I imagine that this is old news to a lot of folks. I was reflecting the other day on how I could become a better singer. The truth is that by now, after singing in choirs for over fifty years, I know everything that I need to know about how to be the world’s greatest choir singer. The problem is remembering all the instruction, advice, experience, and study when I actually have my mouth open with sound coming out.
I do forget various aspects of choral singing occasionally as I practice and perform. It is as if I am a juggler who does pretty well, but drops a ball occasionally.
The best voice teacher I ever had worked very patiently with me explaining where my tongue should be placed when singing, and I do understand. And when I am singing in her presence, I generally forget, and once in a while, receive a sad sideways glance.
Another tactic which I need to use is to read ahead in the score of where we are singing, so that I am already prepared for approaching tricky words, or complicated rhythms, dynamics, or scariest of all, surprise rests that are waiting for me. I even write “HURRY” or “THINK” a few measures in advance of certain difficult sections. I usually am successful, but on occasion, for a beat or two, I sing as if I am not a tenor.
Controlled breathing is so important that singers are usually introduced to this surprisingly difficult concept right from the beginning. Where did my lung capacity go, and why do I also now need to think about my back and knees just as much? The juggling simile is in effect here, also.
Singing in a great choir makes lapsed moments easier, because my friends around me, being tenors, are singing perfectly. This gives me a chance to catch my breath, return to my own standards of performance, and gather my wits about me.
So the next time you get to listen to Opus 24 in concert, know that as you see happy faces, that at least one of us has dozens of thoughts zigzagging around in his brain. And this is why we practice as much as we do.
Decatur Choral Society