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Comment on the use of vocal ensembles in musicals from 1900 to the Present Day

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Choose and comment on vocal ensembles from a range of musicals Vocal ensembles have been used in musicals from the 1900s until the present day. They can help reveal plots, create atmosphere, or provide texture. Vocal ensembles include duets, quintets, and even some chorus numbers. In the 1927 musical, ?Showboat?, the duet, ?Make Believe? charts the interaction between Magnolia and Ravenal. The latter?s aimlessness is shown through his frequently changing harmonies at the end of phrases. Upon setting eyes upon Magnolia, he stops singing and picks up the theme from her piano piece. The waltz style of the piece demonstrates their love at first sight while changing major and minor keys show the couple?s uncertainty as to where the relationship will go. ...read more.


Ensembles can also reveal the characteristics of the people who sing them. This is made evident in ?Fugue for Tinhorns? from ?Guys and Dolls?. The counter-point setting of the piece is perfect to accommodate the three men singing over each other. The fact that this piece is named a fugue is a way of mocking the three tinhorns who believe themselves to be more sophisticated than they are, as the texture is more reminiscent of a children?s round such as ?Three Blind Mice? rather than a Bach style fugue. The music further mocks the three by giving them sophisticated, syncopated music to echo their lack of sophistication. ...read more.


Keys are used symbolically in this piece as the lovers? longing is shown through the use of C minor, and the ensemble ends on a strong, powerful C major, with Maria singing a high C. ?Pretty Woman? is duet sang by Judge Turpin and Sweeney Todd himself and is split into three sections. The first, with a 5/8 meter conveying a sense of uncertainty. The number is about romance however, unlike Turpin, Todd is singing ironically. The second section faces an obvious contrast between Todd?s slow moving melody and the judge?s rapid triplets. The piece finishes with the characteristic four semi-quaver motif, and a contrapuntal texture before the piece ends dramatically, and ?unfinished?. Ensembles are simply an additional way in which composers can integrate music, add interest, and reveal ideas relevant to the plot. ...read more.

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