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I am having a difficult time choosing a piece for a choral audition. The chorus I am aiming for admits new singers with no previous experience in singing, and I was told the audition is not much of a formal setting. Despite this, I would like to present an adequate presentation...

All singing experience I have comes from piano solfeggio. As far as I can tell I should sing soprano. I was wondering if "Pie Jesu" from Gabriel Fauré's Requiem or "O Salutaris" by Jean-Baptiste Faure are appropriate options at all, and if these pieces are indeed appropriate which one should I perform? What factors should I consider in making my decision?

I cannot reach the upper notes of O Salutaris (F5 and G5), and I have five days to practice.

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  • Sopranos are often expected to go a little higher than F5, which is roughly the highest notes of the alto range. Do you think you might manage to get up there with practice? Pie Jesu's lovely, but it does go up to that F a few times. Maybe you're an alto. Have you got a contrasting piece you could offer them if asked? Something quicker perhaps. If, as you say, it's informal, maybe a verse or two of a folk song. But as Andy and Tim said, something you already know. Mar 11, 2022 at 13:56

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The choice of piece matters very little (especially in a "no prior experience" audition). What matters is that you use a piece that you are comfortable with and know well, and that shows your current abilities.

I've sat through years of orchestra violin auditions and seen some bad choices. What the judges are looking for and caring about is often very different from what auditioners assume. An auditioner might think they had a great audition because they didn't miss any notes, but from the first few seconds I'm thinking "Okay, their tone is scratchy and weak; I don't know who let them get away with holding the instrument like that; they don't use any dynamics..." etc. Or conversely they might miss a few notes and leave in tears, but I'm thinking "Ok, so they had a memory glitch, big deal. But they have great projection, great intonation, and that was a very nuanced interpretation of that piece."

The ways to choose a "bad piece for an audition" are:

  • To assume that a more advanced piece is more impressive, but to choose one that is outside of your current ability and muddle your way through it. Besides looking bad, this actually obscures your actual abilities; we can't get a good idea of how you would sing when you're well-prepared.
  • This is rare, but theoretically it could be a bad move to choose something way, way, way below your current ability. You might sing it perfectly, but if you have additional skills that aren't shown by that piece, it might be better to choose a piece that demonstrates them. There's very little danger of this in a "no prior experience" audition; theoretically, Renée Fleming should be able to ace it with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

So no, please don't choose something that's new to you and learn it in only five days, and please don't choose something outside of your range. The judges will be mainly looking for projection, tone, intonation, and musical sensitivity; choose whatever will show these best.

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  • Yes, choose something you already_know... :) Mar 10, 2022 at 21:15
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Somewhat late to dip into the bag and find something suitable! Especially if you have to learn it from scratch.

Several thoughts. Keep whatever it is within your vocal range. If your voice is particularly good at one end of that range, find a song which highlights that: high pitch strength - piece with a high tessitura. A transposition of something is a useful way round this.

If the choir seems to favour a particular genre, then pick a piece in that genre.

Is it accompanied or acapella? That will help deciding.

Choose something you know well, so any slips at the audition are minimised or easier to recover from at that time.In fact, it's not a bad idea to have a 'party piece' always ready.

Be aware that in this situation, the audition person - probably conductor - is listening for qualities in you and your voice, rather than a perfect rendition of a difficult piece. Breathing, voice quality, range, dynamics, delivery are some I'd look out for above 'wow, that's a hard piece!'

Singing in a chorus is very different from singing solo. So attempting what is essentially a solo vocal won't particularly help here. Good luck at the audition!

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I cannot reach the upper notes of O Salutaris (F5 and G5), and I have five days to practice.

In this case you might want to avoid picking that piece, especially if you hope to be in the soprano section. (Similarly, if you want to be in tbe alto section, you should try to find a piece that shows off the lower part of your voice.)

What factors should I consider in making my decision?

Read Andy Bonner's answer. Then think about the factors the conductor will be considering:

  • can you sing in tune?
  • do you have a good full sound without signs of straining? Is that sound in tune?
  • can you sing quietly? Is the tone breathy or clear? Is it in tune?
  • do you pronounce words clearly? Do certain vowels cause you to sing with poorer tone or poorer tuning?
  • which section should I put you in?

In other words, the most likely decision process is first, can the singer sing in tune, and second, which part should the singer sing. The second question is lass critical, as you can always move from one section to another.

The most important thing is to pick something you're comfortable singing. Your aim is to acquaint the decision maker with your voice at its best. Don't try to sing something impressive unless you are confident that you can sing it impressively.

If you have trouble with part of your range, it will come out during the part of the audition where you are asked to sing some vocal exercise. There's no need to pick a piece that exposes it.

If I were auditioning singers for a choir of this description and you came in with some prepared solfeggio of a piano piece, I'd probably be favorably impressed. If you don't have any songs ready, I would suggest learning something fairly simple whose melody you already know.

If you know O Salutaris fairly well, consider singing it in a different key. There is a version in C major for low voice (are you sure you're not an alto?).

The Pie Jesu is very difficult to sing well. It's easy to know what notes to sing, but sustaining the long slow phrases demands a lot of breath control. This is also true of O Salutaris, to a lesser extent. I would suggest looking at songs with a medium tempo, not too slow, not too fast.

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