Tuning Byrd "Ave Verum Corpus", first two phrases
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    I posted earlier on difficulties with this piece. But I think the solution is found, without required changing of what are apparently well-attested added accidentals in the score.

    It is, if I'm right, a rather astonishing feat: Byrd raises the intonation of the harmony by a comma, as if lifting the Host, on the word "corpus" in the first phrase.

    Please see http://intonalist.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/tuning-byrd-ave-verum-corpus/ for pdf and a link there to a tuned recording on my soundcloud account. You'll note, if you follow the intonalist science, that every interval in the Byrd as marked can be tuned pure by ear. I put an implied fermata on the "-pus" of corpus, didn't sound right to me without it.

    William
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    404 on link, but this:
    Byrd raises the intonation of the harmony by a comma, as if lifting the Host, on the word "corpus" in the first phrase.

    got my attention.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    LInk fixed, too many windows open at once or something. And, I know what you mean about 'got my attention'. Me too. But think about it: if we unheralded mortals can think of it, why couldn't a truly great composer conceive it, and figure out how to execute it?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    But think about it: if we unheralded mortals can think of it, why couldn't a truly great composer conceive it, and figure out how to execute it?


    I'm also quite of the opinion that a composer or artist does not necessarily have to be conscious of these things for them to be genuine.

    (That is to say: On the spectrum of literary-critical analysis, I'm pretty far over on the 'Reception History' side of things, and think the 'Omniscient Writer' theory is total crap.)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    How does this interpretation compare to performance in some of the more famous groups to sing this piece?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFZZMF7SRRo


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2ckGcpx6xI
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    #1, nope [edit] I listened to it again: sounds to me as if they kept some equal-tempered reference note secretly in their ear, so they repeatedly shift back to a nice center pitch ... good, I guess, if you like that kind of thing (some theorists recommend it ... I don't).

    #2, yep. I wonder if they knew it, or just sang by sound. Very nice, I'll add a reference to this on my blog post.

    As to knowing writer or inspired writer: who knows? I've done both. When I find a felicity in Mozart, or Bach, or Josquin, or Beethoven, or Byrd, or Dallapiccola, or Webern, I think they planned it. But maybe not.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Fascinating... though I cannot hear the difference at all.
    At. All.
    (As Kathy Pluth might say, I'm really a words girl.)
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Try singing along. I'm a baritone, so following bass voice comes naturally to me, but I think any voice will tell the same story. To me, #1 was off on the third note.
  • Beethoven was not bashful about asserting his inspiredness! I think that we would be mistaken to think that an exceptionally gifted composer-musician is/was not aware of the nature of his particular 'genius'; which is not to conclude that such awareness is a constant. People must have been acutely aware of tuning and undoubtedly exploited in ways which our scholars are only beginning to understand through historical hindsight and comparative performance practice.
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,419
    Adam, who sang the first recording? (Obviously The Sixteen sang the second one.)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    First one is Tallis Scholars.

    MJO-

    I wasn't saying they aren't often aware of it, or deliberately awesome. I am only saying that sometimes composers (and writers, poets, painters) produce works which contain something they were wholly unaware of.

    I have no idea whether Byrd did that on purpose, nor do I have the faculties to discover such. I am only saying: it is not (for me) required that he knew it for it to still be there "on purpose."
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,017
    I have no idea whether Byrd did that on purpose, nor do I have the faculties to discover such. I am only saying: it is not (for me) required that he knew it for it to still be there "on purpose."

    And that, dear friends, is postmodernism ;)
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    I call it The Holy Spirit
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Second phrase complete. Byrd did it again: twisting up the chain of fifths, in a way, raising the intonation of "on the cross". To me this is a sign of intention, as well, of course, of high art. The Sixteen sag just a bit on the second phrase, as if they aren't quite convinced it should tune so high. Same link as above.

    William
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    3rd and 4th phrases, the whole first section, now done. If Byrd raised the intonation intentionally, as I believe he did, will he lower it for "esto nobis"? Yes he will! Amazing.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    This sounds like a paper. Or at least a journal article.
  • Perhaps a doctoral thesis?!

    Byrd might be a tad modern for the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society's journal, but you might consider an article for JAMS or The American Organist.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Interesting. I'd need a coauthor, I think. Sustained writing of words makes me feel like gnashing my teeth and or eating worms. It's so hard to get the meaning right ... in music, it's comparatively easy.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    I'd volunteer, but I doubt it would lower my Erdos number enough to be worth it.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,113
    Adam, what is your Erdős number?
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Well, half of infinity has to be less than infinity, doesn't it? And I'll bet some of my old MIT fellowtravelers, not that I've coauthored with them, have low numbers. As to the recording-in-progress: I tried to slow it up to match The Sixteeen, but it's hard to tolerate the relatively lifeless synthesis against the solemn vivacity of the real singers. An inspiring challenge on its own....
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,113
    Half of infinity is still infinity ... just as half of nothing is nothing.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    I knew that. But remember Templeton and Wilbur as to nothing. Or was it the sheep and Wilbur ... not sure. But one of them liked Wilbur less than nothing.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Infinity, going on 4.
    (My dad's number is 3, and we have some work planned together...)

    And that (obviously) isn't really the reason.

    I believe I am a gifted writer, but I find mrcopper's theories philosophically maddening and musically incomprehensible.

    (That is to say: I lack the wherewithal to understand the really interesting stuff, so I'm left understanding only the stuff I disagree with.)

    I'd be happy to lend help as a proofreader/editor, or to offer a few choice words and phrases. (I suggest "ontological." It has a nice ring to it, in almost any setting.)

    I do think it would make a fantastic paper, and the more I think about it, the more I want to volunteer (not even knowing if you would want me to). But I really don't think I'm qualified (fishing... fishing) or have the time (that's for dang sure).
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  • dad29
    Posts: 1,713
    So. We have a genuflection on "corpus" and the 'sanguine' runs down, of course.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,104
    Mozart does the same thing in Ave Verum...im writing an article about it.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Cool! I did the intonation studies for the Mozart and didn't notice. I'll look forward to your ideas, ghmus7.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    You two should collaborate and have me write funny footnotes.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Rechecked my interpretation of the Mozart: don't see the same thing. If the intonational movement on the second ave counts as a genuflection, maybe ...? So i'll be interested in hearing about your interpretation, gh.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    dad29, I'm assuming you are just tossing in a funny comment, because of course an elevation is not a genuflection, and in the Bryd there is no particular change at "unda fluxit sanguine". Though I do footnote a proposed accidental mistake in the cpdl editions at that point.

    And Adam, if you care to work on your ear musically, see my update re the Eb at "unda fluxit" and the three separate ways to hear it (my way, the Sixteen way, the Tallis Scholar way).
  • I am in the position of a colour-blind man listing to discussions of shades of green. I can hear no difference between the two recordings that I would not put down to differences in the voices and acoustics. Nothing like word painting: nothing that feels like rising or falling pitches feel.

    May I ask those who _do_ sense these raised and lowered intonations: what's it like? Like a subtle key change, or mode change in a chant? Like fog clearing and shifting? Like switching to Malbec after Shiraz?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    I am in the position of a colour-blind man listing to discussions of shades of green. I can hear no difference between the two recordings that I would not put down to differences in the voices and acoustics. Nothing like word painting: nothing that feels like rising or falling pitches feel.


    This is precisely how I feel as well.

    I find it historically and theologically of note (interesting to me because I'm weird and also because I have a particular personal affinity to William Byrd), but I cant hear a damn thing.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Well, maybe because I work with it all the time, it seems pretty clear to me. Here are some possibilities:

    bad equipment: If you are just playing from your laptop speaker, or $5 earbuds, you won't be able to hear much of anything. It's the electronic equivalent of the next one listed. My own internet laptop speaker is terrible.

    hearing loss: It doesn't require any particular acoustic acuity, though of course significant hearing loss in the high-mid range is not good; the most relevant overtones are the low ones, so in choral music from C5 (octave above mid C) up an octave and a half, maybe. Not the very high overtones, I don't think they matter much.

    inexperience: not likely on this forum, probably, but you do get better with practice at hearing all the voices in a texture, not just the top or loudest voice

    [edit] To rule out the first three: can you hear the four voices? Or do you just hear a blur with the soprano on top?

    wrong focus: Maybe you are trying to hear the wrong thing: hearing a pitch rise or fall on its own is quite difficult, humans don't have that kind of sensitivity. But hearing how the notes tune to each other is much easier. The Tallis Scholars recording is good practice for that discernment: the intervals are constantly going out of tune, giving a kind of blur to the sound. The Sixteen do much better at being always in tune, and then when a blur happens you can notice it, as that Eb to D I mentioned above.

    Hm, Andrew of the choices offered, I like the fog one best. Had you mentioned Bordeaux, I might have chosen the wine simile.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,757
    I have to say that the difference is not readily discernible in this medium. I might be able to notice it live in a appropriate acoustic, which acoustic is in my experience is not typical (it can't be overly resonant, nor dead, nor - and this is the most difficult part - favor one part of the register over another; it must be Goldilocks just-right). I can hear overtone vibrations in live performance from groups like Les Artes Florissantes, for example, that I don't hear in recordings. And that is not as subtle as the difference of a comma of tuning in non-sequential pitches.

    Otherwise, it's all washed out.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood CHGiffen
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    I'm a little shocked to hear these comments. True, you can hear with much more clarity live in a correct hall. But I use good headphones with the default music playback on my laptop, and can hear chord tuning clearly, even though the audio quality is much poorer than on my music computer. I don't know how youtube compresses audio, but the quality seems reasonably good when streamed; soundcloud uses some compression, but again the quality is at least fair. The audio file I posted can be downloaded to listen without compression.

    Philosophically, I'm aware that we can hear as music even horribly out of tune playing or singing, as long as it has something that appeals to us or to our ears or to our humanity, but my work is based on the idea that finding the perfect underlying connections, in performance, or creating them, in composition, is a path to better and better music. And as a music buyer, I'd seek out recordings by the Sixteen in the future (I know, they're gone, but still) and would never buy Tallis Scholars recordings. [edit] at least on the basis of this single work ... and their name doesn't appeal to me either, like "Telemann Virtuosos" or something.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    would never buy Tallis Scholars recordings

    And would miss a lot of really wonderful performances.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,757
    My only caution with Tallis Scholars is to avoid live performances in an overly reverberant acoustic - the ears will tire fast. While I don't consider them the echt-sacred music choral group, I respect their body of performance work. I've had more mixed results with the Sixteen over the years, if memory serves.

    Then again, I have different expectations for live vs recorded music, because in every years from 1970 to 2011, I was a musical performer of some sort in every year except 1984, 1985, and 2004. (I am on hiatus again, having switched parishes and declined to get back in the saddle.)

    I am shocked that someone would be shocked at the reactions here, though. (Let's get recursive, shall we?)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    My only caution with Tallis Scholars is to avoid live performances in an overly reverberant acoustic - the ears will tire fast.


    I heard them live last year in a fairly reverberant acoustic (I don't how much you think is too much).

    Loved it.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    live performances in an overly reverberant acoustic - the ears will tire fast


    I wonder if that's the tuning ... another of my formative notions came from this: when I played piano a lot, I was a very good sight reader, at least in relation to how good a pianist I was. I bought the complete works of Chopin in an old hardbound edition, and I'd sit and read through them. After a while, my ears were tired and my head ached. Like eyestrain for the ear. Never happened when I had similar bouts of long Bach-reading or Beethoven-reading: thus, I hypothesize: Chopin, beautiful as his music is, writes notes that by my theories should be tuned very far away from equal temperament. And so, the ear tires by constantly having to re-translate from the actual sound to the imagined sound.

  • and their name doesn't appeal to me either, like "Telemann Virtuosos" or something.


    I'd buy that for a dollar! Telemann is greatly underrated.
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,757
    Adam

    I am talking all polished marble surfaces... I've heard them in less reverberant venues and it was much better.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood CHGiffen
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I'm quite surprised and a tad perturbed over what I perceive as some cavalier remarks about the TS and maestro Phillips. I've had the pleasure of hearing them at Stanford Memorial, an ACDA National in some hall, and one other place (I'm having difficulty remembering.) Three different acoustics, but the same precision and accuity to my recollection. One ought to remember that these professional ensembles' personnel is routinely a fluid situation, but that when an ensemble with a fine and acknowledged director makes those changes, the circle of acquainted talent is already a known entity. About their name, "choral scholars" is a veritable proper noun in the English Cathedral tradition, as "schola" is the RCC. I don't believe for moment that the acquisition of Tallis's heritage and lineage had anything to do with anything other than scholarship of his specific ouveure.
    It doesn't reflect the respect the tradition of the English school to compare TS to 16 to Cambridge to Kings College to Kings Singers to His Majesty's Clerks to Westminster etc. have earned over centuries for we to have a mere popularity contest.
  • I will doubtless get pilloried for offering my own observations about the Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, and other groups. There is no question about their scholarship or the exemplary performances they offer of the historical repertory. But, whether hearing them live or on CD, I have found that women's voices consistently spoil the blend and very often overpower the lower parts, not to mention that the best of them can't seem to resist even a slight heaviness and vibrato. Such problems do not arise with the employment of boy trebles. It is also odd that those whose performances boast 'authentic instruments', or 'period instruments', will not avail themselves of, shall I say, 'period voices', namely, boys. They undoubtedly have a catalogue of perturbed observations as to why boys are just out of the question (or ridiculous even to think of), but it remains that this music sounds its best and most authentic with boy's or all male voices (or, for that matter, all female voices). Using women sopranos (not to mention women altos, as some do) is like introducing violins into a viol consort: they don't fit.

    This is not a diatribe against women, women's inimitably beautiful voices, nor a challenge to their objectively priceless singing. Nor am I suggesting that they should not participate in choral literature of later times. Nor am I suggesting that women should not sing renaissance polyphony in our church choirs. It is only to suggest that in some historical literature their voices do not offer us the sound and vocal aesthetic which would have been heard when this music was new, and it is surprising that scholars such as Peter Phillips, et al., avoid acknowledging this.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,113
    Having heard several Tallis Scholars live performances, owning quite a few of the recordings, and having been in a master class (with Zephyrus) conducted by Peter Phillips, I can echo MeloFluorescent's glowing remarks.

    Moreover, I don't know if people are aware of this, but certainly in the past, the Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen have had significant overlap in the singing membership. I'm not sure how much overlap there is currently, but in particular (since I'm more acquainted with them) Sally Dunkley and Francis Steele (both imminent scholars of Renaissance music) have sung and recorded extensively - with both groups - at the same time.

    It's also likely that the difference in sound between the two isolated examples is due in large part to differing acoustic conditions and recording specifics (microphone placement, editing, etc.), as well as the initial impression that the sound of each recording makes upon the listener. For instance, the first time I listened to the Tallis Scholars videos, I had the sense of the first chord taking a moment to "gel" or fall into tune (something actually can occur, especially in a live performance).

    That said, tuning a live or recorded performance of a cappella singing is a delicate matter. And knowledge of the tonal & harmonic motion of the music is something that professional groups and/or their directors do indeed incorporate into their planning, rehearsals, and (ultimately, if successful) performances. This is not just true of a cappella or other vocal/choral groups.

    For a few years, when I was living in Virginia, I was an attendee with my trombonist son at the annual Eastern Trombone Workshop (ETW) hosted by the U.S. Army Band at Fort Myer, and was privileged to attend a workshop on tuning issues for a trombone section given by the trombone section of (if memory serves correct) the Cleveland Orchestra. It was a revelation, and the ease with which trombonists can tune notes together with the purity of the trombone sound (not the mention the intelligence and musicianship of the players) really made for clarity that probably could not be heard as easily (if at all) from recordings.

    The real meat of this session was not the tuning of notes of individual chords but in the way the the trombone section handled the tuning of a succession of chords and the sometimes difficult decisions they had to make when issues, such as those raised by William Copper, came up in the real world of application (performance) rather than theory. These are delicate pitch issues, not appreciated by the (probably) vast majority of people (including even a lot of respectable musicians), and they are not easy to hear without some training and practice, for which a honed sense of perfect pitch can be an asset. It's one thing to hear that a chord is "out of tune" by itself (which might depend upon the temperament in which one is working, especially) and another (much more difficult thing) to hear that one chord following another creates some oddity in sonority. Those who have dealt with organs or other keyboards tuned in non-equal temperaments probably appreciate some of this better than those whose experience is dominated by equal-temperament tuned pianos, organs, synthesizers, etc.

    I took a lot of musical insight away from attending the ETW during those years ... including two Shires trombones (one a concert trombone, the other a jazz trombone) for my son.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,113
    MJO raises a point about the Tallis Scholars and their sopranos that I have heard of before ... and have heard them referred to as having laser-like voices that soar (penetrate?) above the texture of the rest of the ensemble. This is the most often heard criticism (in one form or another) that I have heard of the ensemble.

    In recordings (and performances, as far as I know) this laser-like tendency has been enhanced by choosing to perform some Renaissance pieces at a higher pitch than that indicated in the source manuscripts (although one must concede that actual performance pitch in earlier times was rather variable). For example, they have performed and recorded the John Taverner Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas up a whole step from the notated score (which is essentially in D). To be sure, it sounds much brighter sung in E than it does in D (I've performed it in D a few times), and the Bass only has to sing a low E instead of a low D (while the Trebles soar to high A rather than high G). But there is a quality of sound in the lower pitch that, for me, is transcendent.

    There is an additional issue which I have not brought up, but which I learned from my experience with Zephyrus and its long association with the accomplished early music scholar, practitioner and soprano, Sally Sanford. Namely, choral music, especially early choral a cappella music has a proper sonority that is built, like a pyramid, from the bottom (bass) up, with the best balance achieved by having the lower voices progressively more solid than the upper voices, especially in polyphonic but also in homophonic textures. The lower voices were (and are) meant to be heard, not buried in the mud of a soaring top line (as is so often the case, especially in contemporary performance practice).
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Two interesting comments, Chuck. Trombonists, yes indeed are very keen on tuning. It was my first instrument, in grade school. And that comment about the sonority pyramid, very interesting. The Tallis recording had a slightly too-loud, too piercing soprano (not extreme, though), while the 16 (in this piece) a much better balance, although the tuning is a separate thing that they did better too. I had intended to mention, regarding the two, listen to the chorus tune to the soprano at bar 5 in the Tallis, and at the same place, correctly to the Bass in the Sixteen. But I'm backing away from such subtle things if no one else can hear them.

    Hm. I thought having started in the 70's the Sixteen were no longer with us, but just found their web site and they are apparently not gone. My mistake.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,007
    Listen guys, any of those groups are welcome to sing at my place on any Sundays of the year. I wont worry one bit about their tuning, since it will be better than anything I have.
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  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Excellent point, Chuck, about the foundational pyramid clearly borne by the basses. I can name that tune in one note: "Chanticleer."
    Much has been ballyhooed about Joseph Jenning's heroic work regarding the re-invention of the male countertenor from the Alfred Deller era, and Joseph is the real deal and two skinny tons of fun in real life, but Chanticleer became Chanticleer in no small debt to Frank Albinder. I don't know personally our CCW colleague Matthew Curtis (yet?) but I can't imagine him not ratifying that. And they had plenty of detractors early on in the Bay Area about intonational concerns vis a vis live versus Memorex, but that never detracted from their artistic goals and achievements either.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,002
    I promised myself I wasn't going to chime in on this thread, but...

    I tend to gravitate more toward Charles Giffen's standpoint. The individual chord (aside from cadences or particularly long-held chords) is very unimportant to me: the relationships are all that matters. I'm fine with a "tense" passing (or whatever you want to call it) chord in polyphonic rep; I want a solid cadence, though, with proper accent into the dissonance, out on consonance. I think I see what mrcopper is going for, but it is very difficult to see the forest from the trees for most people in those cases.

    Regarding balance: I tend to disagree with the premise that the mixed groups have too-strong soprano sound. I think it's a function of the recording, first and foremost, and secondly an aural admittance that the brighter ladies' sound makes things in the middle to low registers "come out" much more in the mix. I do wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that the voices are like a pyramid, with the ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL caveat that the timbre/color of the men's voices are the most important factor. This obviously depends on the acoustic in question, but (assuming a decently reverberant space) I like the "pyramid" to also include timbre. My basses are encouraged to sing very bright (we have a Gothic acoustic with 6ish seconds of reverb with the room empty), tenors along the same lines, but the alto and soprano voices with much more "line", even if I still ask for a forward sound from them in most registers.

    I think this is a very interesting discussion, especially as many of us who practice an "American sound" in a live room like very unified vowels, focusing mostly on strong diction and a bright sounds, whereas I think of an "English sound" in the same acoustic as going more toward the "color" of each vowel and less toward unification, with perhaps a darker general color to the vowel.

    Anyhow, I'm just ruminating...dangerous, I know.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,113
    Bruce raises a very good point concerning timbre in the vocal pyramid: it is not so much volume as brightness in the lowest voices that brings the desired intensity to the pyramid, something that is often missing in so many choral groups.

    Francis Steele's bass singing with the Tallis Scholars and Eric Alatorre's basso profundo singing with Chanticleer are fine examples of intensity achieved through timbre rather than just loudness.
  • Timbre and weight (the less weight the better) are at the heart of the question of the lack of 'timbral' unity with regard to women sopranos as opposed to boys. It seems to me that the comparison to a 'broken consort' is apt. Loud were the complaints when around Purcell's time the violin was slowly edging out the viol in English consort music. It was too heavy, too powerful, it's timbre was not the same, and it didn't blend. I realise that I have waded into a touchy subject, but the complimentarity of timbre in a choir of men and boys is unquestionably greater than in a mixed choir. A mixed choir, with its distinctive rich, lush, sonorities, is an entity with its own beautiful legitimacy and is paramount in our musical legacy, but it's employment in what purports to be period authenticity in the music of the renaissance is highly questionable because of the question of timbre and balance, and the pyramid of sound which was at the heart of the choral concepts of that time. Again, I address this as pertinent to choral groups who specialise in 'period authenticity' rather than as suggestive for church choirs in general.
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