The October 2023 issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Choral Pedagogical Tools and Vocal Exercises: A Practical Guide to Teaching Handel’s Messiah” by Zerrin Agabigum Martin. Following is a portion from the article.
Within the choral canon, Handel’s Messiah is one of the most frequently performed works by non-professional choral ensembles. While preparing Messiah, choral singers are offered ample opportunities to build and refine singing technique while engaging in historically informed performance practice. Nuanced performances are harder—but not impossible—to foster with limited rehearsal time. Given careful rehearsal planning, non-professional choral ensembles can perform with historically informed artistry and singing technique grounded in voice science.
Below, practical solutions will be offered for teaching singers who are unaccustomed or inexperienced in navigating the stylistic nuances of historically informed performances. These solutions will offer examples of pedagogical tools and their practical applications to help expedite the rehearsal process of Messiah. In addition, this article offers sequential vocalises to teach agility and artistry in melismatic vocal lines that are typical in Handel’s choral works. The content offered is adaptable and variable to suit the general technical needs of most amateur and student singers.
Practical Tools to Convey Teachable Skills
Conductors can use the following study guides as an example of how to clearly highlight individual lines of counterpoint when instructing less-experienced singers at any level. Study Guide A provides an example of introducing motivic material for the movement, “And the Glory of the Lord.” In this guide, each motive is written out individually outside of the choral score texture. Core musical material of the movement is shown through iterations of motives “a,” “b,” “c,” and “d.” Within this study guide, other musical concepts, such as articulation, metric accentuation, and rhythmic alterations (which were assumed practices in Handel’s time but informed performance practice today), can be demonstrated explicitly and efficiently.
Read the full article in the October 2023 issue of Choral Journal. acda.org/choraljournal