Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music: Composers’ Forums

The Meaning of the Text

LINDA HOESCHLER: Libby, with the Okubo Mixed Chorus, did you find in the text that there are things that they have difficulty with, that you had to teach them about? And how does a composer work with a choir when they get the music, but they are not going to have the opportunity to work with you? Are there any tips for people here?

LIBBY LARSEN: In truth, the meaning of the text, I absolutely agree with you: the singer delivers the spirit of the text. I actually am quite less concerned with accuracy of tone and pitch and beat and cut-off. I have sung in an awful lot of choirs in my life. I am so much more concerned with the delivery of the music and of the text—not even the text, the message of the text. So, working with the Okubo Mixed Chorus, everybody knew what the spirit of the text was about.

LINDA HOESCHLER: Had they known about the internment camps?

LIBBY LARSEN: Yes and we had done some certain work to try to talk a little bit about what that meant and why I chose those texts. There was already a deep understanding that set the haiku tradition, which is a tradition of the distillation of the spirit into very few syllables, seventeen syllables. That this tradition would find a voice here and at the World Choral Symposium, I was very humbled when the chorus wrote back to me that they were really delighted to be given a platform for haiku. This is fascinating. That is not about the music, as we were talking about. It is about the text, which is the music in the haiku tradition. Don’t separate them. So the work that we did was really in the singing English, in singing the sounds of the words, so that the spirit that was there in the words would come through to English ears. It came through to them absolutely beautifully, but our ears—we are accustomed and, I daresay, perhaps we will become rarified in what we expect to hear in the delivery of words when sung lyrically. And so, we really did our work in that area, and it was very, very rewarding.

MOSES HOGAN: Of course, it is different dealing with older voices. But I gave Mary Alice a choice, because I wasn’t sure. So in my final execution of the scores, I gave her the composition, where she did perform in a high key, and then one step down, because youth voices can change in a matter of a month. By the time I am done with that arrangement, she may be a bass. So that was one thing to make the text clearer. And that was the only thing. I don’t think you really had to change the keys. But that was one thing that I thought of in terms of the delivery of the text, the placement of the text vocally, that the kids are able to sing successfully so that it is comfortable. So, she experimented with both keys.

LIBBY LARSEN: That is different working with younger voices…

MOSES HOGAN: I don’t know what key we are going to publish it in! We should publish it in the higher key.