Greetings, Lord Iain!
I'm excited to hear that you'll be creating a choir to perform at Gulf Wars! I wish I could attend, but I wish you the best of luck.
I'm also glad that Master Christian has already sent along his suggestions, since he has a great deal of experience running choral singing at Gulf Wars.
To add to his advice, one of the key things that we've found helpful for growing the Pennsic Choir and lowering the bar for people to participate is to make the music available online well in advance of the war. Providing MIDI/MP3 renditions of each part, along with sheet music, means that even people with limited sight-singing skills can learn their parts ahead of
time and be prepared to concentrate on nuance instead of pitch and rhythm during rehearsals. If you have the resources to make learning tracks like Master Robyn did two Pennsics ago - recordings of people actually singing each part, not just electronic instrumental versions - people will find it even easier, and also have the benefit of hearing any foreign languages correctly pronounced.
Another thing that will help you tremendously is to set up a pre-registration system with links on the Gulf Wars website. This will allow you to get an idea of who's coming, and how many you'll have of each voice part. Where you see gaps, you can try to recruit people (though it's a given that we're always in need of more men, especially tenors). For Pennsic, we've been fortunate that the web minister, Mistress Jessa d'Avondale, has graciously programmed a registration form that automatically emails everyone's
registration to the director, but if the Gulf Wars web minister isn't able to do that, you can just ask people to email you their information. Knowing, at least roughly, how many of each voice part you'll have will also allow you to tailor your selection of pieces. Because choral singing doesn't have as long a tradition at Gulf Wars as it does at Pennsic, you may want to have an array of options picked out that will allow you to work with any combination of voices - SSA, SAB, SATB, etc.
Rehearsal time is a thorny question. At Pennsic we set aside 2 hours every day, but that definitely gives people pause and we do lose people who aren't willing to commit that much time to singing. We've also tried a variety of times of day, but always ended up back in the late afternoon, on the theory that this allows any fighters to get their battles out of the way and still sing with the choir afterward. In practice,
I'm not so sure that's worked - we seldom have more than one or two fighters in the choir. People have suggested evenings, but of course then you're bumping into dinner/party times. I think Master Christian is right, that taking over the noon time slot has both advantages and disadvantages, too.
I assume you'll need to work with the A&S autocrats to find a place and time for rehearsals and the concert, and the web minister to advertise the choir on the GW website. Does GW have a newspaper like Pennsic? If so, you might want to place ads for the concert in it. If not, then perhaps posters to be put up around the site?
For music sources, pretty much whatever you can find! Of course there are lots of books, like the Historical Anthology of Music vol. 1, the A Capella Singer, all the Thurston Dart, Noah Greenberg, and Kings' Singers
compilations, and so on. Online, I use the Choral Public Domain Library (cpdl.org) extensively, but always with caution since the music there is contributed by amateurs and tends to have errors. It's wise to compare any music you find there with sources that have been reviewed by an editor, and fix any mistakes you find. I recommend that you get a music notation program if you don't already have one. The big names are Sibelius, Encore, and Finale, but they're pretty expensive. I use Noteworthy (http://www.noteworthysoftware.com
), on the recommendation of Duchess Constanzia from Lochac (thanks, Stanzi!), which has the benefit of not only being relatively inexpensive ($50) but also that a major contributor to the CPDL, Brian Russell, transcribed hundreds of period pieces in it. There's also Lilypond (http://lilypond.org/
), which is free, but
not as intuitive to use as many of the other programs. There's a site with reviews of a variety of notation programs here: http://music-notation-software-review.toptenreviews.com/ppc-index.html?cmpid=71363
FWIW, although it says Noteworthy doesn't support Windows 7, I've been using it on a Win7 computer for over a year with no problems.
Finally, you'll want to figure out what you're going to use to facilitate learning. Past Pennsic Choir directors have had different philosophies. I rely on a battery-powered electric keyboard to teach parts. Lady Erlan prefers to use a recorder. I think Master Robyn has done a little of both. It's really up to you.
Good luck, and feel free to contact me with any additional questions you may
Arianna of Wynthrope
Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands
From: John <im_no_poet@...>
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 10:57 PM
Subject: [KWChoir] Knowne World Choir at Gulf Wars
I have a mandate from their Majesties of Gleann Abhann to create a choir to perform at Gulf Wars this year in March. I was hoping to get some input as to repertoire, voicing and rehearsal time. I have done several pick-up choirs at SCA events, and have pretty good access to a music library, but I definitely want to get some advice from people who have done the Pennsic Choir. If you are planning on coming to GW XXI, please let me know by email: dunnj [at] nsula [dot] edu. Thanks for your time!
--Lord Iain O'Donnell
GA Choir director