The choir and the art of singing well – Part 3
The following points should be noted for effective voice training and voice production.
4. Knowledge of Rudiments of Music: One should have a good knowledge of rudiments of music.
5. Avoiding the Problems in Choral Performance: These include:
• Singing Out of Key: It is a common problem for some choral groups to start a piece on a particular key (say Key of D), but end up in a different key at the end of the performance, even when there is no modulation or transposition. This happens mostly in vocal music and the accompanist is forced to stop playing in order to salvage the situation. This problem arises from poor ear training (aural perception) and poor intonation.
• Poor Voice Production and Pronunciation: Poor voice production and pronunciation have rather become the problem of many choral groups. Sometimes, a piece of music is performed and one cannot really understand the language used, until after serious and critical listening – sometimes towards the last verse or end of such piece. This should be corrected.
• Imbalance of Parts: In some choirs, some parts are bottom heavy. There may be many female singers in Soprano and Alto, with few men in Tenor and Bass or vice versa. There should be a balance of parts during choral performance for a better production.
• Lack of Uniformity: In any choir, everything should be done in uniform. Where there are dynamics, it is the duty of all to observe at the same time. The choir uniform should always be kept clean and every member should endeavour to wear such when required.
• Lack of Discipline: A wise man once said, “He who lives without discipline, dies without honour”. Every choir must be disciplined, if need be, there should be some rules and regulations or by-laws. There should be some level of morality expected of members.
• Poor Change of Key (Modulation): Some choirs are still groping in the dark: they don’t know their left from their right. They cannot effect modulation in a piece of music. Almost everything is mutilation. They should learn to modulate according to the rules of music.
• Poor Music Reading/Sight Reading: Many singers are copycats. They sing what they hear. They cannot pick a piece of music on their own and begin to sing without somebody’s assistance. Every singer or performer should master his/her part or role and be able to sight read well and fast. This ability surely lessens the burden of the music director during rehearsals.
• Poor Attendance to Practices: “Practice makes perfect” is another wise saying that cannot go unnoticed. Poor attendance does not allow for a general progress of any group. Indeed, those who do not attend practices only come to spoil the music or piece during performance. I’d rather suggest – “No attendance to practice, no partaking in performance.” You will find this saying very useful when you begin to apply.
• Lack of Co-Operation: The ‘genius’ in the choir must be prepared to co-operate with the ‘mediocre’. This co-operation, in love and desire to learn and improve, may help the mediocre to become an expert. If all amateurs (and mediocre choristers) turn into experts, what a great choir of geniuses that will be!
Aside above points, there is a level of holiness required of Church Choristers. God is Holy and they that worship Him must be holy. Without holiness, we only make empty noises. Give your life to Jesus and decide to live for Him. A holy God must receive holy worship from holy choristers.
Skills Required of Choral Singers
• To sight-read music fluently. This is the ability to understand the notation and note values and interpret the music accordingly.
• To sing, precisely in tune and with a pleasing vocal timbre.
• To memorise or near-memorise the music, and thus be able to keep eye on the conductor for effective communication and better expression of the music.
• To read and pronounce the sounds of foreign languages accurately as should be done in music.
• To monitor one’s own singing and detect errors.
• To accept direction from others who know better than you.
• Ability to be humble, obedient, disciplined, hard working dedicated to duty and be able to keep true to the tenets, rules and regulations of the choir group.
Permit me to remark that practice is inevitable, as long as singing well is concerned. Without practice, your talent is limited. Rise up to the challenge before you and be prepared to be used by God. Permit God to use you and bless your generation. God bless you.
Very Rev. Dr. Isaac Udoh (KCW, JP) is the Conference Music Coordinator of Methodist Church Nigeria, a Knight of Charles Wesley, a Presbyter in Methodist Church Nigeria presiding English Service at Groves Memorial Methodist Cathedral, Ikot Ekpene, Ikot Ekpene Diocese. He is currently, Head, Department of Music, University of Uyo, Uyo.
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