Joined: Jul 2004
Does anyone here enjoy singing in a choir?
I used to do a fair bit at high school - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Berlioz's Shepherd's Farewell, Vivaldi and Poulenc's respective Glorias, Messiah, Brahms and Mozart's totally different Requiems and the Bach Magnificat were among the choral works to which I lent my voice. But that was then. I've refused point blank to join a choir since. The reason I give, to anyone who asks, is that I can't sight-sing and that has always spoiled my enjoyment.
The inevitable reply to this is, "Oh, but surely you could find a choir that doesn't require you to be able to sight-sing." Of course I could, but that's not the point. I found my inability frustrating, that I had to bluff my way through, always relying on my neighbour to bring me in. I was also unsure of which part was right for me. Initially I always sang soprano just because they sing the melody (most of the time), but I couldn't always hit the high notes. So I switched to alto for a time but found it even harder to hold my own with loud-voiced basses singing behind me.
I remember my mother (herself an accomplished choral singer) assuring me that I would learn to sight-sing in time, but the ability never came. Sure, I could read the musical notation, tell you the key signature, identify the individual intervals, but I couldn't sing anything unless I'd heard the music first. The contrast between my singing and my recorder playing (where I could sight-read almost anything that was thrown at me) grew ever greater.
The last thing I ever sang in was the Bach Magnificat. I deliberately sat next to a girl who'd had professional singing lessons to be sure of getting the notes, but even she was struggling. I was so distraught at not being able to do the great music justice that I vowed "never again".
But still people just don't seem to understand why I gave up choral singing. Is my attitude that unusual?
Mind you, I did sing in some great stuff. That Poulenc Gloria is well funky.... Has anyone ever heard his Villanelle for recorder and piano?
As the player's breath warms the fipple the tone clears.
It is time to consider how Domenico Scarlatti
condensed so much music into so few bars
with never a crabbed turn or congested cadence,
never a boast or a see-here; and stars and lakes
echo him and the copse drums out his measure,
snow peaks are lifted up in moonlight and twilight
and the sun rises on an acknowledged land.
Basil Bunting, Briggflatts