Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lend me a tenor

Well, I guess we don't know what we don't know. Until yesterday, I'd thought of myself as a baritone, and lustily sang base (except for the notes lower than low G) in church - ours is a singing congregation! But yesterday my friend M, a trained singer whom I'd asked for some singing pointers (China will be a long series of command performances, I'm told), asked if I'd ever sung tenor. Not as long as I can remember! But it turns out our church choir is low on tenors, and in particular needed a tenor for today's service, so I tried singing the tenor line on the week's hymns. With the exception of "Lift every voice and sing," which is stratospheric the way Beethoven's 9th is, I managed. It even felt good!

So I came to the choir rehearsal before church today and rehearsed as one of two tenors. The choir director thinks me a tenor, too: he listens for what notes a singer can project, and indeed, the tenor (II) range is where I have volume. So I got to be in the choir today (vested!), and even got to sing the melody for a favorite hymn.

I didn't sing that well. The higher notes really need to pressed out, like a trumpet. And finding your note isn't as easy as for a base (for whom it's the lowest note, often the key signature, almost always played by the organist's feet). The tenor is there in the thick of things, neither the melody nor the key, but harmonizing, often to a little melody of your own. It took me back to when I arrived at Oxford and auditioned for the college choir. I didn't get in, at least in part because I wasn't able to sing the middle note in various tone clusters. Guess I was a tenor then, too! (Instead I joined the no-audition Kodaly Choir, but that was my last choral experience.) I'm missing church for the next several Sundays (Job gigs at other churches) but will start trying the tenor line on for size.

No comments: