16 March, 2015

In this issue:
· Replies to my Musings on Pronunciation

· Article on St. Martin’s concert “Beat! Beat! Drums!”

· This Week at St. Andrew’s


My musing on the evolution of pronunciation elicited many interesting replies. Apparently there are a LOT of pet-peeves (or good laughs) out there in this sphere! Here are excerpts of a few of them:

A light-hearted one from Dick E.:

Sean Connery pronounces “str” “shtr,” so either the world is getting increasingly Scottish, or just more like James Bond.
From Devin N.:

Back when I lived in Hawaii (’95-2000), I would often hear a word like “street” pronounced with an sh- sound, so I assumed it was part of a local Hawaiian accent. I wonder if it’s been spreading since then . . .

Bob K. (a Californian by birth) posited that perhaps the “shtr”- originated in Texas, not California, as he knows several Texans with this trait.

Misty D. writes, saying she always corrects her children when they don’t articulate the “h” in a word like “why”:

I’ve been known to say that I would rather hear my children cuss than use poor grammar or pronunciation.

[Me: This reminded me of how my dad couldn’t stand it when us kids would say “ta-day” instead of “too-day.”]

Patty A:

What drives me wild here in middle-school-land is dropping a “t” if it falls in the middle of a word, substituting a glottal stop: “New-*glottal stop*-uhn” instead of “Newton” with a t, or at least the t is elided into the ending if it’s not spoken crisply.

[Me: I’ll add that I’ve often observed, in lazy-American-speech, that the difference between “can” and “can’t” is that you pronounce the “n” in “can” but not in “can’t,” where a glottal stop replaces the “n’t”]

Alan L.:

I’d add another “defect” to the list, one I initially associated with southeastern Pennsylvania, as the first practitioner of whom I became aware was from there, but I now find that it is alarmingly rampant. Namely, the loss of the dental quality of an internal letter “l” followed by a “d,” rendering, say, “building” into “biowding.” Having noticed it, I find it enormously annoying…naturally!

Christina L. complains of people at her church using a short ‘a’ (as in hat) in the word “Hallelujah.”

And finally, one from a “professional” in the pronunciation field, as Jim H. works at a place called “Talking Books,” which trains its readers in elocution, etc. After agreeing with me on my two points, followed by an enlightening discussion of the sound “ng”, he went on to say that, in using diacritical symbols with his newly hired employees, he has noticed something very odd in vowels:

At the very beginning of the lesson when I ask them to write ‘sing’ in diacriticals, this is where I am noticing something interesting about pronunciation. When the first person did this, I just ruled it the mistake of someone who is not used to listening carefully to the sounds of language. But then another student did it, and another.. .so that I would say about 70% of my students make the following mistake: they render ‘sing’ as the following: seeng (with a long i), and ‘thank’ as ‘thaink’ (long a, as in pale).

Finally, I’ll add an observation that is sure to elicit disagreements! I’ve always been of a mind that, when we sing, it is like poetic speech, and therefore our pronunciation should reflect the care with which poets craft their poems. Hence, when people say “we actually pronounce the word (for instance) ‘hasten’ with a schwa at the end (hay-son), so that’s the way we should sing it,” I roar in protest, because it’s like replicating sloppy speech in our music. Therefore, I ask my choirs to sing ‘hay-senn.’* The above theoretical person might reply, “That’s making it too precious, and we alienate our listeners with such affectation.” I further rejoin, “But if we replicate lazy speech patterns in song, we in effect legitimize them, and therefore (especially in an educational setting – school and university choirs) abdicate an important role of setting a good example by doing things correctly and with finesse. Now, I can understand loosening this rigor in something like a folk song or spiritual, where such niceties smack of inauthenticity, given the source of the music; but if we’re singing a piece of art music, let’s make it sound like art and not slang. Ok, I’m ready for the counter-arguments! J

*I think this applies in German as well, where the prevailing school of thought on words ending in ‘–en’ are pronounced with a schwa, as this is how they are spoken in modern Germany (so, “Augen” is rendered “ow-guhn”). Again, I protest and say this reflects a deterioration of speech (perhaps even as a result of the globalization of American culture and our general lack of sophistication, and even outright sloppiness as a nation when it comes to language, culture, history, etc.), rather than an upholding of standards that are good and reflect attention to detail, not to mention beauty and correctness.

Thanks to all who replied to my initial musing!


Marc Shulgold, whom many of you will fondly remember as the music critic for the Rocky Mountain News back when it existed as Denver’s other newspaper, interviewed me recently to write a preview article about SMCC’s upcoming Civil War Anniversary concert, “Beat! Beat! Drums!” for Scen3 (an SCFD*-group dedicated to mutual promotion of Tier III organizations [like St. Martin’s Chamber Choir]) Here’s a link to his article, in place of my adding anything more this week:


*Scientific and Cultural Facilities District – vote YES on reauthorization in 2016! J


Evensong this Thursday, 5:45pm, is the Feast of St. Joseph, Mary’s wife and “foster-” father of Jesus (I’ve always wondered why this feast falls on March 19, which is always in Lent…). Here’s the music I’ve planned, for a vocal quartet with Tamara Schmiege as our guest organist:

March 19, 2015, 5:45; Choral Evensong: St. Joseph

Preces & Responses: Richard Ayleward (1626-1669)

Canticle of Light: Te Joseph celebrant by José Maurício Nuñes Garcia (1767-1830)

Psalm: 89 (plainchant)

Service: Charles Wood (1866-1926) in E minor

Anthem: Oy Joseph by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)

Office Hymn: 260 Tallis’ Ordinal

•Nuñes-Garcia has a rather interesting history – born in Rio de Janeiro to parents of different races (he is referred to as a ‘mulatto’ in Wikipedia, which I suppose I thought was a rather derogatory term, but apparently not), he was appointed composer to the Royal Chapel there (Brazil being a colony of Portugal at the time). Most of his music is accompanied by orchestra, but this one is a simple, rather winsome hymn-like setting of a text for the Feast of St. Joseph. • The Guerrero piece is a lovely syncopated Spanish Villancico. • Wood in E minor is a simple setting of the Mag and Nunc that I thought was rather appropriate for Lent, even though St. Joseph would seem a rather festive occasion, given the saint’s close association with Jesus.

Sunday is the last “regular” Sunday in Lent, as it precedes Palm Sunday. Here’s the music I’ve chosen:

March 22, 2015, 9:00am & 11:00am; Lent 5

Great Litany

Sequence: Healey Willan (1880-1968)

Anthem: “The Sacrifice of God” by Maurice Greene (c.1695-1755)

¯Fraction Anthem: Qui manducavit by Felice Anerio (c. 1560-1614)

Communion Motet: “Lord, for thy tender mercy’s sake” by Richard Farrant (d. 1581) (or possibly John Hilton [d. 1608])

Hymns: *337 (Unde et memores), 170 (The Third Tune), 158 (Herzliebster Jesu)

We reprise the Great Litany this Sunday (the long breast-beating procession, with plainchant response harmonizations by Steve Kick). Another anthem by Greene, and one of the ever-popular trio of Lenten works by Farrant (though this one could be by John Hilton, another Tudor-era composer), fill out this last Sunday before Holy Week, when there is a service – sometimes multiple services – every day. Next week’s Weekly will contain a list of the music at every service. It is a marathon for the choir (as well as congregation, if they come to every service), but it contains some of the most moving and poignant music in the entire church year, and, even if you’re not particularly religious in a traditional sense, attending one or two might be a spiritually edifying experience. Know you’re welcome at St. Andrew’s whatever your spirituality/faith/or lack thereof.

That’s it for this week!


Posted in Musical Weekly.