• JesJes
    Posts: 416
    You mates will know this better than me.
    How do you work on people's accents when singing Latin? I know it is less pronounced when singing Latin which is one of the many reasons why singing Latin is so much nicer to listen to. But I know that I have to really focus to get my "boganisms" (thick Aussie accent) out of my own singing. Currently working with a priest who sings the epistle with a really "ocka" accent (more Aussie than mine like way more) and can’t think of ways to work on it other than the sort of mechanical put your tongue here or pretend you’re saying this word.

    You guys have lots of accents so curious to know your advice. I’m very lucky to work with multicultural choirs and I’m really curious about how to get the sound uniform. I’m looking at courses I can take mid year next year.
  • I tell my choir, "think Italian". (Hand gestures optional.)
  • Your problem is not a unique one. We have the same challenges up here betwixt the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. What sounds 'right' in Bahstun sounds comical in the Syowth and downright ignernt in the fawerr Wayest; and, of course, pure-dee Texis tawk is a werrruld unto itsayeff.

    Some of us, when singing patrimonial music, cultivate a diction which resembles the best English choral tone. Some do not make this effort and settle for a nicely dictioned 'American' (or 'Amarkin') aesthetic. These might be two approaches for you to consider.

    A jab that is often made by Latinists is the familiar 'but Latin has such beautiful vowels', the implication being that English has no vowels, and that if it does, they're ugly. Such thoughtless stupidity isn't worth the energy it would take to frown upon it.

    English very well does have vowels, thank you! English English does. American Englishes do. And, I suspect, so does Australian English.

    The point is: discover your vowels and consciously sing them with the same care with which you would sing Latin ones. English does, emphatically does, have vowels. They are just different from Latin ones. If you don't wish to (or can't) mimic the sound of King's College English, then concentrate on delivering Aussie English beautifully. If in a given bar of music the vowel you have to work with is the unseemly English 'uh' (or 'ih', or 'eh') then you must form that 'uh' (or 'ih', or 'eh') with raised palette, forward facial mask, and sing it with all the grace with which you would sing a Latin 'ah'. You needn't mimic the language of another geographical space. Discover the particular beauty of distinctly 'Aussie' vowels and consonants, and deliver them with grace and aplomb. There may be (probably are?) distinctly Aussie dipthongs. These are a challenge in any dialect. Always sing the first vowel quality for the duration of a note and sneak the second one in at the very very end of the note's value. Studying the diction of great English choirs (they may be heard aplenty on youtube) will give you guidance, but you needn't be copy cats. You can mimic the English cathedral choirs if you wish. Or, you can cultivate the most educated Australian English and sing it with authority.

    (I was just reminded that you were asking about how to sing Latin with Australian tongues. Perhaps some of what I said will be helpful, perhaps even a propos. Stimson's advice is not only clever. It is good. The essential thing is to agree on vowel sound and to get everyone to blend with an identical sound. Everyone needs to think, shape, deliver, and hear the same sound. This is basic to good choral tone in Latin or any other language.)
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • Audio files from another recent post.
    Thanked by 2Choirparts Jes
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,260
    The essential thing is to agree on vowel sound and to get everyone to blend with an identical sound.


    My choir is comprised of many immigrants. I have people from India, the Philippines, the Caribbean Islands, Europe and of course Canada. This is the most difficult thing for some members because it requires such attention and yet it makes the biggest difference to a beautiful, blended sound.

    Also, I have come to realize that I do not like the pronunciation of "e" at the end of Kyrie for example as "ay", but instead prefer the short vowel sound, "e" as in bed. Or "ray" in Israel, to "ra" as in rad. I find that the short sounds are easier to copy and they sound better to my ear.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,040
    Your problem is not a unique one. We have the same challenges up here betwixt the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. What sounds 'right' in Bahstun sounds comical in the Syowth and downright ignernt in the fawerr Wayest; and, of course, pure-dee Texis tawk is a world unto itsayeff.

    Dare I say this succulent and trenchant observance proves the most eloquent and precise enunciation ever to emanate off the tongue and quill of our esteemed Walsingham confrere, the inimitable MJO? Huzzah, sirrah.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,791
    I live in an area where 18th-century Scots/Irish/English accents and pronunciations are still common. Something blatant I will correct, but below that level, I tend to accept and live with those regional accents.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • I'm with Stimson. I have told people to imitate the old TV character, Fr. Guido Sarducci - and when they ham it up with his pseudo Italian accent, what results is acceptable for 'church Latin'.

    But I am currently having trouble with soneone's hard wired Spanish pronunciation of the soft G... proving very hard to correct. It's amazing how one 'y' sound can mess up the Angelus.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • The idea of modeling after Italian works well.
    With Latin, I ask my schola to use only 5 vowels, ah, eh, ee, oh, and oo, and to keep them as pure as possible.

    As MJO illustrated, we have vowels in English, but in America we add a lot of diphthongs, and a lot of the spoken/sung single vowels aren't the written vowel. Case in point, many Americans pronounce 'God' with an 'ah' vowel sound, not 'oh' as the English do. I suspect similar things happen in Australian too.

    I also keep an ear open for the American vowels creeping into Latin singing, especially when the Latin words look like English words, case in point 'consubstantialem.'
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • ...composed of many immigrants...

    Quite a challenging situation! One immigrant would be challenging enough to integrate. Numerous ones would take endless-but-loving patience and effort. In situations such as these it isn't enough just to sing a given vowel or consonant for your eager learners and expect to hear it back. Singing the sound you wish to hear is, of course, essential; but more is required because their tongues and vocal apparatuses don't know how to reproduce accurately what they hear, which is 'foreign' not only to their ears, but to their tongues. In addition to phonic examples it is sometimes necessary to explain explicitly to your learners how to place the tongue, form the facial mask, to breathe diaphragmatically, and how to portion out the breath with a steady and measured pressure. Too, it often happens that a native American speaker needs such explicit teaching because he or she speaks with an extreme regional accent. Hearing the desired sound is often not enough. Their very tongues, lips, throats, and all, need sensitive education.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • This is why chant needs to be taught to the youngest students. By the time we have reached 10, our vocal pallet is basically fixed. It takes a lot of effort after this time to learn new sounds. For example, my sister cannot trill her tongue. She wasn't exposed to that vocal sound until she was out of college. Of course, I pride myself in being bilingual. I speak East Texan as well as American English!

  • > many Americans pronounce 'God' with an 'ah' vowel sound, not 'oh' as the English do.
    And more. We once had a very fine gentleman leading the Rosary, who invariably would say, "Holy Mary, Mother of Gad". I never did find out where his accent was from!

  • how do you train people to sing al le lu ia,
    and not al le lu yuh?
    ... so far, wincing, and nagging, are not found to be effective techniques. :-)
  • how do you train...

    Such examples are commonplace.
    They are the result of people singing juss lak they tawk.
    It takes patient care to teach them that we do not sing as we talk.
    Because when we sing juss lak we tawk no one can understand us
    (nevermind that we often have trouble understanding their tawkin when they aren't singing.)

    With your alleluia, there is the opportunity for a brief 'theology' lesson - namely
    the last syllable of alleluia (or alleluya, or hallelujah) is a form of God's name, Yahweh - 'Yah-weh')
    when singing 'ahleyloo-yah, we are actually singing something like 'praise be to Yahweh'.
    With this in mind people may correct themselves along with being happy to know what that word means after all those years. We should want to get God's Name right -
    it's 'Yahweh', not 'Yuhweh'.

    Try to get your people to put the accent on the last syllable when speaking of the alleluya - instead of alleluya, sing or say alleluya = Praise be to Yahweh.

    With a consciousnes of what we are singing should come a few snickers and some revulsion at the silly little happy-clappy jingles that so many people sing the alleluya to at mass. These are an insult to God and man alike. Here, the music is part of the problem!
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,349
    In addition to phonic examples it is sometimes necessary to explain explicitly to your learners how to place the tongue, form the facial mask, to breathe diaphragmatically... Hearing the desired sound is often not enough. Their very tongues, lips, throats, and all, need sensitive education.


    But after a few months' 'sensitive education', if it fails, beatings may commence.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,260
    MJO: great post! Thanks!

    I have asked couples of singers sing vowels together to point out vowel sounds. I will ask the two singers to sing an "ah" and inevitably they sing a different "ah" and they sound out of tune or out of sync. Everyone notices it. I do it with another two and another. Then we work on tongue placement and lips etc. trying to get the most unified sound possible. Improved breath support has also helped.

    Now, I work with amateurs. It's never going to be perfect but it has improved. Slowly but surely.
  • dad -

    Glaring was the absence of purple in your comment just above here!
  • maybe Dad proposes gentle beatings - for Advent after all. Come Lent - purple bold!
  • Hmm, you may be onto something, Mme -
    Perhaps for Advent a more gentle 'beating'
    but for Lent an unmitigated flagellation!
    What do you think?
  • Canadash -

    Don't give up!
    Change is possible where there is a desire to learn.
    An outstanding example is the Japanese choir, Bach Collegium Japan, (you can hear them on youtube) who sing Bach with a flawless German that sounds like Leipsigers themselves!
    Many people who (sadly, to my mind) wish to shed any trace of accent successfully do so with proper tutelage.

    For our purposes, though, we are not concerned with changing our choristers' natural speech, but that they are able to participate in the particular choral blend that the choirmaster wishes to cultivate.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • >> Many people who (sadly, to my mind) wish to shed any trace of accent successfully

    why sadly? we've had more than one new recruit who had listened to a lot of German recordings, and it took a very long time to shed the "z"

  • dad29
    Posts: 1,349
    Nah. My preferred form of leadership is dictatorship. No purple, just red....
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • I say 'sadly', Mme., because I think people's accents are beautiful, they often deliver a better English than that of many of the 'natives'. They are nothing to be ashamed of.

    Too, it's no more difficult to achieve a choral blend working with a French accent than it is working with a Texas one. Sometimes, depending on the accent, it is even easier.

    Calling the Imperial Japanese Consulate several years ago to find where I might get a CD of kabuki music, I expected that familiar colourful and intelligent Japanese accent in my excited encounter with another fabled culture. Much to my surprise, the official to whom I spoke spoke with a flawless American business accent without a trace of Japanese character. I found this both extremely disappointing and sad - even loathsome and insinuating. To make matters worse, this official didn't even know what kabuki was! No! I don't at all like people who erase their heritage.

    An Italian, or African, or Arabic, or Japanese or whatever accent is no more undesirable than a Southern or an New England one. Far from being something to be ashamed of, it is a badge of honour.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • Coming from Meennasootah, the land of really slow speech and drawn out vowels, let me say that as a choir members it is really hard not to sing in an accent when everyone else around is singing et nay nose indoocas in tentahteeohnam said leebra nose a mahloh. (No joke.)
    It does help to have the choir director pronounce the word if there is an egregious error, (Mary-ah for Maria, Jam for iam, Haymen for Ahmen, etc). But all in all, the singing should be for God's glory. Making sure a choir is consistent is the first step. If you try to make your choir sound like it's from a different place, it will sound out of place.
    (By the way, I think the Aussie accent is amazing and so many of us up here try to imitate it but end up with some weird form of Aussie/Scottish/Minnesotan/Pirate which is half the time understandable and half the time...not.)
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • ...Haymen for Ahmen, etc....

    This is yet another occasion for that old saw: 'if I had a nickle for every time I...'.
    In this event it is in response to those who (with oh such an air of authority!) insist that 'you' say 'ah-men' in a Latin text, and 'ay-men' (or worse, 'ay-mee-yin') within English texts. Both are deliriously incorrect and in need of being cast into the dust bin.

    Amen, for the record, is neither Latin nor English, but Hebrew, and is always pronounced 'Ah-mehn'. I think that we all know that it means something on the order of 'so be it', or 'let it be so', etc. It should be uttered with a firm and unhesitant voice, confident spirit, even enthusiastically determined agreement - not, as in most Catholic churches, with a hardly audible, even timid, mumble.

    In my life as an Episcopalian, then an Anglo-Catholic, then an Ordinariate Roman Catholic, I thought that no one except people like Baptists and Pentecostals ever said 'Aye-min', and that they did so because, well, they didn't know any better. Then. after crossing the Tiber I found, to my surprise and amusement, that even lots of highly educated Catholics were not so educated about the matter of the Amen. Remember: Amen is not Latin, nor is it ever English, but it is always Hebrew, and always 'Ah-mehn'.

    __________________________________________________

    I'm fascinated by ajplafond's Meennasootah-isms. They sound almost as challenging to a choirmaster as some Southern-isms and Texas-isms. I'm sure that some New England-isms can be equally challenging (not to mention Allegheny-isms!). In this vast land of ours, many dialects which are very challenging to those of us who are choral directors. It is a small consolation that there are, yet, parts of England whose accents are literally unintelligeable to Londoners or others.

    Basically, I think, unless we actually do wish for our choirs to sound like King's (and have the willing and able choristers to do it), we accept the fundamentals of regional accents as they are, only wishing to 'tame' certain really awful habits such as uglily sounded Rs and that bane of good euphony, the flat and ungracious American A, as in 'hat', which needs always to be rounded into something near-to-but-not-quite an 'ah'. Focusing on mitigating, or de-fanging, certain really awful-sounding vowels and sloppy consonants, nasal horrors, and a plenitude of 'illegal' diphthongs, one can work with the language of the 'natives' and make of it a beautiful choral whole.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,349
    we actually do wish for our choirs to sound like King's


    Only to the extent that King's sounds like Salamunovich's LA Master Chorale, my friend.
  • Interesting that this started with "how do I work with a priest who sings the epistle in his natural accent" - and jumped immediately into working with choir members.

    With a choir, yes, you do have to get people to sound the same. But a priest, who is singing solo - and so for whom the approach of listening to what everyone else does isn't going to work - what's wrong with just having him sound like himself?
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    Remember: Amen is not Latin, nor is it ever English, but it is always Hebrew, and always 'Ah-mehn'.

    Yes, "Amen" originated in Hebrew. But it certainly is a Latin, English, French, Spanish, etc. ad nauseam word today, despite all rants to the contrary.
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • JesJes
    Posts: 416
    I’m loving the suggestions for Italian... he speaks Italian... with an Aussie accent haha. (So do I... come to think about it, despite lygon street being so full of Italian culture.)

    Okay so yes, that is exactly right, he's not in a Choir so why bother with the sound? Well, here's what I think. If I were to sing Latin in my natural accent people would think a galah had fallen out of a tree. Just like in public speaking I believe in refining the way I sing chant to something that both carries, is pleasant to listen to and understandable. I have to constantly revise all three.

    We worked together using a bone prop and that went really well for clearing the twangy sounds. One of his other issues, like many from his particular ordination vintage(?) is that the vocal instructor of his era taught just about all the seminarians in that day to sing like yogi bear, with their tongue in the back of their throat, this both hinders the carrying of the sound, the accent makes it unpleasant or unnerving to listen to and the combination of the former make for lack of clarity.

    He asked me for help and that’s the first thing I can think of to work on.

    As for my Choir I’ve worked on singing the alphabet as letters and then sounds to achieve a more uniform sound together. On a slimier scale I sometimes get the choristers to all hold their tongues and sing which makes them sound like Daffy Duck but when they return to normal the sound is exponentially thicker. I’m still curious how to get the more twangy sounds out of some of my youngsters but we're working on that.

    Do I want a "king's" sound? Hmmm, no. I love kings but I don’t want to make my Choir that, even though there are aspects I’d like my Choir to model. I have found that in order to create an ooh sound that is acceptable that kings is referred to and understood. In Victoria it is easy to refer to a well known suburb, Brighton, which is known of as the "posh suburb" due to the house prices. It is assumed that most people from there have studied grammar school style elocution. (Which incidentally I was made to study as a kid because of my tendency to sound very Aussie and my grandma is English.) so a tip I use for the ooh sound is to tell the Choir to pretend they are owls on the streets of Brighton singing very posh oooh's in the trees at midnight. Sounds mad but it really works! Now when ooh comes up I flap my owl wings and the Choir responds. 1 vowel down, 176 to go it seems!

  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,411
    Hebrew, and is always pronounced
    Amein, unless you happen to be singing a Milhaud service with a francophone Ashkenazi pronunciation.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,040
    Is the word inherently Hebrew or Aramaic?
  • If my Liber (Solesmes) tells me to sing ah men, I will do so.

    sorry I cannot comment right now on these ca vall ee yay generalizations...
    I have to replace a bulb in my chan dell ee yay
    and then I will have my gon doh lee yay pole me across the lagoon.


    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • Amein, unless...

    Yes, and I've heard 'ah-meen' at some orthodox liturgies at Annunciation Cathedral in Houston. Could this be a typical 'Greek' pronunciation? Charles???
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 3,650
    "Amen" (or Hebrew אָמֵן ) translates to "аминь" in Russian, to "амінь" in Ukrainian, to "аминъ" in Old Church Slavonic, and to "Αμήν" in Greek ... all transliterated to "amin" and pronounced as MJO suggests "ah-meen".

    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • ...Old Church Slavonic...

    I just thought of (aided by Chuck!) the perfect nomenclature for traditional Anglican liturgical English - Old Church English. (Hmmm.)

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