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Seating, Placement, and Vital
Colors for Your Choir
An  Approach  to  the  
Placement  of  Individual  
Voices
Jo-Michael Scheibe, DMA
Chair and Professor
Department of Choral and Sacred Music
USC Thornton School of Music
scheibe@thornton.usc.edu
Choral Schools and Procedures*
• Westminster  – John  Finley  Williamson
• Paulist  Choir  – Father  William  Finn
• St.  Olaf  – F.  Melius Christiansen
• Fred  Waring  and  the  Pennsylvanians – Fred  
Waring
• “Voice  Science”  – Joseph  Klein,  Douglas  
Stanley,  John  C.  Wilcox
• Atlanta  Symphony  Chorus  &  Earlier  –
Robert  Shaw
*as  defined  by  Howard  Swan  in  the  early  1970s
Weston Noble Approach
I. Voice  Seating  within  the  Section
A. Importance  of  Personal  Experience
B. Seating  within  a  section
1. Ears
2. Strength  of  Voice
C. Ingredients  of  Blend
1.   Tone  Color
2. Vibrato
3. Pitch
4. Physical  Height
5. Size  of  Voice  
6. Rhythm
D. Model  Pair
E. Blending  of  Opposites
F. Individual  comfort  of  singer
G. Advantages  as  well  in  Middle  School,  but  need  to  make  
frequent  adjustments
H. Discipline
II. Seating  of  the  Choir  Combinations
Taking Time to Seat Your Choir
• You  don’t  have  the  time  NOT  to  seat  
them
• Singers  have  a  place
– individual  singer  knows  they  have  value
• Acoustical  adjustments  may  be  
necessary
Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend”
• Blend  vs.  Bland
– Pointillism  &  the  small  brush  strokes  of  
Impressionism
– All  colors  are  necessary
– If  everyone  sounds  alike,  that’s  bland,  not  
blend.
Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend”
Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend”
Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend”
Voices
• Variables
– Color:  dark,  bright
– Resonance:  forward,  nasal,  back
– Ear  dominance
– Rhythmic,  non-­rhythmic
– Vibrato  rate
– Size  of  voice
– Tonal  memory
– Sight  reading
– Comfort  level  of  individual  singers
Voice Matching and Placement
• Musical  Choices
– If  homophonic,  perform  mixed
– If  polyphonic,  perform  in  sections
– If  orchestral,  consider  how  vocal  lines  are  
doubled  by  instruments
– Not  always  in  the  best  interest  of  the  music  
to  sing  in  mixed  formation
• Victoria/Palestrina-­ linear  independence
• Mozart,  Handel,  Bach
• Brahms:
– Mixed-­ Liebeslieder Waltzes
– Sections-­ Requiem
• Choral/Orchestral  Works
Voice Matching and Placement
• Vocal  Choices
– Color  of  your  sound
– Placement  of  rows  to  change  color

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Seating, Placement, and Vital Colors

  • 1. Seating, Placement, and Vital Colors for Your Choir An  Approach  to  the   Placement  of  Individual   Voices Jo-Michael Scheibe, DMA Chair and Professor Department of Choral and Sacred Music USC Thornton School of Music scheibe@thornton.usc.edu
  • 2. Choral Schools and Procedures* • Westminster  – John  Finley  Williamson • Paulist  Choir  – Father  William  Finn • St.  Olaf  – F.  Melius Christiansen • Fred  Waring  and  the  Pennsylvanians – Fred   Waring • “Voice  Science”  – Joseph  Klein,  Douglas   Stanley,  John  C.  Wilcox • Atlanta  Symphony  Chorus  &  Earlier  – Robert  Shaw *as  defined  by  Howard  Swan  in  the  early  1970s
  • 3. Weston Noble Approach I. Voice  Seating  within  the  Section A. Importance  of  Personal  Experience B. Seating  within  a  section 1. Ears 2. Strength  of  Voice C. Ingredients  of  Blend 1.   Tone  Color 2. Vibrato 3. Pitch 4. Physical  Height 5. Size  of  Voice   6. Rhythm D. Model  Pair E. Blending  of  Opposites F. Individual  comfort  of  singer G. Advantages  as  well  in  Middle  School,  but  need  to  make   frequent  adjustments H. Discipline II. Seating  of  the  Choir  Combinations
  • 4. Taking Time to Seat Your Choir • You  don’t  have  the  time  NOT  to  seat   them • Singers  have  a  place – individual  singer  knows  they  have  value • Acoustical  adjustments  may  be   necessary
  • 5. Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend” • Blend  vs.  Bland – Pointillism  &  the  small  brush  strokes  of   Impressionism – All  colors  are  necessary – If  everyone  sounds  alike,  that’s  bland,  not   blend.
  • 6. Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend”
  • 7. Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend”
  • 8. Thoughts Regarding the Term “Blend”
  • 9. Voices • Variables – Color:  dark,  bright – Resonance:  forward,  nasal,  back – Ear  dominance – Rhythmic,  non-­rhythmic – Vibrato  rate – Size  of  voice – Tonal  memory – Sight  reading – Comfort  level  of  individual  singers
  • 10. Voice Matching and Placement • Musical  Choices – If  homophonic,  perform  mixed – If  polyphonic,  perform  in  sections – If  orchestral,  consider  how  vocal  lines  are   doubled  by  instruments – Not  always  in  the  best  interest  of  the  music   to  sing  in  mixed  formation • Victoria/Palestrina-­ linear  independence • Mozart,  Handel,  Bach • Brahms: – Mixed-­ Liebeslieder Waltzes – Sections-­ Requiem • Choral/Orchestral  Works
  • 11. Voice Matching and Placement • Vocal  Choices – Color  of  your  sound – Placement  of  rows  to  change  color