The role of melody in choral music

I have observed that many choirs include arrangements of popular songs in their programs. This has always sparked my curiosity. Having such a broad catalog of works written for choir, why include pop songs in a concert? Well, after some careful thought and observation, I think  there are two answers to that.

The first reason has to be familiarity. People like to hear things they know. A good arrangement of a song that is already in the general public consciousness can be very effective, as the arrangement of Africa that the City Angel Chorale took to the American Idol competition demonstrated.

The second reason must be melodic interest. Choral works, in many cases, rely on polyphony, that is, several melodies going ot at the same time. At first, it is easy to  follow the melody, but as you have 3 or 4 voices going on at the same time, you can easily get confused and lost in the work.

I don’t think most people like the feeling of being confused and although there are many beautiful moments in polyphonal works, where being submerged in a great deal of sound produces an aesthetic feeling all of its own, the thread that a melody weaves through a work is missed by the listener in many cases.

So I have focused, in many works, to provide this melodic thread above any other consideration, even at the risk of seeming simplistic, just so the listener can connect with the work on first hearing and enjoy a recognizable melody in successive listenings . The idea is to provide melodic choral repertorie that would eliminate the need to import pop songs into choral concerts and provide a complete experience to the audience that would encourage them to keep coming back for more.





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