Balancing chorus and orchestra in performance: problems and solutions for conductors of the nineteenth century and today

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kelly J. Turner (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Welborn Young

Abstract: The purpose of this document is to examine the origins of, evidence for, and solutions to choral/orchestral balance problems in performance. By consulting several primary sources, this study demonstrates that these balance issues rose to prominence during the early nineteenth century, and that conductors of that era addressed these problems in ways that are different from modern solutions. The performance of choral/orchestral works occurred less often during the early twentieth century, and because many conductors from this generation were not regularly working in the choral/orchestral medium, a knowledge gap resulted. Thus, a new generation of conductors needed to develop their own methodology as balance issues resurfaced following a revival of combined performances beginning in the 1940s. Selected studies published within the last fifty years offer possible solutions to choral/orchestral balance problems. Some authors contend that exaggerated enunciation and vocal resonance from the choristers are the keys to resolving imbalances. Others approach balance problems by controlling the volume of the orchestra. Still others choose to alter the relative positions of the performers on stage to affect balance problems. An online survey instrument through augments this study. Over two hundred conductors who frequently prepare choruses to sing with orchestras participated in the survey, offering wisdom from their experiences grappling with choral/orchestral balance problems. Utilizing the survey data, this study offers a categorized collection of practical ideas and rehearsal techniques that will serve as a reference for conductors as they address choral/orchestral imbalances. There are three principal outcomes of this study. First, it offers several reasons why choral/orchestral balance problems developed significantly during the nineteenth century and explain how conductors of that era addressed the problems. Second, it gives conductors a comprehensive overview of existing recent research on choral/orchestral balance. Third, the survey shows that present-day conductors consider acoustic imbalance between chorus and orchestra an issue with which they struggle, to what they attribute these imbalances, and how they address them. Ultimately, this document provides conductors with both a greater understanding of choral/orchestral imbalances and a variety of new methodologies for addressing them, both from the past and the present.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Balance, Choir, Choral, Chorus, Orchestra
Conducting $x Technique.
Conducting $x History.
Orchestra $x Performance.
Choral conducting.
Conductors (Music)

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