Saturday, October 13, 2012

Plucked from the Choir

Oh, Oh. "Why did I say yes?" When my conductor's voice on the phone said, "May I ask you a favour? Could you please sing the Alto solo for the Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio?" All he heard from me was silence. My heart pounded my stomach lurched and then after a few seconds I could hear myself saying, "yes."
Now, two days later, I am thinking, "What have I done?"   Obviously the choir is under severe budget constraints in order to pluck me from the choir to sing alongside professional soloists. Also obviously there are no big arias, but if my stomach gurglings are any indication you would think I were singing the Queen of Night aria at Carnegie Hall. I alternate from the ego boosting thought of, "I can't believe he would choose me" to the deflating, "I will sound like a complete idiot up there!"
For someone who has been a solid choral singer for 40 years I have become an expert at that. Choral singing is NOT solo singing, I can't see how the skill set will transfer over. Of course, I have played soloist in my living room, piano room many a time. Much the way a  9-year old prances around Brittany Spears style I am there, score in hand, belting out Aria after Aria with Renee Flemming or Cecilia Bartoli, or Anne Sofie van Otter or Maureen Forrester accompanying me in the background. They are great partners for me because when I take a breath Maureen keeps the sound going, when I lose the key Renee finds it for me. Our phrasing is sublime. Singing solo lines without these girls in the background is like riding a wild horse without saddle or reins. I will fall off after the first bar. I know this because I have already practiced with myself and I need a breath after every bar, that is when I sing imagining I am in front of the audience. If I just sit on the couch, slouching and singing casually along I can hold a phrase quite nicely. Stand me up again with soloist posture and my voice will not cooperate. It knows I am not a soloist. "Get back in the choir where you belong!", it shouts. It refuses to provide me with my entry note, preferring to be led there by the beautiful Anne Sofie instead. It will not get a full sound out, it refuses to hold the tone from start of note to end of a 3-beats, it sabotages every attempt at creating something beautiful. "Oh, Girls, we used to make such beautiful music together, why must I be thrust out from you and stand alone?"
Anne Sofie

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Said by No Alto Ever

I thought I would provide another attempt at defining an alto using the approach of a list of things that were never said by any Alto. If you hear these things mentioned below coming from a choir they are usually coming from the soprano section. If you hear it from the alto section you can rest assured the culprit is really a mezzo-soprano.
1. That note is too low for me. 2. Could the sopranos please join us in bar 34? 3. I wish there were more unison parts to this song. 4. I need to apply my lipstick before I can sing this properly. (flip of hair) 5. I don't like using my chest voice. 6. I would rather sing this duet with a tenor than a bass. 7. The sopranos are singing too quietly. 8. Please don't ask me to help out the tenors in their beautiful tenor line on page 4. 9. What page are we on? (this is only and always heard from the Bass section) 10. Can we sing this in a different key?