Vocal cords as bus stops


Well, you go for months without singing in public, then three very different sings arrive at once, within 24 hours of each other.  Like busses, only on a more extreme scale.  Or bad things, though I can’t honestly say I’ve ever noticed them coming in threes.

I’m certainly rehearsing a lot at the moment.  Kiss Me, Kate went a bit strange for a while, but is back on.  I’m playing the role of Ralph the stage manager, a small and fun role which also means that I get to double as a chorus member and generally keep busy for most of the evening.  But that performance isn’t until March.  This coming weekend, my vocal cords are going to be in almost constant use.

First sing – The Pirates of Penzance.  On Saturday evening, I’m singing the role of the Police Sergeant in a charity concert of Pirates at Hampton School in Herne Bay.  I shall be doubling as a pirate in the chorus as well, and possibly subtly going into falsetto to add a bit of volume to one or two of the bits for the ladies of the chorus.  If my voice can stand it.  I’m a tenor, you see, which is marvellous for the chorus sections, but not quite so marvellous for the policeman, which is a bass role hitting notes far below a tenor’s normal range of comfort.  I can hit them, much to my surprise, but it’s not very easy to do so.  The effect of me hitting the very low notes is rather comic, though, which has to be a good thing in Pirates.  Still, I suspect I’ll be doing more justice to Gilbert’s words than to Sullivan’s music.

Second sing – Sunday school play.  Yes, I have been dragged into the Sunday school Christmas extravaganza.  Normally I help out with these things, though I am not in any way a fan of nativity plays (big fan of Christmas, very much into the wonder and awe of Christ’s birth, but just don’t like the awkwardness of the nativity play).  This year, however, I have somehow found myself on stage as a narrator/explainer and the singer of an excessively cute song about the animals singing to the baby Jesus in the manger.  Quite how I manage to keep a straight face when I sing ‘the donkey twitched his ears as he heard the song, his eyes shed a tear as he sang along’, I’m not sure.  Let’s just say that my thought in March that I would never sing a sillier song than ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ was very wrong.  I also get to join in several other songs and dances with the children, though thankfully these aren’t as twee as my animal song.  Some of them are even quite good.

Third sing – carols.  On the Sunday evening, we have a carol service, which is much more my cup of tea.  I’ll be part of the music group, as I often am, and have been asked to sing ‘O Holy Night’ as a solo, which is rather nice.  It’s a beautiful song which has a lot to do with the meaning (rather than the narrative) of Christmas, so I hope I do it justice.  I also hope that someone finds some music for the musicians for this song.  I have the melody, lovingly written out for me by a very kind and helpful colleague, but it would be nice not to have to sing a cappella, as the results could be rather worrying.  It would have been nice to have more than a week’s notice as well, but you can’t expect such things of a church.  Not my church, anyway!

So, songs from the sublime to the ridiculous, covering several octaves and at least a couple of centuries.  A busy weekend, which may well lead to a mute non-singing librarian by Monday morning.  It is very nice to be wanted, but I do wonder whether it’s really possible to do such a diverse range of songs justice.  And all within 24 hours!  Next time something like this happens, I shall have to arrange sponsorship of some kind.  How much would people pay to sponsor a Singing Librarianathon, do you think?

  1. Ooohhh, quite a lot I should think! Hope all goes well this weekend.

  2. I’d rather sponsor a singlibrianthon than some of those silly races that I have given money to.

    I love “O Holy Night” It is a truly wonderful song and there are plenty of arrangements out there, so I hope the musicians are able to come up with one.

    Your comment about being able to hit the bass notes even though you are a tenor made me remember an occurrence from my days at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The policy there was that it did not matter what your major instrument was, you were expected to know how to sing and how to play the piano. If you were a voice or piano major,you were also expected to become conversant with another instrument, and usually folks picked the flute. Anyway, I was assigned a voice teacher and arrived for my first lesson and he asked me what I was. I told him I was an alto. This was because I always sang alto parts — since I had a good ear and could find intervals I was valuable in the inner voices. So, we began some warm ups, and Mr. LeRoux looked at me after a few minutes and said “You are not a contralto. You are a lazy soprano.” After a few weeks of lessons, he learned to set me up for the lesson so I could not see the keyboard, before we started on warmups. One day I reached a high e flat, and then he looked at me and said, “You are not a contralto. You are a very lazy coloratura.” During all this, I never lost my low range. I believe that many people who have the pipes to sing high can also get down low, but the people who are naturally built to sing low cannot reach the high notes.

    • Katja
    • December 16th, 2006

    Hope this weekend goes well – you’re going to be busy but it sounds like it should be a lot of fun. There’s nothing I like better than a bit of a challenge!

    Healingmagichands: I was much the same at school – I was put in the altos because I could find the harmonies easily. However, nowadays I am very much a soprano, although able to sing the low stuff as well – I have even been known to sing tenor on a desperate occasion.

  3. Interesting difference between the meaning of Christmas and the Narrative of Christmas.

    Enjoy the singing!

    Aphra

  4. An after-weekend report:

    Pirates of Penzance went very well. Only 30-40 people in the audience, but they enjoyed it and we raised a couple of hundred pounds for cancer nurses. It was lots of fun, and I definitely want to do some more G&S as soon as possible!

    The sunday school play went astonishingly well, with relatively few cringe moments, other than the angel telling the shepherds that the babe would be found wrapped in ‘swaddling paper’. Tee hee.

    O Holy Night didn’t happen, as for various reasons (mainly the pianist being the last to arrive for our music group practice before the service and thus only just about giving us time to go through all the congregational carols), I didn’t get to practice with the pianist, and didn’t think it would be at all wise to do it cold like that. Not when a) I’d never sung it in public before, and only saw the music for the first time this week, b) I’d never sung it with a piano before, which makes a difference and c) the pianist hadn’t played it with me, and hadn’t played it at all for years. It would have just been embarrassing for myself and the church.

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