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The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus

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GLOSSARY OF MUSICAL TERMS

Listed below are a number of technical terms which frequently apply to the repertoire performed by the Chamber Chorus and may often be found in the program notes.

 

 

English terms

anthem/motet – choral setting of a religious text not forming part of the liturgy

antiphony – dividing the sound between two opposing groups of singers

chromaticism – using notes not found in the chosen diatonic scale

counterpoint – combining two or more melodies; repeating the melody in different voices is a canon, while imitating them at related pitches is a fugue

homophony – all voices moving at the same time

liturgy – prayers and hymns specified for a particular service, e.g. Mass

madrigal – secular choral work flourishing in the 16th and 17th centuries; later called part song

melisma – one syllable sung to several notes

minimalism – compositional style which develops melody or harmony by the least steps possible

polyphony – several voice parts acting independently, not singing same words at the same time; opposite is monophony

word painting – conveying in melody, harmony or rhythm the sentiment or meaning of the text

unison – voices singing at one pitch (or in octaves)    

 

 

Italian terms

(the plural changes the final -o to -i)

a cappella – unaccompanied singing (literally, 'in the chapel')

crescendo – increasing in volume

decrescendo – weakening in volume; sometimes called diminuendo

forte – loud; opposite is piano

glissando – sliding upwards or downwards of adjacent notes

legato – smooth phrasing

leggiero – light singing; opposite is marcato

mezzo – medium

ostinato – the repetition of a phythmic or melodic motif

portamento – moving between notes with no appreciable break in sound

rallentando – getting slower; sometimes ritardando

Requiem – Catholic Mass for the Dead, opening with the text Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine (Rest eternal grant them, Lord)

ritardando – reducing speed

ritenuto – slow at once

sforzando – sudden attack, with force

staccato – separated or detached phrasing; opposite is legato

tempo – speed

tutti – all singing; opposite is solo