Weird Choral Voicing Situation
  • We have an STB choir basically with only one bass and one tenor, and the rest sounds weird because the rest of the men just sing the soprano line an octave down, making the harmony sound incredibly weird. How should we approach this?
  • Have done a range test on them? In my experience, Alto parts aren't particularly low, close to a mezzo-soprano range. In our choir many "sopranos" sing the alto line. I sing the tenor, baritone, or bass part (of tenor is too high for me, and yes, I am woman).
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
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    and the rest sounds weird because the rest of the men just sing the soprano line an octave down

    Make them stop that.

    How many men and women do you actually have?
    551 x 380 - 49K
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,937
    train them on falsetto
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    Some people are simply incorrigible melody singers, and there are others who gravitate to the highest pitch. The latter is especially common with second sopranos.
    I had a choir once where I took the 1sts aside before we ever looked at a certain piece and told them tht we would never practice their part where there was any divisi, even so much as a single note, and they weren't even to hum it in front of the rest of the choir until I judged that the others' parts were completely embedded in their brains.
    It worked fairly well, (at least it kept the 80 year olds from trying to sing above the staff when we finally used the piece.)

    Save the Liturgy, Save the World!
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  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,821
    Could be worse. Your choral director could be a tenor who will randomly switch back and forth between the melody and the tenor part.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    Sounds like you need sectionals so that the tenors and basses learn their parts? Or someone could record their parts and they can learn them (or at least listen to them) on their own.

    This sounds ridiculous. You mentioned that people are leaving your church. No wonder.
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  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    Have them sing a fifth below instead.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    Have them sing a fifth below instead.


    Sorry, I'm a little crabby... but why?

    From what Noeisdas has said in the past, there are four music groups in the parish, so the parish must be a good size. It sounds like your pastor isn't supportive of a true SATB choir, or else you could put one together in your church. It begins with a director with vision and experience who works with the parish priest. Obtain four paid leads for at least a year and you are well on your way. Once you establish good music, talented, committed people will want to join and properly sing the music. No one with education and experience wants to join a gong show.

    Not to start a side discussion, but it is amazing how money is found for new sound systems and digital hymn boards but not for talented people. Rant over.
  • Yes, the choir I am talking about is the one which I semi-direct/plan for/play organ for sometimes and I am mainly a tenor, to clear things up. The other 3 choirs are contemporary and the priest favours them (sorry for the Canadian spelling).

    @StimsonInRehab Actually that is quite a common situation. My director thinks singing the melody helps everyone else, instead of encouraging those to learn their parts.

    The issue is that we don't have experienced classical singers. They can't read music that well and Youtube is really the main source, other than the strong singers such as me or the director.

    My director was talking to me and we were thinking of getting two experienced classical choristers for one Sunday, just to try at one mass, to see if a performance of the Tallis "If Ye Love Me" will be well received. Then we might try to start an auditioned SATB choir.

    I technically could do that anyways, I would just need to see if it is ok with my priest. I just know that my priest can be a bit harsh and I don't want such a reaction when I suggest the idea.

    My choirs are all volunteer and I couldn't possibly get some paid singers in the church, my priest is already pretty stingy about the money in the parish, and we are doing major fundraising for structural issues.

    Sorry I rant so much, I am just kinda tired with my situations in some circumstances and I know that I am not the only one in this situation in my choir.
  • @Adam%20Wood We are quite small, maybe 4 men with 5 on feast days, and 6 ladies. We are quite small.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    It might help if you build up from the bottom: teach the bass part first, then tenor, etc.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    We are quite small, maybe 4 men with 5 on feast days, and 6 ladies


    That's ten people. That is a perfectly reasonable size for choir.

    So you have one tenor, one bass, and two or three men who double the melody an octave down?

    You need to teach these two additional men to sing in parts. Anyone can learn to do this. If you do not know how to teach people to sing in parts, then you need to learn. Anyone can learn to do this.

    Sorry I rant so much, I am just kinda tired with my situations in some circumstances and I know that I am not the only one in this situation in my choir.


    Assuming the ten people in your choir are at least moderately enthusiastic, willing to work a little bit (not even that much), and like you, you have everything you need right there to run a very respectable music program.

    We could spend the rest of this thread discussing strategies for teaching your melody-only-singers how to sing parts. But the first thing is that you need to recognize that you have everything you need, and that the only thing between your present reality and the choir you wish you had is what the director chooses to do during weekly rehearsal time.

    You said "semi-direct" and then mentioned another director. Can you actually exert any control over the direction of this choir? Can you teach these men how to sing Tenor and Bass (assuming you have the skill to do so, I mean -- are you allowed?)?


    ---

    Side rant:

    Why are there so many church music situations with such unclear lines of authority? The stories people tell on this board -- "I sort of direct, but then this other person with no training does such and such, and I just play, except I get to choose the Psalm setting, except that is subject to the pastor's approval, and there's a committee that gets to decide which Mass setting we do on the third Sunday of the month, but on the other Sundays the youth minister gets to choose, plus the finance manager has final veto power on my use of any stops over 8' " -- it is completely insane.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,105
    Call me old fashioned (and while your at it, buy me one), but I like the old way of Herr Direktor haffing zole Koltrol auf die zituation.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    I was joking, but with a point - draw comfort from the fact that your conundrum is nothing new:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLCV3TbQYGs
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  • @Adam%20Wood I can't seem to get the @ to work properly
    I have just about enough authority to make a suggestion or get the bass to sing his part beside me rather than at the stand.

    I conduct when he isn't there. I play organ when ever he wants me to, and we are still becoming more of a contemporary choir as the years go on.

    I could ask my choir guys if they are willing to learn their parts for all the hymns, as we now have the choir editions for the CBW III and since my pastor decided it was a good idea to buy lots more of those instead of a better hymnal (don't ask me why he did), we could do those hymns in harmony.

    @chonak Working up seems like a good idea, because it has worked in the past when we force the men to sing bass. I wouldn't get anyone to sing tenor, though, because they can't sing that high. Just me on the tenor, but that is ok.

    Some of the sopranos could sing alto, yes, I will ask about that now that we have the books. The problem then becomes efficient sight reading for hymns.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    +1 for chonak. It can work brilliantly to start from the bottom up, and it can help the men to realize that they're the foundation.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Adam Wood for the win.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    Starting from the bottom also seems to be helpful to the upper voices. Perhaps it works by providing them harmonic context.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Adam Wood for the win.


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