Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Monday, 29 February 2016


This weekend I have renewed, and increased my respect for singers. I have always been slightly in awe of people who can sing in tune, make a pleasant noise and cover a decent range.   Many years ago, in a past life I was a chorister, so have some understanding of just what can be involved with singing well.   My singer career ended abruptly when my voice started to change with adolescence, at that point I had little control of my voice for a couple of years and certainly failed on all three of the above criteria.    By the time my voice had settled I was well on my way as an instrumental musician, and serious singing was put back slightly beyond a back burner.   Indeed for many decades my singing was limited leading informal "choirs" in teh bar following Rugby matches!

More recently, having become a Christian I have been joining in the communal worship at Church singing hymns and worship songs.   As a member of the congregation I only have to worry about the tune, any harmony can safely be left to the worship leaders, or choir if there is one.

On Saturday I attended a day conference for RSCM (Royal School of Church Music) volunteers. During teh day we had a service, a much more traditional one than I am used to, and one which involved the unaccompanied four part singing of a Hymn and a responsive Psalm.   For the Hymn we had the music, with the four parts, on one page and the words for the four verses on another, so as a non-singer I had to sight sing a harmony part (my days of singing treble are long gone) from teh music on one page, while reading the words for a Hymn I don't recall ever singing before on a different page.   Add to this that as a bass player I can "hear" a bass line quite easily, I can also follow a tune without to much trouble, but internal harmonies I find very difficult.   I can sing Bass, but as I have no wish to make my gender situation any more obvious than it already is I have to attempt an alto line, the line that I think actually requires the greatest skill and musicianship to manage.

Then on Sunday I was playing at our local Hospice and was discussing the problems our singer has with knowing when to come in in some songs, now my glib answer to this is to count.   As an instrumentalist I count every bar of every piece I play, I have been doing this so long that is natural, indeed even when listening I find myself automatically counting.   This isn't so easy for a singer, as the counting goes on the language part of the brain, I have no idea how you can count and sing at the same time.   At least in a choir you can rely on the director, if you have one!
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