[Menvi-discuss] Confessions of an Unlikely Chorale Member , By Amy Green
Brandon Keith Biggs
brandonkeithbiggs at gmail.com
Thu Dec 13 20:38:51 EST 2012
I am singing with a group of guys and I'm the only bass. There are 2 or 3
people on every other part and it is just me on the bass line. I finally got
my music yesterday and sang for the first time with music. I really found
that reading the notes was a lot of fake it till you make it, I am not a
fast Braille Reader and with 3 lines to every music line, life was quite fun
when it came to moving along in the song. I t wasn't 100% sight singing as
it was Christmas tunes, but the harmonies were totally new to me. I found
that I really had to be totally in tune (laugh) with everyone so I wasn't
pulling out any minor seconds or changing the key on anyone. I love being a
bass because we have these parts that like singing do, mi and sol very
repetitively, but the challenge is hearing the chord before it is sung and
if you are lost, fit in a note and pray it fits.
I totally recommend singing in small quartets and practice being the only
one holding your line. It is not for perfectionists that's for sure! :)
I would love to hear if other people have had small group singing
experiences reading their music while singing.
Brandon Keith Biggs
From: Chela Robles
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:07 AM
To: This is for discussing music and braille literacy
Subject: [Menvi-discuss] Confessions of an Unlikely Chorale Member ,By Amy
I got this from a friend and since it ihas to do with music, thought it
would be interesting to read.
Confessions of an Unlikely Chorale Member
By Amy Green
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.
At my school, Select Chorale is a very big deal. Kids who make it into
this class are an ultra-talented mix of musical theatre stars, piano
prodigies, and soloists who have been taking voice lessons since grade
Then there's me. I'm the one who struggles with reading music, took
three years to understand intervals, and enthusiastically performs
choreography... in the wrong direction. Not exactly Select Chorale
Somehow, I made it into the group. I still swear it was some kind of
That's why I wasn't feeling too confident when our choir teacher, Mr.
Avery, announced our first assignment. "By next Friday, you'll be
singing one of our pieces in quartets," he said from his position at the
piano. "This is an advanced class, so I expect you to work with it on
your own time."
Quartets. I did the math. That meant one person on each part. Just me
singing against a soprano, tenor, and bass. Chances were good that they
would all sound better than me.
I gulped again when I saw what the piece was: "Sicut Cervus." It was
Latin. It was a cappella, so the piano wouldn't cover up any mistakes we
made. And it was very, very complicated, with notes scattered all over
the place, like someone had attacked the music with a machine gun.
The first day we worked on the song in class, I knew that the music was
harder than anything I'd ever sung before, and I just wasn't getting it.
"By Friday, you'll be good enough to pass," one of my fellow altos
"Just fake your way through. That's what we all do."
Something about that struck me as being very wrong. A lot of things in
life came easily to me. Here was something that I had a hard time with,
and I was supposed to just give up? "I don't think so," I remember
muttering to myself as I put my music in my backpack to take home that
I did everything that I could to learn that song. I asked a friend to
help me play my part and teach me some rhythms. As I did dishes and
worked on homework, I listened to a recording of the song play over and
over again until I literally heard it in my sleep. Every morning, I
would stare at the list of solfeggio syllables attached to my mirror and
sing my garbled "do, re, mi's" through toothpaste.
I even tried to play parts of the song on my own. This was harder than
it sounds, since the only note I could recognize on the piano was middle
C. The keys of our old, out-of-tune piano were soon covered with
numbered masking tape so I could plunk out my part, note by note. Not
exactly a typical Select Chorale strategy, I guess, but it worked for
me. I got a little better at the piece every day, and in-class
rehearsals helped too.
Then disaster struck. On Thursday, the day before quartets, Mr. Avery
was absent. Our substitute teacher knew even less about music than I
did, which was saying something. "I guess you're supposed to work on
something called 'Sicut Cervus,'" she said, squinting at the note Mr.
Avery had left.
I groaned. This could be interesting.
Everyone gathered around the piano, and one of the sopranos gave all of
the parts their starting note. We started to sing... and almost
instantly fell into an off-key mess.
The only thing more painful than listening to our singing was listening
to everyone argue about whose fault it was. "The guys need to come in
stronger on the key change," the piano player insisted. "Mr. Avery's
said that a dozen times, and you still mess it up."
"Hey, at least we weren't sharp," a tenor shot back.
"I think we need to go over the first section again," someone else
suggested. "Our tempo is totally off, because some people," she gave
another girl a pointed stare, "are trying to set their own pace."
It went on like that for several minutes. Too many people talking and
not enough listening, especially the big, important seniors. We had been
in the choir program the longest, and apparently that meant we had the
right to order everyone else around. There were seniors glaring at
sophomores, juniors, other seniors, the substitute teacher, posters on
the wall — you name it, they were glaring at it.
Before I had a nervous breakdown, I glanced over at my friend Evan. He
was serenely surveying the chaos with his hands in his pockets and a
slight smile on his face. It was like he was secretly amused by all of us.
I hurried over to him. Clearly, he didn't understand the situation. "We
have to sing in quartets tomorrow, and all of us sound awful!" I pointed
out. "Plus, everyone is fighting and insulting each other! How can you
be so calm?"
My little tirade did nothing to shake Evan. He shrugged. "I just stand
where I'm supposed to and sing every song the best I've ever sung it."
Well. That was a new thought. Could it be that it my hustle and bustle
to get every detail of the song down perfectly, I had forgotten that
music is supposed to be fun?
Sure, it was a bad idea to fake it through the song and give a
half-hearted performance. But stressing out about it wasn't going to
help either. That was something I needed to be reminded of as
performance day approached.
"All of you should have come prepared to sing in quartets," Mr. Avery
said the minute the bell rang the next day.
We all nodded... or, at least, most of us did. A few people looked
guiltily down at their music, trying to cram before they were called in
front of the class. "Then you should be ready to sing the song by
yourself." For a split second, everyone was silent, and even the
rustling music stopped as we processed that thought.
No, it wouldn't be me against three other choir members. Not this time.
It was just me against... me.
Maybe it always had been.
I waited to go until last, not necessarily because I wanted to, but
because everyone else volunteered before I could force a word out of my
dry mouth. I remember Mr. Avery calling my name, and then everything is
a blurry mess of pitches and solfeggio.
I do remember the looks on my classmates' faces as I walked shakily back
to my seat. Most of them seemed shocked, like they were thinking, "How
did the shy, musically illiterate girl in the back row get up there and
sing like that?"
Evan didn't look surprised. He just gave me a thumbs up.
I knew that, somehow, I had made that dreaded homework assignment into
real music. When my "best," the vague, mysterious standard that I
claimed to strive for, had actually required striving, I had risen to
It ended up being easier than I thought. All I had to do was stand where
I was supposed to and sing the song the best I had ever sung it.
"Passion is a great motivator. Music is a life-long learning experience."
Chela Robles a Nationally Certified person in Customer Service, certified by
the National Retail Federation Foundation (NRF):
E-mail: cdrobles693 at gmail.com
Windows Live Messenger: cdrobles693 at hotmail.com
A Lady And Her Trumpet Learning Ally Blog Entry: http://tinyurl.com/d3okj95
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