Music Uncovered 1: Beginners’ Ensembles 1

One of the main problems facing all ensembles is knowing what repertoire to sing. Does it fit your style? Do you have the right voices to sing each of the parts? Do you know how to pronounce the words if it’s in a different language? We think one of the best ways that ensembles can improve is if they choose music that’s right for them. In Music Uncovered, we’re going to recommend music to you that we think is appropriate for choirs of different ability levels, looking to develop as ensembles. For some of these pieces, we’ll follow up with a dedicated article or video, deconstructing one of the pieces and explain in detail why we rate it highly. Each of the pieces we recommend will be available to purchase in the King’s Singers Shop, either as a piece of sheet music in its own right, or as part of one of our music collections.

These six pieces we’ve listed below will each develop skill and confidence in some of the most fundamental requirements of choral singing. If ye love me is a perfect introduction to Renaissance Polyphony. Though each part is quite simple in its own right, the challenge of polyphony is to be able to hold your own line while all the other parts are doing something different. Drop, drop slow tears and Dindirin, dindirin are more simple, in that they’re homophonic – all the parts sing the same words at the same time – but they each provide different challenges. In Drop, drop slow tears, performances will tend to slow down as the lines drag and individuals take too long to breathe. Dindirin, dindirin is in a language totally unknown to most of us – a variant of both Old Spanish and Old French – so the task here is to make sure that all the singers are agreed on what sounds they should be making at what time. Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen poses a similar problem, in that it’s in German, but this piece can also slow and the intensity of the text can be lost. Finally, both The Gift to be simple and O my love is like a red, red rose should be pieces where the tune floats effortlessly above the accompaniment. Allowing the important lines to come through so that the audience can hear them is one of the great challenges for vocal ensembles. The homophonic accompaniments in both of these pieces are also great opportunities for choirs to work on matching their vowel sounds: when vowel are truly matched, chords can really ring, which is what we want when we’re performing.


If ye love me Thomas Tallis
Drop, drop, slow tears  Thomas Ravenscroft
Dindirin, dindirin  Anon. 
Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen  Heinrich Isaac
The gift to be simple  Trad. arr. Bob Chilcott
O my love is like a red, red rose  Trad. arr. Simon Carrington



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