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Western classical music encompasses music styles ranging over 800 years. There are different traditions of classical music but Western classical music usually refers to European classical music. The two main types of Western classical vocal music are church music and secular music. Church music refers to Gregorian chants, mass hymns, carols, and requiems whereas secular music refers to concertos, sonatas, symphonies, and opera. Both these strands of music influenced each other as they evolved over the years. Classical music began with plainchant or Gregorian chant of the Roman Catholic Church. Plainchant was memorized and handed over to others through memory until it was notated in the early 9th century by the Roman Emperor Charlemagne. Books were then prepared and distributed in churches and monasteries.
Plainchant was monophonic and limited in pitch range and sung mostly by clerics, monks, nuns, and church goers. The Mass and Divine Offices were sung using plainchant. The earliest examples of Western secular vocal music were that of troubadors and trouveres who were French poet-musicians who created music for their own poems. The Classical period is known for composers of the caliber of Joseph Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert and falls between the Baroque and the Romantic period. The Classical style of music was popularized by Haydn who was also called the “father of the string quartet” and “father of the symphony”. He preferred melodies that appealed to the emotion and were more dramatic. His style of composing music such as the virtuoso concerto and the opera was further refined by Wolgang Amadeus Mozart, another genius of the era.
Music can be appreciated emotionally and cerebrally. Western classical vocal music can be rather complex with modulation and various other techniques employed by composers as they create their masterpieces. The favourite instruments used for these compositions are usually the percussion, wind, and string instruments. The piano was of course the most favourite musical instrument of these composers. In India, you still find students who opt to carve out a career in music especially Western classical vocals. The Trinity College music exams have been quite popular in India for over 120 years now. Attempts are being made by music schools and teachers to create musicians and singers who have in them an inherent love and passion for singing. It is also possible to expose children to electrifying compositions of maestros thanks to the audio-visual recordings now available.
Learning Western classical vocal music enables a vocalist to not only excel in that genre but also to sing non-classical songs with great success. It also gives a student a healthy foundation as it teaches them to use their voices to its fullest capacity and in the healthiest way possible. Classical training helps to develop exceptional breath support, vocal flexibility, and a greater vocal range. It teaches them music history and they learn to appreciate the relevance of their music in today’s society. Classical music continues to be used in movies, weddings, cartoons, and the like as it is able to portray human emotion as no other music can.