Easter will fall on the second Sunday of the month this year, which means there is a Palo Alto singing scheduled for that day. So at today’s singing, I asked if we could sing through no. 236, William Billings’ Easter Anthem, to practice for Easter Sunday. Will suggested that we try singing the notes. I had never done that, and I didn’t want to impose on the rest of the singers by taking up that much time. Will, in his gentle way, further suggested that we might learn something by singing the notes. The other singers seemed game, so that’s what we did: we sang through the notes, and then sang the words.
It worked, too: when we sang the words, we sounded better. In fact, even though there were just ten of us, with two first-time singers and one relatively new singer, we sounded pretty good. Singing the notes really does work. And it occurs to me that often I think a practice singing should follow the same rules as an all-day singing or a convention: never sing the notes on an anthem, never sing through the individual parts, etc. But a practice singing is supposed to be for practice, so we can learn to sing better: singing the notes on an anthem now and again might just make us better singers.
One reply on “Singing the notes”
I’ve been to several singing schools, taught by lifelong singers, where it is (strongly) advocated that we should always sing the notes on an anthem, no matter what kind of singing it is – just like any song. I understand why – as you noticed, singing the notes works.
I don’t personally feel very strongly about it, and see the merits of both positions – but I don’t think that “never sing the notes on an anthem” is representative of the tradition as a whole. We have some wiggle room on this one!