Singing at home

Nasal consonants

Attendance has been off a little bit as we head into summer. Some of the regulars were missing from the bass section this week, but a newcomer, an experienced Sacred Harp singer who has just moved to the area, sang strongly enough that the absence of some regulars was less noticeable.

Tenor Will and alto Marsha apparently got into a conversation during the break, about how to pronounce certain words. When Will’s turn came to lead, he invited us to sing words ending in a vowel followed by a nasal consonant (m, n, ng, etc.), such that we started sounding the nasal consonant midway through that note. This sounds complicated, and some of us didn’t quite understand Will at first. He demonstrated: “Instead of singing ‘hoooooome’, sing ‘hooommmme’.” (I got what he meant pretty quickly because I had once had a singing teacher correct me when I emphasized those nasal consonants; but that’s the way I had learned to sing from listening to records by bluegrass signers like Lester Flatt, and old-time country signers like Hank Williams.) Will’s idea was a good one: when we sang that way, it sounded much better. There’s a quality that harmonies take on when sung with nasals that you just don’t get when you try to sing only those pure choir-y Italian vowels.