Come hear the Dessoff Chamber Choir on tour with Ray Davies
performing The Kinks Choral Collection

Dessoff blew the roof off New York’s Town Hall and the Late Show with David Letterman the last time rock legend Ray Davies was in town; this year, we’re taking it on the road!

The Dessoff Chamber Choir backing up Ray Davies at Town Hall in 2010. (Victoria)


Tickets for Montclair and Boston are on sale now. Those for the Beacon go on sale this Saturday, September 17th, at 10:00 am. Philly, a week after that.


FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18 8:00 pm     On sale now!
The Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ
Tickets: $40, $60, $80

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19  8:00 pm  (Sales begin 10 am, Saturday, September 24)
Temple Performing Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA
Tickets: $55                    

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20  7:30 pm   Sales begin 10 am, Saturday, September 17)
The Beacon Theatre, New York, NY
Tickets: $49.59-$114.50  

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 23  8:00 pm   On sale now!
The Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA
Tickets: $66.15, $89.15…

In support of his latest album, See My Friends, Kinks front man Ray Davies plays a four-night East Coast tour, live with full chorus. Best known as the lead singer and songwriter for the classic British rock band, Davies’ 50-year career has yielded some of the most iconic rock songs in history. Performing solo, since the demise of The Kinks in 1996, he counts five albums of his own and receives numerous awards for his talent.

Bill Shanley on guitar, Dick Nolan on bass, Damon Wilson on drums, Ian Gibbons and Gunnar Frick on keyboards, and The Dessoff Chamber Choir join Ray for an unforgettable show.

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Earlier today, I virtually ran into the husband of one of my choir buddies. Virtually, like on Twitter.

Adding to the amusement, check out the similarity between his (2007) Twitter profile picture and my (2001) Drew web page (sadly in need of an update, I know) picture:

Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 22.51.42

Briefly, it went like this: I happen to follow Ivan Oransky (of Retraction Watch) on Twitter. Ivan, good scientist that he is, always cites his sources, and his source for this tweet today was David Berreby of, with whose wife I sing in The Dessoff Choirs.

Small world, or big Twitter.

Come hear the wonderful music (Bernstein, Dove, Ives, Walker, Brahms, Jameson, Górecki, Barber, and Conte) Dessoff is preparing for its next concert. Or come to our Gala fundraiser. Or both.

One Response to “Virtually, Like on Twitter”

  1. David Berreby Says:

    Best of all … that photo of me was taken by your alto friend, my lovely wife. Nice crossing paths with you.

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Someone points out a typo to me. I wonder why the typo was made. I learn a bunch of cool stuff. It’s one of my favorite story lines, and here’s today’s episode. [Related post on “Why not?”]

Readers will know that as The Dessoff Choirs’ self-appointed language guru, I routinely prepare IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) transliterations of upcoming concert music. [see Graphemes to Phonemes Made Easy]

Over the years, I’ve learned I can count on certain fellow singers, especially alto section leader Lisa Madsen, to scrutinize my work. Recently, Lisa noticed a small discrepancy between a word (and) in my transliteration and the corresponding word (an) in our printed score.

Georg Friedrich Daumer’s poem “Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel” 

da tat es ihm, dem Glücklichen, nicht an, which should have been nicht and.

Johannes Brahms’s Liebeslieder waltz, Opus 52, #6


S. verifies that and is correct according to several authoritative sources.

S. looks up and fails to find and in several German dictionaries.

S. hypothesizes that and is a poetic substitution for an for rhyme’s sake (cf., antun, to harm).

S. (AKA Area Man) poses this hypothesis at [see Appendix A]

While drafting his WordReference post, B. (S.’s brother) phones S. and asks “What are you doing?”

S. explains.

B. offers to ask G. (B.’s friend, an erudite scholar of German) S.’s question, which offer S. accepts.

S. shortly receives an informative answer [see Appendix B] from WordReference user and native German speaker Demiurg.

Subsequently, S. receives an even more informative answer [see Appendix C] from G.



One of Johannes Brahms’s Liebeslieder-Walzer (1865) contains this stanza from a poem by Georg Friedrich Daumer (1800-1875):

Der Vogel kam
in eine schöne Hand,
da tat es ihm,
dem Glücklichen, nicht and.

Is the final word and a poetic alteration of an (separated from antun) to make the rhyme with Hand? If not, what is it?

Also, how might this come across to a present-day native German speaker (in the context of a sung poem, where a rhyme is expected)?


It’s a dated form (=> and). "Es tat ihm nicht and" means "es tat ihm nicht leid".

However, it’s still used in the East Franconian dialect:

    and tun, es tut mir and

    Aussprache: des dud mer and
    Bedeutung: "es tut mir leid" oder "ich habe Sehnsucht danach"
    Satzbeispiel: Noach mein Vauweh is mer heind no and
    (aus Wassertrüdingen, Landkreis Ansbach)
    "Ich denke heute noch mit Wehmut an meinen VW-Käfer"
    Herkunft: mittelhochdeutsch ant "schmerzlich"
    aus althochdeutsch anan "atmen, seufzen" (vgl. deutsch ahnen)




"Da tat es ihm nicht and".

"and tun" in Eastern Frankish dialect (dialect geographically prevalent in Southern Germany- its eastern border was near Nuernberg, where Georg Friedrich Daumer was born and lived) is/was used to express "to be hurtful" "to cause pain". It is also used in Middle High German. Today you would use: "Da tat es ihm nichts an."

"Da tat es ihm nicht and" could therefore be translated as: it didn’t cause him any pain.
I.e: the fact that the bird flew on his lady’s hand did not bother him all that much – no competition for his affection.

Another reason Georg Friedrich Daumer used this archaic and/or dialect expression is that he studied and used Arabic and Persian rhyme schemes during certain periods in his creative life, which were much stricter about perfect rhyme endings than was customary in Germany poetry – other than during the German classical period.

I hope I could help you out.



Yes, G., you could and did help me out. Thanks.

One Response to “Typo Story [Pilot Episode]”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Wow! Great explanation, thanks a lot!
    I’m a native German speaker, not from Franconia, however. Coming across the poem while rehearsing Brahms songs in choir, I had a hard time finding out about the meaning of the word “and”. Luckily, you as a non-native speaker provided me with the solution!

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275_Colin-Davis-and-the-805552Sir Colin Davis led the New York Philharmonic Saturday evening in performances of Beethoven’s Symphony #2 and Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, with soprano Dorothea Röschmann and tenor Ian Bostrich.

Beethoven’s Second is one of my favorites. Essential Beethoven, it dances and laughs like #7, it sings like #6, it marches like #5, yet without excess, ever elegant and confident. Sir Colin conducted, as he does, calmly, precisely, and without grandstanding, and the performance was delightful.

There’s no agreed-upon set and sequence for Mahler’s Wunderhorn songs, and they don’t comprise an integral song cycle or symphony. Nevertheless, Sir Colin and the Philharmonic made a good case for the choices and order they made.

During the Mahler, I was focused on the voices, so I have little to say about the orchestra beyond that they sounded fine, and perhaps they were outstanding.

media3e6745ff66dd9Tenor Ian Bostrich, although physically engaged with the songs, didn’t have enough vocal power. In his middle and lower registers, he was barely audible. The orchestra was holding back a bit, it seemed, and it didn’t help that Bostrich tended to project his voice down, not forward, something a man of his considerable height might be accustomed to doing in conversation. What I could hear was beautiful, and I’d like to hear him again, but in a recital and in a smaller hall.

As for Dorothea Röschmann’s soprano, there was nothing to criticize and everything to praise. She commanded sheer power, never harsh, and she delivered pure pianissimos, never unfocused, throughout her ample vocal range, each as the songs demanded, and she demonstrated flexibility as she shifted nimbly from one Wunderhorn “mood” to another.

Lob des hohen Verstandes (In praise of high intellect) is funny and sarcastic. (Synopsis: a donkey, because of his large ears, is chosen to judge a singing competition between a cuckoo and a nightingale. The cuckoo wins.) Here, Röschmann made an ass of herself in the best possible way, and she sang as beautifully as any nightingale has ever done. Das irdische Leben (The earthly life) is tragic. (Synopsis: Starving, crying child dies before the corn can be harvested and baked into bread.) Röschmann was haunting. In the peasant love ditty Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht (Who thought up this little song?), the long, florid phrases spun forth like silver.

Run, don’t walk, to the Carnegie Hall box office for tickets to hear Röschmann sing Handel’s V’adoro, pupille and more in an April 3, 2011 recital with David Daniels.

Neither of last night’s works features a large orchestra, and the Philharmonic performed without several of its principals. Among the missing were Glenn Dicterow, Carter Brey, and Robert Langevin. Incidentally or not (and probably no fault of Sir Colin’s), the Philharmonic was not in top form. Some sections were as stunning as ever — the woodwinds, flutes in particular, were in fine form (save for the horns, who needlessly reminded us how difficult they are to play in tune), and the percussion were as well. As an ensemble, however, the orchestra wasn’t as tight as it can be.

Orchestral failings aside, Davis is, and was last night, a servant to music. This is the guy who can — no easy task — give us Berlioz without overdoing the grandiosity and sentimentality. It dawned on me hours after the concert that nothing seemed too fast or too slow. I don’t remember the last time I concurred with an entire concert’s-worth of tempos. As one critic said half a century ago, Colin Davis was the best English conductor since Sir Thomas Beecham, and it’s not clear England has yet produced his successor. It was a pleasure to watch him, still spry at the age of 83. May he treat us for many more years.

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Last night, as a few of us not backing up Ray Davies in Philadelphia gathered for dinner in Hoboken, I spotted this holiday mispostrophe (ssp. dyspostrophe).


It probably wasn’t intentional on Trader Joe’s’s part, but the mispostrophe distracted me from the numbers on the box — especially 24 and 50. But only briefly; the pressing question quickly loomed.

If 24 Milk Chocolates weigh 50 grams altogether, aren’t they too small?

The appropriate comparison was obvious: M&M’s®. Little did I suspect it would be something of a challenge to find out the true weight of one regular M&M.

Disregarding outliers like “I think it is about 15g; 15 grams is perhaps the answer,” answers on the web (to the question of an M&M’s weight) generally fell into two camps. There was a handful of a-bit-less-than-a-gram answers, like “There are about 500 Plain M&M’s per pound,” and there was also a handful of around-2-grams answers, like “After an experiment, of weighing M&M’s, here were the results. 1) 2.208 g 2) 1.882 g 3) 1.904 g 4) 2.438 g.”

After considerable “research,” but no direct measurement, I’m swayed, not by any attestations of milligram precision, but by the preponderance of evidence [and 1] that one regular M&M weighs a bit less than a gram. Which conclusion is consistent with my personal experiences as a candy sorter (when I can find an uncluttered flat surface, which isn’t very often).

From the web’s many M&M Q&A (or should I say Q&“A”?) a few examples:

  • Q: What is the weight of one M-and-M candy? [link]
    A: I think it is about 15g; 15 grams is perhaps the answer
  • Q: How much does an M and M weigh? [link]
    A: When we counted the number of M&M’s in a 12.6oz bag, we got 404, which means there are 32.06 M&M’s/oz, which means that each M&M weighs 1.13 grams. [SK: If you divide backwardsly, perhaps. Otherwise, each M&M weighs (on average) about 0.88 grams.]
  • Q: How many m&m’s do you reckon are in 7oz? I’m ordering custom m&ms, and they come in 7oz bags. I need about 1000 m&ms, total. how many bags should I order? [link]
    A1: [Best Answer] 10 bags, maybe around 75 or 100 in each bag. [SK: Better safe than sorry.]
    A2: 2 or 3.
  • Q: How much does a single plain m&m weigh? [link]
    A: After an experiment, of weighing M&M’s, here were the results. 1) 2.208 g 2) 1.882 g 3) 1.904 g 4) 2.438 g.

As for the pressing question, I’ll cautiously answer it “No” and hope Toby and Theo agree. Two or three M&M’s-worth of chocolate every day for most of a month — for those endless days, those sacred days, believe me — is not so bad. Despite anyone’s opinion that one serving of M&Ms comprises 208 grams (and 1023 calories).

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There is still no good answer to the question “Why can’t we walk straight?”, observed Robert Krulwich’s recorded voice at a recent live taping for Radiolab at The Greene Space. Robert’s observation ressounded¹ today on the “NPR sciencey blog” Krulwich Wonders.

For 80 years, scientists have been trying to explain this tendency to turn when you think you are going straight. … Try as they might, and they’re still trying these experiments, nobody has figured out why we can’t go straight.

When I was a kid, Someone thought they’d figured it out. One’s dominant leg took longer strides, They taught me. I also learned, or maybe inferred, that I should find a leftie to walk with me should I ever need to cross a desert in the fog, at night, or while blindfolded.

But hearing Robert talk about this twice in as many weeks, I realized that They’d been wrong, and that crossing a desert in the fog was not a challenge I’d be ready to meet. (Also, I only then realized that a leftie might not be handy when the challenge arose, anyway.)

Ignoring my sudden and deepening nonplus, I focused on the question. Analogy time.² Robert’s headlineworthy version of the question is an oversimplification of the quandary, but I’ll notwithstand that fact for now.

Why can’t we fly? (Some animals can.) Because we don’t have small bodies, hollow bones, and wings (like some flying-capable animals do); nor do we have really tiny invertebrate bodies and wings (like some other flying-capable animals do).

Why can’t we hear high-pitched sounds? (Some animals can.) Because human ears (unlike the ears of the animals that can) aren’t physically able to convert high-pitched sounds into nerve impulses.

Great_Barrier_Island_Pigeon-Gram_stamp_1899 So why can’t we maintain our direction over long distances without a visual point of reference? (Some animals, especially flying-capable ones, can.) Because (unlike those animals) humans never underwent any evolutionary pressure to develop a mechanism to do so?

Robert mentioned one of the trying scientists by name: Jan Sousman. Jan’s article, Walking Straight into Circles, recently appeared in the journal Current Biology (a cornucopia of articles at the titles of which biologists surely titter: Olfaction: When Nostrils Compete; Metastasis: Alone or Together?; Addiction: Flies Hit the Skids; Flagella and Cilia: The Long and the Short of It; and Melanocyte Production: Dark Side of the Schwann Cell).

Jan and his coauthors wrote a wonderful paper. Among many beautiful sentences and figures, they report that their subjects’ “walking trajectories show exactly the kind of behavior that would be expected if the subjective sense of straight ahead were to follow a correlated random walk.” They also mention J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to point out that the belief “that people who get lost end up walking in circles is widespread.”

So “because we can’t” isn’t really such a good answer. Our proprioception (that sixth sense that allows us to touch our noses in the dark when we haven’t had too much to drink) does provide a subjective sense of straight ahead. However, it isn’t very reliable for very far or for very long.`

¹ I initially wrote reappeared, which on rereading, sounded (or more sensibly, looked) wrong, because Robert’s voice never appeared (as in became visible to the eye) in the first place. Unable to solve the Miller Analogy SEE : REAPPEAR :: HEAR: with an existing word, I had to invent the perfect answer: res̈ound (which should appear as the word resound with an umlaut/trema/diaeresis over the s). This answer is in fact all the more perfect (not to mention very unique) for having been invented by a “greater New Yorker.” Unfortunately, as much as I like the idea of using ¨ to estop a preceding prefix from losing its strict meaning, it fails in practical terms. Very few consonants appear in Unicode preëquipped with the dots, and Unicode’s zero-width combining diaeresis, the solution in theory, is unworkably fussy.

² Yay!

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My favorite book is Peter Lagefoged’s Vowels and Consonants, which is fitting for The Dessoff Choirs’ (self-appointed) pronunciation guru. As part of that job, I prepare International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transliterations of our concert music, at least when we’re singing in a language I know something about. It’s a tedious task, but lately less so, thanks to the workflow system I recently cobbled together for our November concert of French choral music.

Goal: a database of French words and their IPA pronunciations.
French is largely phonetic, so at first I considered creating a rule-based system to construct words’ approximate transliterations. The prospect became more and more complicated to imagine, and this led me to look for a downloadable lexicon that already included IPA (either the output of someone else’s rule-based system or the result of digitizing an existing dictionary).

Dictionaries aplenty, most of them too “user-friendly.”
There’s no shortage of good online dictionaries, but the ones I looked at were distinctly unhelpful. Only some of them contain IPA, first of all, and to begin with, most of them are accessible only through a type-and-click web interface. It might have been possible to automate the web interaction and turn my source texts into a sequence of HTTP requests, but my programming skills in that area are badly dated. Back when the web was a collection of static HTML pages, I’d jury rig something with wget and sed. Nowadays, the web is sophisticated. You don’t just go to a URL and get back a plain HTML document or file. A lot of what appears in your browser window requires client-side execution of Javascript or similar nonsense. Forget about using wget in such situations. (Similar situations have frustrated me before. Someone will have kindly assembled just the data I need, and will have kindly made it available, but only via a browser form for single-item retrieval.)

Third download’s a charm.
Eventually, I found some hopeful downloads. The first two, a file for OpenOffice spellcheck, and a dictionary for WinEDT, didn’t fit the bill, but the third, Ralf’s French dictionary, did. I don’t know who Ralf is, nor do I know who’s behind the testing simon blog, where Google Search led me to discover Ralf’s dictionary. (Simon is apparently a speech recognition system, which explains the connection to dictionaries with IPA.) Ralf’s dictionary contains hundreds of thousands of French words (lexemes) with their textual representations (graphemes, like you’re reading here) and IPA equivalents (phonemes).

Ralf’s dictionary is not a dictionary.
For nearly 25 years, my go-to dictionary for French pronunciation has been a 1980 Hachette. It provides IPA for each of its over 50,000 entries. But like most dictionaries, well, it’s a dictionary, not a lexicon. It’s full of definitions — and that’s the point. “Ralf’s dictionary” is a lexicon that happily includes IPA. The big difference for me, today, is that a complete lexicon like Ralf’s contains all the words people utter (or sing), many of which (especially verbs in the case of French) are not dictionary “words,” but are inflected forms of dictionary words. You can find parler in Hachette (on page 1137), right between parlementer and parleur, and you can find it in Ralf’s (at position 259506), also between parlementer and parleur, but in Ralf’s, it’s not right between. After parlementer and before parler in Ralf’s you’ll find (though turning data pages creates no wonderful musty book smell) parlementera, parlementerai, parlementeraient, …, parlements, parlementâmes, …, parlementé, parlementée, and parlementées. And all with IPA.

Ok, so dussé is missing. But eut is not.
For years, I was never quite sure how to pronounce some inflected verb forms in French. Was the pronunciation of eut (not an entry in Hachette) the same as for eu (which is listed), or does it rhyme with peut? Not that I have occasion to speak eut often, but I’ve had occasion to sing it (in d’Indy’s delightful Madrigal, for example, which Dessoff will be singing in a choral arrangement this November). Sure, I could have asked someone, but that would mean having to ask someone. According to Ralf, the answer is yes. Both eut and eu are pronounced [y]. Ralf could be wrong (he often is — I’ll get to that later, though he doesn’t appear to be in this case), but the pronunciation of eut is a valuable fact, and he recognizes that.

Click here to see YouTube’s divoboy perform d’Indy’s Madrigal (with outstanding French diction save for the incorrect pronunciation of eut, because it probably wasn’t in his dictionary).

One of the weirder French verb forms I do know how to pronounce is dussé, as in “Je vais faire cela, dussé-je le regretter ensuite.” By itself, dussé isn’t really a word, but when dusse (the first person imperfect subjunctive form of devoir) and various other verb forms ending in a mute e appear in inversion with its pronomial subject, the spelling changes: e becomes é. Despite the accent aigu, however, dussé-je is pronounced [dusɛʒ], not [duseʒ]. For better or for worse, by the way, the days of dussé-je may be numbered. In its controversial 1990 “rectifications,” France’s Superior Council of the French Language (only in France, you may think, but also in Belgium and Canada) declared the correct spelling to henceforth be dussè-je. That makes a lot of sense, but of course this is the organization that in the same proclamation tried to change the official spelling of oignon to ognon. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over very well, so we’ll see if dussè-je sticks. You can read more about dussé-je/dussè-je here, which is where I copped the sample sentence above.

Ok, I’ll say it: XML is not evil.
Ralf’s dictionary is an XML file. I’ll admit it, I’ve got issues with XML, or more specifically with people who think XML is a database format, but Ralf used it wisely, as a self-documenting container for data exchange. CSV would have been fine, too, but XML was a better idea here, because the Unicode characters that represent IPA don’t always survive being shuttled around in less standardized text files.

Import time.
Each lexeme in Ralf’s dictionary was associated with a phoneme (the IPA I wanted), a grapheme (the lexeme written down) and sometimes a role (abbreviation, letter, name, or verb). The IPA in Ralf’s dictionary was for speech, and I ultimated needed slightly different pronunciations for singing, so I imported Ralf’s data into a table with an extra phoneme column that contained the changes I wanted.

My database platform of choice, as always, is Microsoft SQL Server. With a lot more trial and error than I’d have needed to import from CSV or various other formats, I finally managed to make XQuery happy. Here’s my import query.

WITH Imported(Item,Role,Grapheme,Phoneme) AS (
    T1.lexeme.value('./@role','nvarchar(100)') as Role,
    T1.lexeme.value('grapheme[1]','nvarchar(100)') as Grapheme,
    T1.lexeme.value('phoneme[1]','nvarchar(100)') as Phoneme
  CROSS APPLY x.nodes('/lexicon/lexeme') AS T1(lexeme)
    as Phoneme2
  FROM Imported;

Replacing graphemes with phonemes.

The source texts I had were just that — texts, text strings. In order to use the table FrenchIPA, I had to identify the individual words in my texts. While in theory, that’s harder than writing the right XQuery for import, it’s something I’ve done a gazillion times and helped other people do a gazillion times. One version of a query for this has been on my Drew web page for years. Cobble, cobble, cobble, and out comes this clumsy, kludgy, clunky, but effective query I used to make a first pass at word-for-word transliteration (replacing each word in the input string variable @txt with its associated phoneme).

with Puncts(n1,n2) as (
    n as n1,
    (select min(n) from Nums as N2
     where N2.n <= len(@txt) and N2.n >= N1.n
     and substring(@txt,N2.n,1) not like '%[a-z]%' collate Latin1_General_CI_AS
    ) as n2
  from dbo.Nums as N1
  where n <= len(@txt)
), Wds(st,fn,w) as (
    min(n1), n2,
    substring(@txt,min(n1),n2-min(n1)) as wd
  from Puncts
  group by n2
), Reps(i,st,fn,w,Grapheme,IPA) as (
  select row_number() over (order by st desc), st, fn, w, Grapheme, P2
  from Wds join FrenchIPA
  on lower(w) = Grapheme
), Result(i,r) as (
  select cast(0 as bigint),@txt
  union all
    Reps.i, stuff(r,st,fn-st,IPA)
  from Reps join Result
  on Reps.i = Result.i+1
  select top 1 '['+replace(replace(r,' ','   '),'
[')+']' from Result order by i desc
  option (MAXRECURSION 1000);

The most kludgy part is the recursive query that replaces one word at a time with IPA. If anyone is curious about how this works, ask me.

Cleaning up the result.

This doesn’t produce the final transliteration, by any means, but it’s darn close. Here’s what it yields for d’Indy’s Madrigal (and which example allows me to type the word with two apostrophes yet again).

[Note: I see garbage below in Chrome; IE is ok. And unfortunately, some combination of WordPress, MySQL, Windows Live Writer, and HTML disagrees with Unicode’s combining diacritical characters, so you’ll see meandering tildes.]

[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   də   ply   ʃaɾmɑ̃   vizaʒ,]
[də   kɔl   ply   blɑ̃,   də   ʃəvœ   ply   swajœ;]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   də   ply   ʒɑ̃ti   koɾsaʒ,]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   kə   ma   dam   ɔ   du   iœ!]
[ki   ʒamɛ   y   lɛvɾ   ply   suɾiɑ̃t,]
[ki   suɾiɑ̃   ɾɑ̃di   kœɾ   ply   ʒwajœ,]
[ply   ʃast   sɛ̃   su   gimp   tɾɑ̃spaɾɑ̃t,]
[ki   ʒamɛ   y   kə   ma   dam   ɔ   du   iœ!]
[ki   ʒamɛ   y   vwa   de'œ̃   ply   du   ɑ̃tɑ̃dɾ,]
[miɲɔn   dɑ̃   ki   buʃ   ɑ̃pɛɾl   mjœ;]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   də   ɾəgaɾde   si   tɑ̃dɾ,]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   kə   ma   dam   ɔ   du   iœ!]

All that’s left is touchup, mainly.

1. Add schwas for syllables that are silent in speech, but not in song. (Spoken, Frères Jacques has two syllables; sung, it has four.)

2. Fix some mistakes in Ralf’s dictionary, like his having gotten œ and ø backwards most everywhere. (It’s debatable whether a distinction really exists anyway.)

3. Indicate where there are liaisons (and check against the music to avoid marking them across rests).

After not much additional work, this is what I got:

[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   də   ply   ʃaɾmɑ̃   vizaʒə]
[də   kɔl   ply   blɑ̃,   də   ʃəvø   ply   swajø]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   də   ply   ʒɑ̃ti   koɾsaʒə]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   kə   ma   dam‿o   duz‿jø]

[ki   ʒamɛz‿y   lɛvɾə   ply   suɾiɑ̃tə]
[ki   suɾiɑ̃   ɾɑ̃di   kœɾ   ply   ʒwajø]
[ply   ʃastə   sɛ̃   su   gɛ̃pə   tɾɑ̃spaɾɑ̃tə]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   kə   ma   dam‿o   duz‿jø]

[ki   ʒamɛz‿y   vwa   dœ̃   ply   duz‿ɑ̃tɑ̃dɾə]
[miɲɔnə   dɑ̃   ki   buʃ‿ɑ̃pɛɾlə   mjø]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   də   ɾəgaɾde   si   tɑ̃dɾə]
[ki   ʒamɛ   fy   kə   ma   dam‿o   duz‿jø]

This makes me very happy, and, despite the time I spent writing the queries, it saved me a lot of time. In fact, it probably took more time to write this post than it did to put together the IPA for this concert.

One Response to “Graphemes to Phonemes Made Easy”

  1. Steve Kass » Typo Story [Episode #1] Says:

    […] Readers will know that as The Dessoff Choirs’ self-appointed language guru, I routinely prepare IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) transliterations of upcoming concert music. [see Graphemes to Phonemes Made Easy] […]

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Buy a Ticket,
Help a Bird


In honor of our guest conductor Patrick Quigley, a New Orleans native, Dessoff will donate 10% of all ticket and CD sales from Tuesday, May 4 through Saturday evening’s concert to the Louisiana SPCA to help with the care of oiled wildlife in the area.

Glories on Glories CD

Glories Recorded live in performance in March 2009, Dessoff’s latest CD Glories on Glories features stirring American choral works by William Billings, Charles Ives, Horatio Parker, and Randall Thompson, featuring shape-note hymns, songs from the battlefield, and more. The recording is available for purchase via, iTunes, and as well as at Dessoff concerts and events.

This is the latest issue of D-NOTES, the e-newsletter of The Dessoff Choirs. To send us your comments, or to unsubscribe from the newsletter, follow this link. For Dessoff concert tickets, visit our website or call 212 831-8224.

Quigley Conducts   
The Roots of Bach   
and Beyond  
Saturday, May 8, 7:30 pm
(note start)

Led by guest conductor Patrick Quigley, one of the hottest young conductors on the choral scene, this program looks back to the rich musical tradition from which Johann Sebastian Bach emerged, offering rarely performed works by Schütz, Kuhnau, Frescobaldi and Buxtehude, as well as two well-known motets — Singet dem Herrn and Jesu, meine Freude — by the master himself. Looking forward, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, who was at the forefront of the Bach revival in the 19th century, is represented by his stirring Richte mich, Gott and the 20th century Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt contributes an aleatoric setting of Bach’s chorale Komm süsser Tod.

Many of the Dessoff singers will be featured in chamber choruses for the earlier works. Quigley’s verbal program notes will give an immediacy to his insight into Bach the master and explain his choice of the related works on the program. A reception follows the performance.

Saturday, May 8, 7:30 p.m. (note start)
Calvary St. George’s Church
East 16th Street/Rutherford Place
Tickets: $35 Preferred Seating, $25 General Admission $15 Senior/Student, 12 & under Free

Dessoff Singing
Scholar Headed for Princeton

Soprano Allegra Wiprud is a senior at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. AllegraShe joined Dessoff for the March 2010 concert as a participant in our Singing Scholars program, the choirs’ outreach initiative that gives talented New York City High School students the chance to sing with us. But last March’s concert was not the first time Allegra had performed with Dessoff. We didn’t know her at the time, but in June 2009 she shared the Avery Fisher Hall stage with us for the New York Philharmonic’s performances of Britten’s War Requiem and Mahler 8th — as a member of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.  When Allegra “aged out” of BYC last year (at the advanced age of 17!), she chose Dessoff as her adult choir.

Allegra says that as a young child she tried many instruments, but “voice was the one that really stuck.” She studies voice and piano privately, and values choral singing for the chance to sing big works and the benefits of group interpretation and the communion that comes from singing together.

Allegra will be attending Princeton University in the fall, where she intends to study vocal performance and international relations. She has her eye on a career in opera. So what’s it like these days for a teenager with a passion for classical music?  Allegra says: “It makes me sad that few of my peers know about or care for classical music. Its offerings are rich beyond the three-minute snippets of symphonies most people hear in freshman music appreciation. I often can’t relate to them on music or any popular culture. I get the same high from Wagner that they do from The Jonas Brothers, or whatever it is now. New York’s institutions have worked hard to make classical music accessible and alive, and I do sometimes come across someone who wants to learn more about it.

Read Allegra’s classical music reviews at Stuyvesant High School’s independent music blog:

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Last Sunday, Dessoff Symphonic Choir, in which I’m a tenor, sang Beethoven’s Ninth at Avery Fisher Hall with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer conducting. Orchestra gigs are always a thrill, and in that respect, this one was no exception. In most every other respect, however, this gig was an exception … it was exceptional beyond belief.

As a few friends put it, a big fucking deal, with emphasis on the big, fucking, and deal parts.

We sang from in front of the orchestra, four feet below the stage, where the first two rows of audience seats usually are, our backs to the conductor. (There were monitors for us on the side walls.) It was brilliant. “Beethoven’s spirit rang out with an explosive jubilance.”

That was exceptionality #1. Another exceptionality was that we had no friggin’ idea where we would sing from until the day of the concert. Our first rehearsal with the maestro was Friday, two days before the concert, with piano. From our perch on platforms across the back of the stage, Dessoff Symphonic’s 106 singers sang a few bars. Mr. Fischer said very little but seemed pleased enough. We sang a few more bars.

“Can the chorus platforms come up any higher?” the maestro asked. No, it turned out. “The chorus should be higher.” The Budapest Festival Orchestra, “my orchestra,” will be on risers, with string basses rear, center, and elevated. Singing through a rank of basses was out of the question.

“Let me try something.”

“Something” was having us sing from further forward, across the center of the stage and well in front of the raised platforms. Then another something, singing from the very front of the stage. For each of his somethings, we sang full out like we would do on Sunday. You don’t become a Hungarian musical genius guessing what a choir’s tutta forza sounds like when you can ask for and listen to the real thing.

We sounded “three times better” from the front. Not that we sounded bad from the back, Maestro added. As we had marched forward and forwarder, someone made a joke about lemmings.

“Try singing from down there.” Mr. Fischer was pointing at the first rows of audience seats. Only the stagehands prevented us from actually leaping off the lip of the stage to get there. We sang again, and we sounded spectacular (especially when we turned to face the audience). This was where we were destined to be on Sunday.

Except for a couple of details. The maestro had ordered a stage extension, but it was too small to free up enough seats for us. Only two rows, comprising 72 seats, were unsold because of the extension. There was also the issue of us singing with our backs to the conductor.

More somethings. Men back on stage and all against the stage left wall. Sing. Women move center, men stay put. Sing. Tenors stage right, basses and women stay put. Sing.

Then, “Thank you.” No friggin’ idea where we’d sing from on the day of the concert. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to see a conductor. As it turned out, when we arrived for the Sunday morning dress rehearsal, the 72 unsold cushy seats in rows A and B of the orchestra had been removed, and 106 folding chairs were squeezed into their place without compromising fire regulations. We were all able to fit in front of the stage where we had sounded so spectacular on Friday. And we could see Maestro Fischer, thanks to monitors that had been installed practically overnight on the side walls of the hall. On Friday, Maestro had asked for ecstatic singing in a few places; given what had transpired to accommodate us between Friday and Sunday, together with the fact that we all had front row seats for the Ninth’s first three movements, ecstatic was a piece of cake.

Chorus master James Bagwell later mentioned that a chorus-in-front setup wasn’t without historic precedent. Donna M. Di Grazia, Professor of Music and choir conductor at Pomona College (my alma mater) documents the practice in her 1998 article “Rejected Traditions: Ensemble Placement in Nineteenth-Century Paris,” and passionately laments its disappearance. She was “aware of only a few instances where placement issues have been considered for performances of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music regardless of the presence or absence of a chorus.” I sent her email to tell her there’s been one more, and that it rocked.

There are plenty more things to share about this Ninth, and if I can, I’ll post updates.


Top: Budapest Festival Orchestra (on the stage) and Dessoff Symphonic Choir (in front of the stage), after performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall on March 28, 2010.

Bottom: A seating plan for orchestra and chorus in nineteenth century France, chorus in front of the orchestra. [Di Grazia, 1998, p. 197, with callouts replacing legend]

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I’m in New York this weekend to sing Beethoven’s Ninth on Sunday with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under the baton of Iván Fischer. Further details of this breaking story are embargoed until late Sunday afternoon.

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