Lifting Your Voice with Others
Choral singing may not seem as glamorous as other singing opportunities you’ll have, however it can be one of the most challenging. It requires an intense amount of focus, demanding an ability to sing your own part while still listening to what’s going on around you. It also requires ear training to be sensitive to the blend of the choir. In a choir your musicianship will also be challenged with sight singing and applications of musical theory. Individual practice is essential. When you receive a piece of music, the first thing you need to do is learn the notes and intervals. Solfege (do, re, mi, etc.) is a very handy sight-singing tool that can help with this. While many choral directors will keep you abreast of what you will be covering in the next rehearsal, there will be times when you’ll be asked to sight-read. When entire rehearsals are wasted on teaching notes, it leaves little time for fine-tuning and polishing and inhibits the quality of the group’s performance. Practice your music and your sight-singing skills regularly, and you’ll always be prepared to work.

Personal Prep Equals Group Success
A harmonic analysis is a helpful tool in any musical situation, but especially when working in a choir. Not only will it help you understand the music better, but it will also help you understand your individual part better. You should know how the note you’re singing fits into the chord structure of the piece and how it relates to the other vocal parts. Doing a harmonic analysis will tell you if the piece is in a specific mode or help you identify a certain pattern of intervals being used, such as the tritone in Britten’s War Requiem. These are things you need to know in order to contribute to the group’s performance.

As with solo repertoire, study the dynamic and phrasing markings. These were deliberately included by the composer to help you better interpret his vision. Again, this is something you need to be aware of yourself and not expect your director to take the time to point out. Next, you should do an IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) or other kind of phonetic transcription, whether the text is in a foreign language or English. This will ensure that you are pronouncing the text correctly, and most importantly singing the correct vowel. All singers in the choir need to be singing on the same vowel so that the audience will understand the text better and for optimum blend.

If the text is in a foreign language, you will want to find a translation of the text, so that you understand what you are singing about. You will also want to study the historical and biographical background of the composer, what genre of music he or she was most famous for writing, when the piece was written, where it was first premiered, and what its significance was: for instance, was it written for a specific person or as a religious or political statement?

The beauty of a choir is its unique blend of many different voices. This blend is disrupted when one member of the choir is singing like a soloist. Every part is important, and in a choral piece the composer may have specified that certain parts should be brought out more than others. As a member of the choir you must always remain sensitive to this fact by listening and being conscious of how you are singing.

Singing in a choir allows you to share a musical experience with an entire group of people. Apart from the work you are responsible for individually, it is the culmination of all of your efforts that allows the music to happen. It can be a truly magical and musically fulfilling experience.

Originally posted 2009-07-19 23:49:10.