The December 2019 issue of Choral Journal is now available online! Below is an excerpt of the interview article with the conductors of ACDA’s 2019 legacy directors chorus. You can read it in its entirety online at acda.org/choraljournal. Click “Search Archives” and choose December 2019 from the dropdown menu.
What do you think are the most striking changes (positive or negative) in choral music today?
Two changes that have made a huge difference in audience enjoyment: the incorporation of World Music in programming and the use of choreography and multimedia in concerts. The change that causes me the most discomfort: the tendency to only program the “latest fad composers.” This results in concerts lacking in variety, strength, and often emotional satisfaction. Not all that is new is great, and much that is new is derivative. I long for programs that are centered on great choral music of all historical periods, programs that are carefully thought out with a unifying thread but that are totally diversified in musical style, textual content, rhythmic variety, visual enhancement, and a true communion with the audience. I worry somewhat at the current trend of turning concerts into political and social events, music selected for its “agenda.”
Positive: The quality of the performances has continued to improve quite remarkably. Exploration of music from distant and diff erent cultures has increased dramatically. There is evidence of outstanding teaching in the preparation of young music educators. Communication of professional services, namely ACDA and State CDAs, has increased greatly and communication is enhanced.
Negative: There appears to be a preponderance of performances of non-traditional contemporary literature that is to be appreciated more for its theoretical compositional components than for a more humanitarian message. It’s good to explore any and all new compositional styles, but not at the expense of our great heritage of literature that has spoken to generations of peoples from the Renaissance to the present.
When I first immersed myself in the world of choral music there were some outstanding choirs in the United States; now there they are all around us and at all levels. One of the most significant developments is that musicianship of conductors and singers has multiplied sevenfold.
The diversity of what we produce—so many more groups and music of all kinds that touch so many. Again, our collective interest in each other across cultures and peoples.
The greater attention to and study of multicultural music is a very positive contribution to choral literature, but I am concerned that our traditional western literature might be slighted. I especially grieve the diminishing of music training in our public and private schools. We have, in a sense, lost generations of people who were once given the fundamentals of musicianship and a love of singing.
The availability of the ever-expanding world of choral literature has deeply changed our art form. To experience literature from all sides of the globe deepens our human experience and expands our sense of shared humanity. My only caveat to this is that we also must maintain awareness of the core historical works that first launched our concepts of communal singing.
I’m sorry to see the gradual demise of quality traditional church music in many areas nationwide, and a lessening of the Palestrina-to-Britten legacy in the programming of many school, university, and community choirs. Also, somewhat lacking, seems to be the consistent effort of teaching beautifully mature “soloistic vocal tone quality”—as established so perfectly by Robert Shaw and Roger Wagner.
Read the rest of this article (and more!) in the December 2019 issue of Choral Journal, available online at acda.org.