Monday, July 14, 2008

What is a "Bolero"?

____ The Bolero is a Latin-based genre of music and dance known for its sensuality and intimacy; in fact, it's known to some as the second dance of love -- in addition to the rhumba, of course. But unlike the rhumba, bolero's origins are somewhat unclear and wildly debated. Some say that bolero originated as a Cuban dance that spread quickly to Spain; others say that Spain danced and played a version of the bolero long before Cuba altered the form. According to this idea, the bolero was created in Spain in the 18th century by the dancer and choreographer Sebastien Zezero. The form traveled to Cuba and by the mid-1800s had morphed into an almost entirely different form carrying the same name. The Cuban form of bolero is often thought to be the truest form of bolero, regardless of where it came from, and Pepe Sanchez's 1883 "Tristezas" is considered by some to be the first bolero ever formally written.
But regardless of who created what (and where), the bolero is an important element within both Cuban and Spanish culture, though the form is very different between the two. Cuban bolero is danced and played in 2/4 time and rooted strongly in African percussion. The bolero dance is very focused on couples, and the two dancers remain very close throughout the whole dance. Spanish bolero, on the other hand, is played in 3/4 time with a slightly less rhythmic undertone. The couples dancing Spanish bolero often dance apart (like modern informal fast dancing), only coming completely together at certain parts. Though the Spanish bolero style is still found occasionally, it is the Cuban style that gave birth to the various modern boleros still danced and played today.
Like most foreign music and dance styles, the bolero eventually found its way to the United States in the 1930s and became a sort of craze. As it shifted cultures, however, it underwent a few alterations. The American bolero shares more characteristics with the rhumba than any other traditional style, and it's slightly slower and far more intimate. Additionally, the American bolero was changed from the Cuban-based 2/4 to a slightly more relaxed 4/4.


What a piano players needs to know about a choir

At the risk of sounding obvious, there are certain basic things that piano players need to know as they deal with other musicians. If they lived in a vacuum they would not need to know stuff like this, but we and they just don't have that luxury.

The choir, a simple vocal ensemble of varying sizes (generally more than 10 people), is one of the most popular forms of musical expression for vocalists, particularly because of its availability in a varitey of arenas. The church choir is by far the most common, but many singers also perform in a high-school choir, a collegiate choir or a community choir. And within those varieties of choir exist a number of choir styles. There exists the all-female choir, the all-male choir and the mixed choir, which is comprised of females and males under the vocal categories bass, tenor, alto and soprano. Additionally, a choir can be classified by the number of members; a symphonic choir is typically a large choir while a chamber choir is extremely small.

Though some types of choir, such as the community choir, don't require much out of an audition (if they require an audition at all), there are certain traits a vocalist must possess in order to be able to handle the duties of choir membership. First and foremost, the choir member must be able to sing in tune; it seems common knowledge, but many would-be choir members are impervious to this ability. But singing in tune isn't enough -- choir members must also be able to blend their voice within the presence of other voices, to control vibrato and volume; the point to a choir, after all, is to hear an amalgamation of voices not one in particular. It is also vitally important that a choir member be able to read sheet music. An inability to read music will inevitably lead to the choir member never being able to learn his or her parts. Sight-reading, or the ability to read a piece of music without ever having seen it, is especially preferable for choir members, as a conductor will frequently ask the choir to sing through an entire piece immediately in order to get a sense of the music. Lastly, a choir member must have an independent ear; that is, they must be able to sing their part even while hearing a different part coming from the alto or tenor section. If a choir member has this problem and it's very slight, the conductor will usually place them in a position far from any imposing alternative parts, but a consistent inability to hear one's own voice will ultimately lead to a choir member having a difficult time with the entire performance.

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