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February 19, 2004


The regular school day had ended at Cherry Hill High School East, but members of its Madrigals, a group of Renaissance singers, gladly stayed after on Tuesday for a workshop. What made the session special, said East's vocal teacher Laurie Lausi, is that it was led by Gabriel Crouch, a former member of the King's Singers. The select six-member British group specializes in madrigals and religious tunes. Crouch, 30, met with East's various a cappella groups throughout the day, ending with the Madrigals.

He put the group through its paces in two madrigals, love poems set to musical harmonies - "What If I Never Speede" - speede being an old English word roughly equivalent to "decide to tell you of my love" - and "Let Go, Why Do You Stay Me?". "This is all about interplay," said Crouch, focusing on the repetition of the word "come" in one song. "Everything you do in a madrigal has to be done in this very English, very dainty way," Crouch said. "If you're really feeling something, you have to say it in a very British, understated kind of way, because the English can't express themselves very well."

The Londoner proved the exception, however, as he got the students to focus not just on the words and the pauses, but on the emotions behind them. "Can you do desperate? Do desperate. It's almost as if the sound is carrying on even though it's not there," he said about one pause. "Make the breath part of it. The trick is when you sing softly, you want to draw people in," he noted.

When the session was formally over, the students didn't want to leave. "I learned a lot of new techniques, such as how to sing softer. It's going to improve my style," said senior soprano Rohini Khillan, 17. Added senior alto Viviana Pabon, 18, "I learned we have to pronounce with very good diction. We are not singing for the conductor. We're singing for the audience." Junior bass Seth Alomar, 17, agreed. "I learned you don't have to count out when you're singing. You can just breathe. If everyone is connected in that same way, your tempo will be on," Alomar said.

It was a learning experience for Crouch, as well. "I'm blown away by what you have here. I worked with six choirs today. We don't have anything like this in the U.K., where normal state (public) schools have no choirs. In the U.K., it's an elite institutional thing," he said. That's why he'll do many more of these workshops now that he's a free-lance vocalist, he said. "I'm not interested in excellence for its own sake. This is something anyone can do, and enjoy it. Life can be so much more joyous if you've got an opportunity to sing," Crouch said.

Posted by acapnews at February 19, 2004 8:52 AM


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