The MetroWest Choral Artists

Leonardo Ciampa, Founding Director

* * *

in his own words

About vowels & the understandability of choral diction
(27 December 2015)

     “As far as the understandability of choral diction, it’s a very short conversation. But it’s a very funny thing, because no matter what you read, no matter whom you talk to, no matter what website you look at or what book you look at, everyone is always talking about consonants when they’re talking about how understandable the diction is. And that has not been my ear’s experience. It just hasn’t. I can think of a Mass that was sung by a very famous choir in Boston which I will not name. And, you know, the Mass begins with Kyrie. And so I’m listening to this and I hear this “Kkkkk,” the most explosive “K” that you ever heard in your life. And then from that moment on I understood nothing. It was just jibbering. And more recently, I was listening to a choir singing on the radio, and the consonants were very clear, and I actually did not know what language it was. Literally. I did not know what language this piece was in, even though the consonants were quite clear.
     “And so, once again, I mean, choral intelligibility is about vowels and not consonants. In fact, it’s all about vowels – the sound is about vowels, and intonation is about vowels, and it’s all about vowels. I suppose that’s sort of an Italian outlook. And unfortunately, choral singing in this part of the world is very much based on the British model. So it’s not about the Italian. But vowels are vowels, and there’s no getting around it. Singing is vowels, and vowels are singing.”

About choral intonation
(8 April 2014)

About intonation II
(7 June 2014)

About choral blend
(8 April 2014)

About choral blend & acoustics
(7 June 2014)

Early music singing vs. operatic singing
(22 December 2015)

     “Then we come to the question – dare I say it? – of quote-unquote early music singing vs. quote-unquote operatic singing. Suffice it to say: What we do is neither ‘early music singing’ nor ‘opera singing’ – only good singing. MWCA is good singers making a good sound that is applied to all repertoire.
     “Because is an ensemble of huge, out-of-control Wagner voices with a vibrato that’s the approximate width of North America going to blend? Of course not. But that’s not good singing, and has nothing to do with what Wagner wanted. But exaggerated vibrato is no worse than exaggerated straight tone, which is not good singing and which was not what Bach or Palestrina expected or wanted.
     “I remember the words of my friend, the late Mary Davenport, who said, ‘The violin was invented to imitate the voice, not the other way around.’
     “So, am I suggesting that Handel and Verdi be sung exactly the same way? Yes in the sense that you’d better figure out the healthy way to sing, and you’d better sing all repertoire that way.
     “Unfortunately, neither the early music world nor the opera world are on the right track vocally. The opera world vocally has deteriorated beyond recognition. To hire a musician based on looks alone – that’s not the smartest approach! But nor is the whole fach system. A singer is placed in a fach, correctly or incorrectly. And that singer then sings roles that, correctly or incorrectly, are listed for that fach – and avoids all other roles that, correctly or incorrectly, appear on other lists. The result is that singers are singing roles that satisfy a list but don’t satisfy a voice! So they ruin their voice, singing all the wrong roles. And many early music singers are ruining their voices, but for different reasons, especially tenors. There’s the harm of restraining one’s natural vibrato, but there’s also the harm of being a ‘passaggio denier.’ Something has to happen at and above the passaggio. Otherwise, it’ll sound awful, and you’ll ruin your voice. That’s a law of nature that no one has ever circumvented.”
– Leonardo Ciampa (22 Dec. 2015)

Click here to return to the main page.

* * *

MetroWest Choral Artists
Leonardo Ciampa, Artistic Director & Founder
Carolyn Ingalls, Executive Director

11 Wellesley Ave.

Natick, MA 01760-3712

(617) 913-8647