Choral Days of Obligation

All of you who have sung or who do sing in a church choir know what I’m talking about. Those days when the minister of music, choir director, or other person in charge of vocal music in worship lets it be known that nothing short of vocal-cord paralysis (with a doctor’s note) or death (yours, and provide proper paperwork) had better keep you home. Or Else.

This is one of those weeks. Depending on your denomination, you have Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday (vigil leading up to) Easter!!!!!! With between 1 and 4 services or masses on Easter. And maybe something on Easter Monday too. And of course this is special music, meaning difficult, loud, in foreign languages, or yes. Especially if someone has generously donated funds for a brass choir to go with the human choir.

And rehearsals for all of the above.

Yes, I sing soprano. First and second, as needed.

18 thoughts on “Choral Days of Obligation

  1. Oh dear. I can relate to most of those memes.

    Yes, breathing is optional. πŸ˜€

    It has been a few, er decades, but there was a time that I sang 2nd Soprano, and could pass off 1st & 2nd Alto. (for fun, in class, I would try to sing the 1st tenor part. Pulled it off a few times.) At the time I had just over 2 octave range. Today, I’m lucky if I can manage a full octave.

  2. Don’t look at me, I’m an unremarkable bass.
    Melody? From my perspective, it’s a single Christmas carol that gives everyone else a chance to catch their breath.
    Breathing? It would be an exaggeration to say I’m just there for the crescendo, but…

    • My voice is odd but tolerable. I can sight read very well, have near-perfect relative pitch, memorize easily, and have great pronunciation of not-English stuff. That makes up for my vocal flaws and occasional moments of smart-alek-ness. Or it has thus far.

  3. First Tenor here. Yes this and Christmas are the choral workouts. And that look the Racoon Alto has when it gets
    the melody, Thats the tenors when we get a high F or G at fortissimo :-).

    • The director was telling the First Tenors to go easy on the second movement of the Chichester Psalms last night. They sort of looked at each other with “Really? Watch THIS!” expressions.

  4. I had that raccoon look (bass-baritone) when we sang “The Seven Last Words of David”, with the forte – sforzando – fortissimo transition. Our basso could finally let out most of the stops, and I kept him on note. “JUST!” grew and rolled around the church 2-3 times, before marching outside. Sopranos? They looked amazed and jumped for their note as we finished the diminuendo from forte to mp.

    I’m considering an act of suicidal bravery, to volunteer for Triduum. Our choir is down to 1.5 basses, and I can at least stay mostly on-key and on pitch with volume control. However, it’s Tuesday, so anything new is right out, and I’ll need about 16 hours of warmup.

    • πŸ™‚ That’s one of my all-time favorite choral pieces, and yes, when you have basses that can do it, WOW.

      If/when we survive Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis,” there are hopes to recruit enough basses to be able to do the Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil (aka the Vespers). Alas, Russian basses are a bit scarce in the Texas Panhandle, even among the Eastern Orthodox.

      • Pro tip: don’t try both in the same choral year. Space them out. My wife sang both in a major orchestra’s chorus. I recall her saying that Maestro Tate was a demanding guest conductor (Missa Solemnis), and everyone was on edge during rehearsals. The orchestra scheduled the works for sequential years, or over 2 of 3 years. Otherwise, with the amount of preparation and detail, they’d burn up either the chorus or the musicians.

        Oh, one other point on the Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil (aka the Vespers): Russian basses will not help. Plan to spend about a month learning the consonant intonations and vowel combinations for Church Slavonic. It’s very different in places, sort of the difference between Italian and High Latin (not Vulgate). The Vespers are beautiful, but difficult to prepare. I haven’t sung this, but I’d need 6-8 weeks to adjust to Cyrillic combinations and a Greek/Slavic mode of thought and singing. Sorry, but it’s too far to travel for rehearsals. πŸ™‚

        • At the moment, the Beethoven is 2019 (Choral Fantasy and 9th symphony) and 2020 (Missa) with the Vespers fall of 2020 or spring of 2021.

  5. It’s been a few years, but I remember those days. I miss the bass section.

  6. Deaf guy over here… Aviator’s Loop loss, which means I can ‘sorta’ hear Altos, and Sopranos are in dog whistle range for me… sigh In other words, I don’t ‘do’ concerts/recitals.

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