Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross

Lambert, Hendricks &Ross
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, a vocal ensemble consisting of three parts, one singer per part

The vocal ensemble that is Lambert, Hendricks & Ross grew from a long and storied tradition of vocal ensembles, going back over 500 years. As a public service, I would offer up a quick survey of that tradition, starting with an important distinction.


Let us draw a necessary and important distinction between a “choir” and a “vocal ensemble” (with the understanding that not everyone is going to employ this distinction with the rigor that I, for one, would like to see and hear!).

Like an (instrumental) orchestra, a choir is a vocal group in which some (or all) of the parts are “doubled”, meaning that some (if not all) parts will have more than one player/singer per part.

A mixed choir divided into four parts
A mixed (male and female) choir divided into four parts, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass (SATB), in which each part is doubled many times over

Like an (instrumental) chamber ensemble, a vocal ensemble is one in which there is only one player/singer per part.

This distinction between choirs and vocal ensembles began to come into focus in the late fifteenth century, in secular music written for both skilled amateur and professional singers. Generally but accurately speaking, music composed specifically for a vocal ensemble can have more individual parts and more complex parts than a chorus, where numbers can easily gum up and blur the music being sung. …

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