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Choral Tone Comparison: Barber

Updated: Feb 4, 2018

(If you are a member of the public accessing this post, it is intended for my choral conducting class at Roberts Wesleyan College. Please forgive the "instructions"!)


Listen to these three examples of an excerpt from "Agnus Dei," Op. 11, by Samuel Barber.


A: Dale Warland Singers/Warland


B: Conspirare/Johnson


C: Choir of Trinity College Cambridge/Marlow


Although there are differences in interpretation, concentrate only on the choral tone in each recording. Answer the following questions in a comment:

  1. How would you describe the tone of A, B, and C?

  2. Which recording did you prefer?

  3. Why did you prefer it over the others?

After commenting yourself, come back and read your classmates' comments. Be ready to discuss in class.

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33 Comments


Lydia Roselund
Lydia Roselund
Feb 17

I personally liked C the best, the tone sounded very pure and clear. The sound just resonated more than the other two examples. A and B both at the beginning of each seemed like all the voices were trying to stand out. And created a sharpness in the tone of the performance. Although they both had a more mellow balanced tone later on.

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Jack Fecik
Jack Fecik
Feb 17

Choir A is overpowered by Soprano's and was extremely bright. However their tone did sound significantly better when they were piano and not forte. Choir B sounded pretty similar to choir A but were much more balanced and a little less bright which created a more unified sound that was enjoyable to listen to. Choir C wasn't as unified as Choir B, but each voice came through clearly. Out of all three recordings I though Choir C's contrast between piano and forte was the most impressive and sounded amazing, so they were my favorite.

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Cecilia Guerra
Cecilia Guerra
Feb 16

In example A, I would describe the tone as full, yet balanced as each part is distinguishable from the other. It has a thick texture and a unified color, but there is still color in their tone. In example B, it is much harder to pick apart each line because the tone is too rich and full for the texture of the piece. The balance in this one is not as good as the first recording. Example C had a good tone to it, but it did not feel as expressive as the other two as it was sung very straight and bright. The depth of recording A was a good balance between the extremes of A and C, m…

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Kennedy Pattison
Kennedy Pattison
Feb 13

Barber: A: The group seems to blend okay with each other, and the tone could have a better balance of chiaroscuro. B: The balance of this ensemble is a little too bright in the sopranos and could be balanced better with the low basses and baritones. It almost feels too far back in the voice for the men, and there could be more chiaro added and less ocsuro. C: This group balanced the best, and with how high the sopranos sang, this was the best mix of chiaroscuro out of the three. I prefer C because the tone was clear, and the choir could balance each other's voices well.

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haldeman_ruth
haldeman_ruth
Feb 13, 2022

Choir A is very bright and sharp which was quite loud then in contrast it gets so quiet you can barely hear anything.

Choir B was still bright, although they weren't as ear piercing, which I assume was due to lack of tension in the voice as well as unifying vowels. Their dynamic contrast was not quite as drastic, but it worked well for their purpose and helped me understand the overall feel of the excerpt better.

Choir C was overall more balanced, although it did not seem as blended. Their vowels helped unify them and the interchanging of the voices worked well.


Choir B was my favorite recording as it seemed to be the least tense and even sound…

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