The study examines different aspects of vocal ensemble practice, and explores the ways in which this practice differs from other classical vocal practices, like solo singing and choir singing. Vocal ensemble practice is described through the eyes and words of the members of the German ensemble, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart. The empirical data upon which this thesis draws consists of a case study of the ensemble, including observations, semi-structured interviews, and participating observations. In addition to this case study of Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, additional studies have been conducted for comparative purposes, including a study with interviews with Rogers Covey-Crump (singer in The Hilliard Ensemble) and John Potter (former singer in The Hilliard Ensemble).
The study shows how ensemble singers, including those of Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, have worked hard to gain credibility as singers in an environment which attributes higher status to solo and operatic singing, and how they balance between working as soloists on one side and ensemble singers on the other. The unspoken hierarchy among singers and those who employ them, in which an opera soloist has higher prestige than, say, a chorister, means that the vocal ensemble singer has to balance between these two. More significantly, these entrenched attitudes to ensemble singing impact on the education of singers, who are encouraged to work towards operatic careers that can only be achieved by a very few, rather than for choral and ensemble singing, which provides a greater number of professional and opportunities for trained singers. This thesis concludes with recommendations for the development of educational practice based on the findings of the study, suggesting that singers of all kinds would benefit greatly from learning the particular skills required for ensemble singing, which are embedded in the distinctive practice it has evolved.
Alone together. Vocal ensemble practice seen through the lens of Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart is available through NMH Brage.