Fergus Black

music teacher and performer


Performing Notes on The Dream of Gerontius


Notes on The Dream of Gerontius by Elgar

I made these exercises for the Boston Choral Society to help the members gain familiarity with the idioms and style of Elgar’s Oratorio. You are welcome to download and copy the pdf for your own choir.

Score Markings

SITS and STANDS – I shall not indicate these to the chorus
You should stand by putting both feet silently on the floor and pressing down.

p.10 on fig 27 STAND
p.23 on fig 41 SIT

p.33 on fig 60 STAND to end of Part One
p.54 on my indication, about 10 seconds after when I lower my arms after the last chord

p.68 on fig. 29 STAND
p.91 at foot of page “get ready to sit”
p.92 on fig.55 SIT
p.94 on fig 59 WOMEN STAND
p.101 on fig.67 MEN STAND
p.147 “get ready to sit” at foot of page
p.148 at start of third bar SIT
(p.155-157 remain seated)
p.163 on fig. 124 altos, tenors and basses STAND to end of Part Two
p.165 on third bar altos SIT
p.168 on fig 131 sops and altos STAND to end of Part Two

p.11 semichorus: don’t explode “K”; soften dot; break before last three notes
p.12 chorus replace piano with mezzoforte; but observe the pianissimo which follows; don’t breathe after first five notes in every part; unless you are singing that rising five-note figure, please recede into background
p.13 altos replace pp with mf in line 2
p.14 semichorus: crescendos as before
all: in line 2, break after ‘eleison’
p.16 all parts DO NOT BREATHE after ‘be merciful”
altos, omit the ‘s’ from the word ‘gracious’ in line 2;
all: detach “Spare him lord” in line 2
sops and altos line 3 make the ‘cious’ of ‘gracious’ a quaver + quaver rest
last bar and following – these phrases rise from mp to f and back again.
tenors and basses from last bar – you are in background
p.18 sops and altos crescendo in third bar
p.19 basses start detaching notes at “by thy” in last bar
p22 alto and bass cresc to mf in bar 2
sop and tenor cresc to mf in line 2 bar 1
p.22 all parts break before the word ‘deliver’ in line 2 last bar; molto rall over last six beats of the page.
p.34 all parts urgently; big “R” and “H”. dynamic is only forte (ff is on p.35)
observe rall and add molto rall in last 3 bars
p.37 sopranos mark first note as C NATURAL
p.38 all parts break after ‘servant’.
p.40 all parts end of page note accel to the piu mosso on p.41
p.43 all parts just before fig 74 add rall.
p.44 chorus note that dim doesn’t start till the fourth beat of the bar each time.
p.45 all parts add molto rall at end of page
p.46 all parts add ‘slower’ at top of page
p.70 all parts line 2, bar 2: note values on ‘gods, gods’ as written
p.71 all parts delete tied quavers in ‘aught, aught, aught’
fig 33 – “stand” is staccato
p.74 all parts tempo will probably steady at fig 35
p.78 all parts line 2 – make ‘Who” a dotted crotchet + quaver rest
put accents on “after ex-“
no breath after ‘expelling’
p.84 all parts delete tied quavers – put ‘T’ on the beat
p84 etc all parts tied “Ha Ha”s are like a cat meowing
non-tied “Ha Ha”s are like a dog barking
p.86 sops and altos at foot of page please write – “The next “Ha Ha” is ON the beat!”
basses there should be a slur on the “Ha Ha” in the last bar (cat)
p.88 all parts faster – one in the bar
p.90 all parts note “Ha Ha”s have a different rhythm
p.91 tenor and bass over-lengthen the ss’s in ‘Dispossessed’ – like Kaa from The Jungle Book
p.95 tenors and basses mark the last bar of the page “DO NOT SING”
sopranos and altos BIG cresc and dim (+ rit) in last bar
p96 etc. all parts there is NEVER a breath after the word “Holiest”
p.96-101 sops and altos watch carefully – the tempo changes frequently
p.100 sops and altos the first four bars of fig 66 are marked Allargando
p.103 sops and basses BIG cresc and dim (+ rit) in last bar
p.113 all parts faster than marked
p.121 all parts fig 83 – pp
p.122 all parts cresc in line 1 to mf; subito piano in line two, second note.
p.124 altos change piano marking to mf
p.126 all parts at fig 88 the tempo will be faster than is usually taken
p.126-136 all parts watch for tempo increases
p.137 all parts the first bar of fig 95 is AT THE SAME TEMPO as the previous bar.
p.137 all parts in 1-in-the-bar at fig 96
p.173 all parts rall in second bar; slower in third bar.
p.177 all parts stagger breathing in final Amen – it is very long.