The Renaissance Repertoire Challenge: Achieving Authentic Choral Performances through the Application of Dalcroze Techniques
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It is challenging for modern choirs to present aesthetically pleasing and historically authentic performances of Renaissance vocal repertoire due to its complex musical language and interpretive demands. Overcoming these obstacles requires thorough research, score study, and most importantly, a rehearsal approach that elicits engaged, confident, and nuanced responses from the choir. The Jaques-Dalcroze Method, an approach to music education developed by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1950), emphasizes the harmony of mental and physical processes in the learner. Through an applied research study with fifteen university students and a conductor (participant-researcher), this study examines the effectiveness and suitability of the Dalcroze approach to the singing of music from the Renaissance era within a choral context. Over the course of nine sessions, participants performed physical exercises to embody the musical language of the Renaissance and integrated their discoveries into the singing of Josquin des Prez’ Ave Maria…virgo serena. They recorded journal entries after each session and completed exit interviews at the conclusion of the study. Findings suggest that exercises rooted in Dalcroze principles not only improve choir members’ overall rhythmic acuity, aural perception, individual and cooperative interpretive decision-making, and musical unity, but also awaken curiosity, enhance enjoyment, and establish grounding in the musical language of Renaissance repertoire. The goal of this project is to provide conductors with a practical “toolkit” and a pedagogical method that empowers their ensembles to produce thoughtful, imaginative, and engaging performances of Renaissance vocal music rooted in historical practice.