Polyphonic music for solo voice? Please??
  • hayleylily
    Posts: 3
    I am the (current volunteer) music director at our small, local parish in Oregon. Before this parish, I was singing in the choir at St. Mary’s in New Haven (and have a Masters of Sacred Music from over 10 years ago, but I digress). I desperately miss singing polyphony and, really, anything choral. Because of COVID, I am mostly soloing these days but even with the (very small) choir I had, our talent was limited and I couldn’t choose anything close to the music I’d actually like to.

    I recently found a short Victoria “Benedictus” arranged for solo voice and sang that some Sundays ago and it just felt so, so good. I would like to sing more solo-arranged pieces, if possible, since I’m the only one up there singing anyway. Chant I do often, but I miss more meaty music sometimes. Is there any resource out there that could provide this? Preferably for piano accompaniment. Thank you!
  • davido
    Posts: 503
    Try the solo motets of Ludovica da Viadana. Here is a sample: https://ks.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/5/50/IMSLP464973-PMLP294021-A_Bornstein_Viadana_O_Quam_Suavis_Est.pdf

    I have pdf scans of some more that I could send you if you PM me.

    You could also play a reduction of a 4 part motet, and just sing one of the parts (soprano?). It was a common practice to perform motets with just soprano and 3 instruments (frequently trombones).

    Then there are other resources that are not in Renaissance style:


    Solos for the Church Year - Lloyd Pfausch

  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 926
    I second davido’s suggestion to simply play the other parts. I cannot remember where I read this, however in one book (Dobzay?) I read that it was common practice, particularly in monasteries where the nuns couldn’t sing the lower parts, to simply supply the missing voices with the organ or other instruments. There’s a centuries-long tradition for this.
    Thanked by 1JL
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 8,017
    Playing the other part on another instrument would be, I think, quite 'authentic. Preferably a stringed intrumtment - I would avoid the sackbutt, though a recorder might work quite well - but no modern flutes because they are too heavy and windy.

    Have you considered singing both parts yourself? I have heard Tibetan monks do this remarkably well
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,219
    This collection, found at the website of the Eastman School, includes "191 motets for 1, 2, or 3 voices with organ accompaniment in the Cecilian style"

    Thanked by 2CCooze ServiamScores
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,159
    Those are so pretty, and sweet.
  • JL
    Posts: 171
    Schuetz's Kleine geistliche Konzerte contains some fine solo motets, and is available free at IMSLP. (Bonus: master the C clefs! Get good at figured bass!) It was written during the Thirty Years' War, when many musicians had been conscripted and/or killed on the battlefield, so there is a historical precedent for our diminished choirs.
    There is a long tradition of intabulating motets for organ or lute/theorbo (bonus: learn the theorbo!); I'm less familiar with this repertoire, but there are written-out versions available, and making your own intabulation is a good (and informative) exercise.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,768
    This is as good a place as any to collect "motets for TLM cantor". Those of us with small and baby Scholae were using much of this even before COVID hit. There are really 2 categories here: motets for solo voice and organ, and polyphony boiled down for voice and organ. I'll take on each in turn.

    Solo motets: those by Dering and Philips are sober and doable. So is most of Viadana. Most of the Italian solo rep requires somebody comfortable with passaggi and ornamentation, and may be a bit over-the-top for church. French Baroque can be fun if you're in touch with that soundworld. Collections from the Low countries or the outposts of the Holy Roman Empire (Gabriello Puliti).Lots of research needs to be done here.

    19th c. France is the happening place here, from about 1850 through WW I. Lots of respectable material here, by name composers (Gounod, Saint-Saens, Faure and a host of others). The Italian Caecilianists around Perosi wrote some useable stuff. And there's the Repertorium Chorale of Peter Griesbacher, a fairly complete Proper cycle (of time, but there's also much of the Saints as well) for medium voice and organ. Most of these can be located through http://jeffreyquick.com/catholicromantic/index.php, which doesn't have a category walker because it's assembled by one cranky old non-tech-savvy man.

    Polyphony boildowns. There is a longtime member (who isn't here much these days) who was been doing them through most of COVID-tide. There are also many such things in the St. Gregory Hymnal. With most things on cpdl now having music xml files, it's easy to rearrange things there. Find a piece with a part that fits your voice (at one pitch or another) and have at it. This works better with more homohythmic pieces than with earlier-16th c. things with driving lines which can get messy quickly in the organ.

    Here's an example, a Miserere by A. Scarlatti. I also, less successfully perhaps, did the Miserere of Allegri. Kind of out of season.
    This is Josquin's Tu Solus Qui Facis Mirabilia. I doubled some bass notes at the octave so a guy could sing the top (singing the notes in regular size print where they cross.)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,362
    I thought at first of Tuva too, but also of the alla bastarda tradition, in which polyphony is the basis for unaccompanied improvisation. Rognoni's Selva offers Palestrina's Pulchra es with a bass voice riffing on first one part, then another, and also contains another version for soprano. The same piece in Bassano's Ricercate… is tamer, sticking to a single voice part (S&B), and seems intended for some sort of improvised accompaniment. There are a few things already at CPDL too, such as a contrafact Ave Verum.

    See also this thread touching on Rossi's lamentations.
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 144
    There is an entire recording of a counter tenor singing solo motets and mass parts by Victoria.