10:17 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
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Janus K. Sachs Offline
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Having accompanied both professional and amateur choirs before, I could say from experience that you'll be expected to be both flexible and versatile. Don't be surprised if you're asked to, say, double the altos and tenors while playing (as best as one can) the accompaniment during rehearsal.

Be prepared to do things that might contradict the score (in the name of "interpretive license").

Be prepared to make changes in the accompaniment to accomodate and/or help out the singers. Even during performance, you'll be expected to spontaneously help out the singers if/when they falter by doubling their part(s) while still accompanying.

Be prepared to pamper individual singers. Many singers expect to be babied by their accompanists.

If your sightreading is not up to snuff, work on this like crazy. Since this is (I assume) an amateur group (more or less), you might (just) be able to get away with it.


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Barb860] #1254344
08/23/09 12:12 AM
08/23/09 12:12 AM
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 6,209
Down Under
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted by Barb860
I would like to know how you rehearse with your singers:
In 2-3 part music, are you expected to play your accompaniment part plus the 2-3 vocal parts at the same time? Or do you play just the accompaniment and let the director sing the parts to teach the singers? Or do you play just the vocal parts with no accompaniment?
All of these, at different times, depending on the piece. But usually one is concentrating on playing either the parts or the accompaniment. Sometimes, depending on the accompaniment, it just won't be possible to play all the parts and the accompaniment. The idea will be to play the parts, but give them some idea of what the accompaniment is like that they will be singing to.
If the choir needs parts played, it will often be one or two at a time, and often then you can add a little bit of the accompaniment so they have some context for their part.
In any case, I second what Janus says about practising your sight reading. Practise open score reading too - it does get easier the more you do it, truly. smile


Du holde Kunst...
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Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: currawong] #1254350
08/23/09 12:21 AM
08/23/09 12:21 AM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,862
Kansas
apple* Offline
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I'd practice playing the vocal parts and the accompaniment separately. often you will find that the accompaniment often spreads the vocal parts across 3 octaves.

It takes quite a bit of experience to realize this. I've been accompanying a professional choral conductor for 5 years and it's taken me about that long to understand.

that is too simplistic of an explanation. I'll return tomorrow refreshed to address this again.

Last edited by apple*; 08/23/09 12:22 AM.

accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: apple*] #1254353
08/23/09 12:35 AM
08/23/09 12:35 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
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Betelgeuse, baby!
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Betelgeuse, baby!
Related humour from my days as an accompanist:

A passage in a piece has the tenors crossing over and singing above the altos. Just after going through this passage in rehearsal, the conductor stops the group and says, "Tenors, sing louder. When you're on top of the altos, you have to work harder."

The conductor facepalms immeadiately after he says his words, to much laughter from everyone else.


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Janus K. Sachs] #1254370
08/23/09 01:18 AM
08/23/09 01:18 AM
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 13,837
Iowa City, IA
Kreisler Offline
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In my experience, I've found that playing the accompaniment AND the voice parts is never necessary. The conductor should be able to rehearse effectively with one OR the other.

If he/she can't handle that, then he/she can either:

1) Find someone who can, and be prepared to pay them VERY WELL, because those people are extremely rare.

2) Kiss my ***.

laugh


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Kreisler] #1254496
08/23/09 10:35 AM
08/23/09 10:35 AM
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Kansas
apple* Offline
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sometimes for difficult pieces the singers need more support than accompaniment gives them.. choral pieces with lush, jazzy unusual chords for instance and i find it helpful for everyone to work the choral parts into the accompaniment.

sometimes the accompaniment is so poorly written it doesn't compliment what the singers sing and melding the piano part with the choral sounds better.

I am grateful for my professional director who has constantly challenged me with directives like 'bring out the tenor part for the verses' or 'we are missing our bass today, can you double the bass chords (not so hard)' - 'can you play a descant (MAKE IT UP) for the third verse?' can you play triplets in 2 over our 8th notes, not accenting the first note' some 6/8th intricacy that sounded fantastic..

i don't think it unusual to ask the accompanist to be prepared to rehearse the choral parts as written.. it is difficult to create an accompaniment on the fly.

one thing i cannot do easily is read choral parts wherein the tenor line is written an octave above the in treble cleff.. I just can't do that (with my left hand playing the 2 men's parts and the right playing for the women). I just get up from the piano and give it to my director..

Last edited by apple*; 08/23/09 10:37 AM.

accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Kreisler] #1254588
08/23/09 01:28 PM
08/23/09 01:28 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,654
northern California
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Barb860 Offline OP
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Kreisler and Apple, am I to assume that the better quality choirs have directors who can and do sing well? And they can sight-sing any parts?

My dilemma is that for the past 7 years with easy music, I have played accompaniment and the 1-2 vocal lines at the same time and have thus given a great amount of support to the choir. Now, with the more advanced kids and difficult music for them to sing and for me to play, I am finding it darn near impossible to offer the same supportive accompanist service I have given before, to this same director.
Thanks for the advice, everyone. Very helpful and thoughtful.
My plan is to talk with the director and tell him what I can and can't do. I can play any and all vocal lines alone with accompaniment or together without.


Piano Teacher
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: apple*] #1254590
08/23/09 01:29 PM
08/23/09 01:29 PM
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northern California
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Barb860 Offline OP
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yes, much of the music I play has poorly written or at least unsupportive accompaniment.


Piano Teacher
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Barb860] #1254634
08/23/09 02:57 PM
08/23/09 02:57 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 2,047
Minneapolis, Minnesota
tomasino Offline
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I agree with Kreisler's attitude about what choral conductors can do---kiss my ***--- and I think I know the source of his irritation. The ranks of choral conducting are filled with nincompoops. I've found in my experience as a singer, and I've had lots, that most choral conductors can't do very much of anything other than wave their arms around in a fluid motion with a beatific expression on their face. If you have enough budget for a competent keyboard player and a few section leaders, it's real easy to fake it. I'm not kidding, you don't even have to read music.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Barb860] #1254694
08/23/09 05:18 PM
08/23/09 05:18 PM
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 13,837
Iowa City, IA
Kreisler Offline
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Originally Posted by Barb860
Kreisler and Apple, am I to assume that the better quality choirs have directors who can and do sing well? And they can sight-sing any parts?


That has been my experience. Some of them couldn't sing very well, but they had great ears and new how to get a good sound out of the choir. (They knew a lot about the mechanics of singing and diction, even though they themselves didn't have a particularly beautiful voice.)


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Kreisler] #1254696
08/23/09 05:24 PM
08/23/09 05:24 PM
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northern California
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Barb860 Offline OP
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How about this idea:
On the days the accompanist is not there, could the director focus on part singing by playing just the vocal lines himself at the piano?
Assuming any competent choral director should be able to play vocal lines at the piano, correct?


Piano Teacher
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: tomasino] #1254697
08/23/09 05:25 PM
08/23/09 05:25 PM
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Puyallup, Washington
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Betty Patnude Offline
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I haven't accompanied in over 10 years now, but I accompanied elementary and middle school chorus', middle and high school solo instruments, and church soloist and choirs for many years.

The craziness for me was that although I sight read very well and could accomodate the vocal lines as needed as well as the accompaniments, it was those, let's change the key of the piece requests for church, and those coaching sessions I had to give during rehearsals for the young vocalists going off to contest. So many did not know their pieces very well and I corrected intonation, rhythm, vowels/consonants, phrasing and breathing too many times. It was expected that I would help shape the singers up while rehearsing - feed them notes by spoon. The solo band instruments always came for rehearsals with their director which impressed me big time. And the band people were willing to come to my house for practice, the school vocal and church music was on their territory. Still the vocal music teacher would be elsewhere during these private rehearsals.

The final straw for me was the MENC contests where there were chairs stacked upon other chairs to elevate the seating to the level of a bench. Sloppy and dangerous, but done over and over. Then the pianos would be up on wheels as they do in school and colleges - making the keyboard out of reach for short people, of which I am one. If I needed a 3rd reason to quit accompanying, it would be that the school contests had several building to use and I would have to hurry between buildings to be at the next time slot, only to hurry off to another building for the next. Grab your music and run, sit down fast, and play!

I stopped providing services when I realized how much this activity kept my stress levels high whenever I was accompanying for these events. I don't know what accompanists put up with at higher professional levels, but I know out there in the community was no picnic for me. Having skills to do this are one thing, the things I'm complaining about were the situations I stepped into time and again. No fixing them.

Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Betty Patnude] #1254767
08/23/09 08:13 PM
08/23/09 08:13 PM
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Down Under
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
The final straw for me was the MENC contests where there were chairs stacked upon other chairs to elevate the seating to the level of a bench. Sloppy and dangerous, but done over and over. Then the pianos would be up on wheels as they do in school and colleges - making the keyboard out of reach for short people, of which I am one...
I don't know what accompanists put up with at higher professional levels...
I think I could write a book about this smile
Hate those stacked chairs and the pianos on high wheels (how on earth are you supposed to pedal?).


Du holde Kunst...
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Barb860] #1254797
08/23/09 09:24 PM
08/23/09 09:24 PM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 469
Rockville, MD
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Originally Posted by Barb860
Anyone out there accompanying choral groups?

I would like to know how you rehearse with your singers:
1. In 2-3 part music, are you expected to play your accompaniment part plus the 2-3 vocal parts at the same time? Or do you play just the accompaniment and let the director sing the parts to teach the singers? Or do you play just the vocal parts with no accompaniment?

I am trying to make efficient use of my time as an accompanist. I am not able to sight-read accompaniment parts plus the vocal lines at the same time. My director expects this and I therefore have to work my buns off at home to be able to do this. We have rock, spirituals, classical genres.
So much music and there has to be an easier way. I've been doing this for several years for a younger choral group, so the music is much easier. Now we have older, more advanced singers with harder music as well.
Any suggestions welcomed as long as you are nice smile


Barb - the Devil, as usual, is in the details. In my experience, there is no hard and fast rule that covers whether or not you are "expected" to be able to play multiple voice parts while playing the accompaniment. That requirement should be in the job description before hiring somebody. Facts are these: there will be times when you may not have enough fingers to do that with just 5 on each hand; there will be times when you might be asked to play, e.g., the tenor and alto parts at the same time as the accompaniment which will be impossible with all the notes sort of squished (sorry for the technical term) together in the same range.

I agree with some of the other posters that (like everything else), the more you practice playing voice parts along with the accompaniment, the better you will get. For now, to get started, I suggest you try playing just ONE of the voice parts, start with one of the outer parts first, when you practice before rehearsals. And do tell the conductor that this is what you CAN do, and please don't ask for more just now. Heck, if she wants those parts played out, perhaps she could play them while you play the accompaniment...

And lastly, don't be down on yourself for not having a skill you never developed. There is ALWAYS going to be room to improve in music - I can, for example, transpose some things at sight, others not. It depends on the key and the difficulty and how chromatic something is. If you want me to do that with an atonal piece, please hire somebody else - or let me do it one an electronic keyboard where I can dial in the transposition.

Point made by now, I hope.

Good luck with the choir and the director, and do let us know how things go.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
Educated Amateur Tuner/Technician
Rockville, MD USA
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Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Seeker] #1254835
08/23/09 10:41 PM
08/23/09 10:41 PM
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Posts: 1,654
northern California
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Barb860 Offline OP
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Points made and thank you again for your feedback.

I think what is hardest for me is playing the jazz and rock pieces, as I have not done much of that before so it is unfamiliar and tough rhythms, etc. It's intense right now but thanks for your support. I'll concentrate on 1-2 voice parts at a time with the accompaniment and take it from there.


Piano Teacher
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: Barb860] #1254843
08/23/09 10:59 PM
08/23/09 10:59 PM
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William Clark Offline
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From my experience, be prepared to do anything including standing on your head while calling the conductor mamma. mad


A concert should be a profound and magical experience for both
the performer and audience. It is in performance that
you experience the true essence of a composer.

~W. Clark
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: William Clark] #1255047
08/24/09 11:06 AM
08/24/09 11:06 AM
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northern California
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Barb860 Offline OP
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Originally Posted by William Clark
From my experience, be prepared to do anything including standing on your head while calling the conductor mamma. mad


Isn't this the truth?!!!!
laugh


Piano Teacher
Re: accompanist issues/questions [Re: William Clark] #1255479
08/24/09 09:26 PM
08/24/09 09:26 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 580
piano bench, usually
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heidiv Offline
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piano bench, usually
Originally Posted by Barb860

I think what is hardest for me is playing the jazz and rock pieces, as I have not done much of that before so it is unfamiliar and tough rhythms, etc.


I sympathize. I played the keyboard part in the band for the local high school Spring musical last year, and had 2 weeks to learn two hours of rock music. I shamelessly wrote in chord names, reminder accidentals, and rhythm - things I never do when learning classical. But a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. If you're under a time crunch playing an unfamiliar genre, feel free to "cheat" if you have to. The only important factor is how it ultimately sounds.

Originally Posted by William Clark
From my experience, be prepared to do anything including standing on your head while calling the conductor mamma. mad


LOL!


Moderated by  Brendan, Kreisler 

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