Choral Music

Here at the Glacier Symphony we have an orchestra AND a chorale. So what is a chorale? A chorale is simply another name for a chorus or choir – an ensemble of singers who perform music sung with two or more voices assigned to each part. They are usually led by a person (just like an orchestra) who is called either the conductor or director, who rehearses them and helps them interpret and perform the music. There are most often four sections or parts in a chorale: two women’s parts – soprano and alto , and two men’s parts – tenor and bass. A chorale can be accompanied by an instrument, such as the piano, or instruments, such as an orchestra. They can also be unaccompanied and sing by themselves. The term we use to describe that is a cappella, an Italian term meaning “in chapel style”, as the practice of singing in choirs began in the early church.

The Glacier Chorale has its roots with the symphony orchestra in the 1970’s when the Performing Arts Council was formed from a core of music lovers in the Flathead Valley. By June 1981 this now well-established group rehearsed and performed together as the Flathead Valley Chamber Orchestra and Chorale. By 1982, the group had expanded to the size that larger works could be performed and the name of the group was changed to The Glacier Orchestra and Chorale. Shauneen Garner was the founding Chorale Conductor. In 1997, with the hiring of John Zoltek as a full-time music director, the growth of the organization expanded rapidly. To reflect this and its commitment to artistic quality, the G.O.C. changed its name to the Glacier Symphony and Chorale in July 2003. Dr. Jim Stanard was hired as the Chorale Conductor in 2006 following the retirement of Shauneen Garner. Accomplished chorale conductor Dr. Micah Hunter, was hired in 2015 to take over for Dr. Stanard. The Chorale generally is made up of about 70 – 80 volunteer singers. Highlights of the past 7 years under Dr. Hunter include yearly performances of Handel’s Messiah and a trip to sing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Choral Fantasy at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.

To the left is what a piece of choral music looks like when there is a piano accompaniment. There is a staff for each one of the parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) and then a grand staff for the piano part. Sometimes you will also see the two women’s parts on one staff with a treble clef and the two men’s parts on a second staff with a bass clef.

And this is what choral music looks like when performed a cappella.

So what would you imagine was the first way that man made music? A drum? A flute? Would you be surprised if we told you it was singing? And singing was evidently very important to early man. According to LiveScience:

“Ancient hunters painted the sections of their cave dwellings where singing, humming and music sounded best, a new study suggests. Analyzing the famous, ochre-splashed cave walls of France, the most densely painted areas were also those with the best acoustics, the scientists found. Humming into some bends in the wall even produced sounds mimicking the animals painted there…Because Paleolithic humans had a deep connection with the melodic properties that helped them navigate in a cave, they likely celebrated the unique acoustics by singing in conjunction with their painting sessions.”