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In Practice: New York Polyphony

06.20.12
New York Polyphony
npr

By Tom Huizenga

WATCH HERE

New York Polyphony, a four-man vocal ensemble, sings ancient music built for big spaces. But cathedrals aren't easy to come by for every practice session. That's when the group falls back on a modest-sized living room, where they can hear every detail of their voices.

The four-man vocal ensemble New York Polyphony sings ancient music built for big resonant spaces. Since they can't just pop into St. Patrick's Cathedral any time they need to practice a renaissance mass, the group rehearses sometimes in the Jackson Heights home of bass singer Craig Phillips. There, in a modest-sized living room, they can hear every detail. "It's a very different experience rehearsing in a dry room and a small room," says tenor Geoffrey Silver. "You actually hear what you and your colleagues are singing, there's no watercolor wash over what you are doing."

When they practice, the band governs their voices — alto, tenor, baritone and bass — like a string quartet. They are four separate instruments working together, striving for a rich blend and uniformity when singing the vowels. "It's a very organic experience," Phillips says.