Funky dynamics in Playback Mode

I’m having a curious problem I can’t seem to fathom. I’m not even sure that I can explain it to enable fixers in the forum to help me. I composed a work titled “Canticle of the Three Marys” for orchestra, three female soloists [GM 053 Choir Aahs], and chorus SATB [Legato Oo]. Since most churches have no readily available orchestra, I am working on a version with piano reduction. Everything is working fine and well engraving-wise, but playback is doing something I can’t understand.

When the piece starts, the Alto soloist is “mf” dynamic above a chorus singing a sustained ah at “mp.” The balance is good and steady. At m. 39 the piano comes in and the chorus has a rest of 16 mms., returning at “f.” What should rock the house with a Handelian forte chorus sound barely comes across as a whisper. The only way I can hear it is to turn the mixer completely up and type “ffff” into the dynamic popover, and even then, it is still just barely audible. I can’t figure out why.
Any suggestions? I’m on my third week using Dorico and haven’t run into this problem.

Digital patches are normalized to sound the “same” volume and presence for the same key velocities. Unfortunately this allows dynamic juxtapositions that are completely impossible in real life. For example, a solo flute playing its bottom note forte can predominate over a full brass ensemble playing piano in a high register. In real life a piano can’t bury a full chorus, but on the computer it can.

Realistic balance in digital playback can sometimes require strange tricks. We lose perspective on volume, because most samples sound sort of mf, and we adjust the output volume ourselves. It’s very easy to “max out” with a few instruments and then have no more headroom for someone else to predominate. So try attacking the balance problem from the top down: If the chorus should sound the biggest, scale the others down to balance against that.

(Even when you get the balance right, it still won’t have the expected emotional impact, because the voice samples have the same timbre at any dynamic level.)

Thank you, Mark, for the advice. I understand what you’re saying, but I think I have some sort of connection/relay problem. I was able to bring all the voices and piano to a standard *mf * default, but now everything plays at that default and Dorico is not responding to any dynamic markings in Write Mode. Scratching my head and trying to figure out where the disconnect is.

Changes to dynamics and/or key velocities in Play mode will override the written dynamics. To give control back to the markings, select a passage, then in Play mode choose Play > Reset Playback Overrides.

Stephen, if you want to share the project here (or send it to me via a private message, if you’re not comfortable with posting it publicly) then I’ll be glad to take a look.

Good suggestion, Mark, but regretfully, didn’t solve the problem. Thanks for the suggestion though.