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. A modulating rising semi-tone creates intensity before at last, in the final line, they sing together.

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Another duet from a similar time period comes from the 1935 folk- opera/musical, ‘Porgy and Bess’ and is entitled, ‘Bess, You is My Woman Now’. In this number, the two confess their love for one another and Bess sings a portion of Porgy’s song, ‘When Gawd Made a Cripple’ showing that she is the answer to his loneliness. Porgy’s demanding octave leaps on ‘You Is’, are offset by the gentle syncopation thus removing the harsh nature. This special duet is characterised by the use of F# major which is heard nowhere else in the musical, demonstrating the pair’s special relationship. ...

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