Singing at home

Thirty at a local singing

The second session of the fall singing school segued right into the regular bimonthly Palo Alto/South Bay singing. At the start of the regular singing, I counted about thirty singers, of whom perhaps half were new, or relatively new, singers; the rest of the singers were regulars from the Palo Alto, Berkeley, and San Francisco local singings.

There were seven of us in the bass section, of whom three were brand new singers (although all three had other extensive singing experience). From the beginning I felt that we were singing well together. The singing school that preceded the regular singing had ended with our singing master telling us about accent, and I think perhaps we picked up on that.

One of the first tunes we sang was a fuguing tune, and the basses all came in strongly, accenting the first and third beats; this energized us, and I think helped us to sing better, to sing above what you might assume was our average level of competence. With such a strong, big bass section, I couldn’t resist: I got up to lead 268 “David’s Lamentation,” and the basses performed admirably; as did the rest of the class.

And it wasn’t just the bass section: the whole class sang quite well. Part of that, of course, was because we had 30 singers. When there are six or seven people in each section, you have enough people to support each other and cover over mistakes in intonation, rhythm, articulation, and so on. It’s often easier to sing well in a larger group.

But it was more than just size. After the break, a fair number of people who had been at the singing school left — two hours is a lot of singing, and some people were ready to head home — and we dropped down to about twenty singers. But among those twenty singers were some fine singers: Julian, Terry, Carolyn, Linda, and Mary in the tenors, Arnold and Terry in the trebles, Kendall and the woman whose name I’m blanking on in the altos, Carl and Peter in the basses. In that third hour, we had some of the best singing of the day. It does take time to get used to the mix of a given class, and perhaps we finally got used to each other. Or it could have been the spirit of the class, or (as Quakers might have it) a Spirit-led class.

Whatever the cause, it was a good strong singing.