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LoveChoir App (tested here on an iPad) is designed in muted yellow hues, with friendly, inclusive caricatures by way of illustration. The home page offers an uncluttered menu introducing the navigational structure of the App, with text-based sections on the choral tradition, an ethnographic look at singing around the world, genres of choir, the physiology of the human voice and top repertoire recommendations (with links to the Naxos recordings catalogue, from which the music examples used in the App are derived); in these sections, hotlinks bring up explanatory boxes and play sound files by way of illustration.

Topics with more involved interactivity include ‘Warm-Up’, with pre-singing exercises and vocalised warm-ups available in short score, with full audio demonstration or piano accompaniment-only options. Apart from its use for private study, linked to an amplifier, the ‘Warm-Up’ section could easily be used by a cappella conductors who rehearse without a pianist. ‘Reading Music’’s examination of the basics of musical language covers pitch, texture, rhythm, and expression, using text, audio tracks and staff notation; an innovative and extremely useful chapter on ‘Marking up Scores’ draws on examples from Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and Mozart’s Mass in C minor; ‘Helpful Hints’ is made up of sections giving sound advice on ‘Concentration and Attentiveness’, and how to avoid ‘Banana Skins’ such as failing to notice ‘DC’ or ‘DS’!

A comprehensive ‘Pronunciation Guide’ is offered, with hot-linked audio examples on a word-for-word basis, in German, French, Italian, Russian and Latin: here, for future releases of the App, I would recommend concluding each language section with an audio example of an art-song or aria/chorus linked to its score, so that users can gain an overall impression of the language as it is actually sung: monoglot choral singers are often scared to death of foreign languages…

The editors have chosen four popular repertoire works for in-depth examination: Fauré’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Tallis’s Spem in alium. These works are provided in complete audio versions with programme notes and an accompanying vocal score: here, the App imposes a useful discipline – while the visual score is synchronised (and can be interrogated) by individual number, within each movement the user has to follow the score and ‘turn the pages’, but a tab will jump to the correct score point if you get lost. The Tallis score is broken down into parts for each of its eight choirs – there is a good chance that the inclusion of Spem in alium in the App could help open this glorious work up to more amateur choirs. This ‘Repertoire’ section alone is worth the purchase price: it is an obvious area for expansion in future iterations of the App, should sales encourage Naxos to go on developing it.

Permanent drop-down tabs in the navigation give immediate access to a glossary, a pitch generator and a metronome with audio and/or flashing light options. Two minor quibbles: in a momentary editorial lapse, the writers refer to the use of anglicised Latin pronunciation in ‘England’ – I can assure them that this practice is also prevalent in Scotland, Ireland and Wales; and in the technical tip on ‘Watching’ I would have been even firmer and added a paragraph on the benefits of singing from memory. Those chips off the mahogany aside, this thoroughly practical App represents outstanding value for money – it can be enthusiastically recommended to novices and seasoned choral singers alike.

GRAEME KAY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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