Singing at home


Carol and I drove up to the first Sunday Healdsburg singing today. About twenty singers came, including ten of us who drove up from the Bay area. It was a good turnout for Labor Day weekend.

The Healdsburg singing meets in the Old Felta Schoolhouse, and I had forgotten just how lovely is the sound of the room. Floor, ceiling, and walls are painted wood, with slate blackboards running along the length of one wall. The room is nearly square, with a ceiling that’s about ten feet high. The sound is bright and resonant, with a reverberation time that’s perhaps a little bit long — but not too long, for you can hear every part, and even every voice, clearly.

I suspect the sound of the room affected both the pitching, and the choice of songs. Hal was pitching at first, and he usually pitches a little lower than the customary pitch at the Berkeley singing (Berkeley singings tend to be pitched fairly high by Sacred Harp standards), but he gave pitches that were higher than usual for him. And I noticed people seemed to be choosing more songs in major keys. Even when we sang tunes in minor keys, they came out sounding cheerful. At one point, I led no. 183 Greenwich, which can sound vengeful and bitter in darker-sounding rooms, but in that room it sounded upbeat and friendly. It is a room that makes both our voices and the songs sound joyous.

The Healdsburg group has only been singing together for six months or so, but already they have developed some fine voices. Many of the Healdsburg people sing tenor, and the tenor bench was solid and dependable. The treble bench was all women, and it sounded clear and true; the altos were very solid. Apparently, their weakest section is the bass bench; they have one regular bass, and he was away this time. Hal and I were singing bass, and we convinced one of the men singing tenor that he should try out bass; he sang the second half with us, and it sounded to me like he’s really a bass.

Best of all, the Healdsburg singers are a very friendly, relaxed, musical bunch. There was not a trace of the competitiveness that you sometimes get in practice singings. They said they’re willing to take time to review parts to get a song right. And they really listen to each other.

I’m trying to talk the Healdsburg folks into hosting a New Year’s Day singing. In spite of the holidays, I bet we could turn out forty people on the afternoon of New Year’s Day; forty people in that room would sound absolutely glorious.