Performing 16th-Century Madrigals and Chansons with Middle-Level Midvoice and Tenor/Bass Choirs

May 5, 2016 / By: Reid Larsen

The purpose of this study is to arrange 16th-century madrigals and chansons for adolescent changing voice choirs. The canon of choral music for this age group underrepresents 16th-century music, particularly secular genres. This study details several aspects of 16th-century music that make it inherently accessible to developing musicians. Performance practices of the time included instrumental doubling and instrumental substitution of vocal lines in pieces scored a cappella. This practice of instrumental substitution allows directors the option of assigning instruments to certain vocal lines which in turn makes complex five or six-part vocal scores suitable for middle-level choirs. In addition, instruments, providing reinforcement to developing singers, may double vocal lines sung by choristers. Further, the relative pitch of the time period gives flexibility to the range and register needs of changing voices. An examination of the adolescent voice change provides insight into the arranging process. This discussion is devoted to historic and contemporary research on the adolescent voice change and practical considerations for creating arrangements for this age group. The project includes arrangements for seventh-grade midvoice choir and eighth-grade tenor/bass choir based primarily on the voice classification system of Cooksey (1999). Arrangements include editions of “Adieu mes Amours” and “El Grillo” by Josquin des Prez, “O Bella Fusa” by Orlando di Lasso, and “Sing We and Chant It” by Thomas Morley.