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who in his inmost soul is a Russian. Only Rachmaninoff could have composed this!” (quoted in

Van Ausdall, 1974).

In the first rehearsal, students listened to the recording and followed the score. A

discussion followed where I asked students to clarify for me their overall impressions as well as

their impressions about the style, harmonic language, and orchestration. Then they were asked

(questioning) to predict what challenges they would face as they prepared the pieces for

performance. One student, Clara (all students’ names have been changed to protect their

identities) predicted that diction would be a priority so the audience would understand the story

of each song. She noted that the texts were stories told in the first person. She clarified her

statement by explaining that in the third song, a young wife was speaking to someone worried

that her husband would return home and beat her in retaliation for her seemingly unfaithful

behavior at a dinner party. In the second song, the main character yearns for her lost lover,

Johnny. Kieran predicted that the timing would be a challenge and Jenna suggested that the

complex intervallic relationships throughout would be difficult to navigate. The students were

asked (questioning) to summarize the problems, to suggest solutions that would address the

issues, and to provide the strategies to meet the challenges. This was a first step toward


I presented a brief account of Rachmaninoff by discussing his style and the color and

texture of the music. I also talked about the texts. At the second rehearsal, we began with the

third folk song, singing it on solfège syllables. Then we read the text aloud as fast as possible,

each reading it at their own pace so as to get the words “into the mouth.” Next, singers were

instructed to silently read the words as fast as possible, with dynamics, until they came to the

hardest line for them to read. They were to read that line aloud, with everyone choosing their

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