I first heard Sto mi e milo sung in a concert by a women’s choir on tour. I was handed a scribbled sheet of manuscript that had been notated by one of the singers. As this music is often learned aurally, the score was somewhat an oxymoron. But it was helpful for me, because it gave me an opportunity to notate it more clearly, and add ornamentation into the work (which would often be improvised by singers—especially if the group singing was one-on-a-part).
The folk vocal traditions of music from Bulgaria, Macedonia, and southeast Europe are those of fellowship and diversion through singing. The repertoire in the folk realm is generally all women singing together, or all men singing together; rarely both. This is not to say that men and women do not socialize together; but when they do, the women will sing, and then the men will sing, etc. The subject matter is usually of no importance. Women will sing about being in love with women, and men will sing about handsome men. The text is totally secondary to the primary element in the group singing of this repertoire: the sonic experience of close harmonies locking together. There is something visceral and utterly satisfying about this kind of music when sung with the correct energy and tonal concept. In the United States, we have our own versions of this music-making experience— they include barbershop singing, shape-note singing, and gospel music.
Notes to the Performer
The tone quality should be quite hefty and dark. The chest voice is generally carried higher in the range, but vowels are always fully formed, ringing, and focused. Encourage a huskier, thicker (yet still healthy) tonal production (balancing this with the age and vocal abilities of your ensemble).