But as our director Mack Wilberg of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir said yesterday, "a little goes a long way." The piece we are preparing for an upcoming concert is the Agnus Dei from the Chichester Mass by William Albright. The reason this piece works for us, Wilberg said, was because it is short (about 2 minutes) and it uses the tone clusters for certain effects and not for the entire composition. In fact, the effect of using the tone clusters helps word paint the idea of how we as poor wondering souls on the earth living in chaos come pleading to the Lord for help. So during the words of the prayer, the first two phrases are painted with close harmony and tone clusters suggesting pain and pleading.
"O Lamb of God
Who takest away the sins of the world,"
The next two phrases are given more consonance suggesting that it is the Lord who brings order to our lives and will bring forgiveness, mercy, and peace.
"Have mercy upon us.
Grant us peace."
This particular piece is sung very softly for the ethereal effect. That is another technique that is difficult for a very large choir to master. Large choirs are generally known for their powerful, loud sounds, not for their ability to sing softly. Our directors are working very hard to give us the tools to sing in many different styles, with huge dynamic ranges and proper finesse. We are working hard as singers, too. This may be out of our comfort zone, but we are trying to make our "little" pianissimo sound go a long way --- in tune, too!