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Conference Morsel: Great Music on CPDL

(An excerpt from the interest session “It’s Not Just Old Music: Discovering Quality and Engaging Music on CPDL,” presented by Ryan Kelly during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
 
It is easy to disregard certain pieces on CPDL because their scorings do not exactly match what one’s choirs typically perform. Think creatively, however, and remember that centuries of performance practices often remind us how composers, conductors, and choirs of the past have often adapted works for their singers’ needs. Here are some performance ideas to consider when browsing through CPDL’s vast holdings of public domain scores:
 
1)      Do you have a younger choir that performs two- or three-part music? Don’t just look at “official” choral music; consider also the great composers’ duets and trios for your choir.
 
2)      There is no shame in performing two- or three-part music with large and accomplished ensembles. If it is a beautiful two-part piece, composed by a first-rate composer, why not perform it exquisitely with your advanced ensemble? This can be a great palate-cleanser in the middle of a heavy choral program.
 
3)      Are you apprehensive about programming a six-part madrigal or motet with your choir? From the Renaissance, all the way through the Classical era, it was common for instruments to double voice parts (colla parte, literally, “with the part”). It was also common in early music for an instrument to play a voice part without any singer performing that part. Therefore, do not shy away from the six- to eight-part madrigals or motets. Invite some instrumentalists to double parts or to play parts singers are not singing—this is very historically authentic and can add beautiful timbres to a choral concert.