Other local singings

Davis local singing

We finally had a free Friday, so Carol and I decided to drive out to Davis to sing with local singing there. It’s a new local singing, organized by Matthew when he went out to attend graduate school in Davis. We were pleased to see some familiar faces: Matthew of course, and some other singers who live in the Central valley and occasionally make it in to the Berkeley weekly singing, or to the Golden Gate All-Day Singing. And there were two people I hadn’t met before: a tenor who has been singing with Davis pretty regularly, and a treble who had only sung from the Sacred Harp once before. All together, there were eight of us gathered in Matthew’s living room: three tenors, two basses, an alto, and two trebles.

Matthew and I were both singing bass, and we both have big voices. We were both holding back, but even so I began to feel that maybe we were too loud. I was sitting next to the tenors and tried singing with them on one tune, but my voice just wasn’t going to go up that high. So Matthew and I exchanged places in the bass section, and he switched back and forth between singing tenor and singing bass.

Aside from feeling I was singing a little too loudly, I thoroughly enjoyed singing with the Davis folks. They are friendly, just the kind of people you’d want to spend an evening with. They sound good, and are great fun to sing with. And they sing for a good long time — we started at 7:00 and it was 9:45 p.m. when we finally headed back out to our car.

All-day singings & conventions

Rebecca leading 531 Dura

The last of the videos I shot at the Palo Alto All-Day Singing, August 25, 2012 — Rebecca leading no. 531 Dura, in the Fireside Room at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto.

Singing at home

New sound

Carol and I headed over to to the Berkeley weekly singing tonight. I wound up sitting in front of Leland, and at the break I turned to him and said, “Have you changed something about your singing recently?”

He looked surprised. “What do you mean?”

“You sounded good,” I said. “I mean, you have a great voice anyway, but you sounded particularly good tonight.”

He shook his head. “No, I haven’t changed anything. I was just working on intonation tonight.”

We both agreed that you can hear yourself singing much better when you sit in the back bench of the bass section; there’s a wood-and-plaster wall right behind you that acts as a sounding board. It’s one of the few places in All Saints Chapel where I don’t feel in danger of over-singing.

And later I thought to myself: Intonation, yeah. We singers of the urban revival talk about accent and ornamentation and rhythm, but the few times I have heard traditional Southern singers, what really stood out for me was their precise intonation, and their careful tuning with other singers. Intonation is barely mentioned in the Rudiments chapter of The Sacred Harp, so we singers of the urban revival don’t talk much about it, but maybe we should.

Singing at home

Working hard, getting better, having fun

There were only eight of us today, and we were missing several of our key singers to Christmas concerts and other commitments. That meant that Ellen switched from alto to tenor (not a part she usually sings), Arnold was all alone in the treble section, and Sue was all alone in the alto section. On top of that, our regular pitchers were both missing; I asked Arnold if he would like to pitch, but his voice was feeling a little tender, so I wound up pitching most of the session. In short, most of us had to work a little harder than usual.

But working hard is not necessarily a bad thing. Several times, we reviewed different parts separately, which gave all of us a chance to brush up on our sightsinging skills, and sing a part we ordinarily wouldn’t sing.

As for me, earlier this year I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to learn how to pitch; I don’t need that kind of pressure for something that’s supposed to be a hobby. But I didn’t mind pitching for the Palo Alto singers; we are a forgiving and friendly bunch, and no one would get cranky if I struggled a little.

And it was hard work at times: you have to listen hard to the other singers, hear how high the high voices can go that day, and how low the low voices can go, and pitch the tunes somewhere in the middle. I have a pretty good idea of where many of the often-sung tunes should be pitched, but today’s class of singers was singing lower than usual; and I tended to overcompensate by pitching the tunes too low, and then when we sang the notes I could hear it was too low and I would have to bring it up a major second. But everyone was very forgiving, and Arnold and Ellen both were both there to help me out when I got into difficulties.

At the end of today’s Palo Alto singing, someone said, “I like it when we have to review the different parts; I learn the music much better.” I couldn’t agree more: that’s the whole point of a practice singing, to work on singing, and get better at it. And when you get better at it, it’s much more fun.

Singing at home

Turn over

Tonight it struck me again: What a lot of change there has been in the people who sing at the Berkeley weekly singing! I looked around and noticed that quite a few of the regular singers who came tonight didn’t sing with us two years ago: several singers moved to the Bay are from somewhere else, several who are new to Sacred Harp singing. And quite a few former regulars were missing, people who have moved away, or can’t come Monday evenings any more.

We’ll see many of the missing people at all-day singings; in the Bay area, the all-day singings seem to me to be what provide the continuity over the years.

Posted a week late due to heavy work schedule.