Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Some Musings on Music with Specific Reference to the Anglican Choral Tradition 

I have always been fond of music and in general awe of musicians because I have never been one, nor likely will ever be much accomplished in that art. But, nonetheless, I have been thinking about music some lately - largely because I have begun voice lessons with a parishioner in preparation for my ordination to the priesthood, after which, my congregation will expect me to sing the 10:15 liturgy when I preside. Now, over the years, several people have worked with me on voice and song. It all began with Mrs. Goff, my high school drama coach who took my singing part in Guys and Dolls and gave it to someone else. I practiced I've got the horse right here... every night for hours, and to have it taken away actually crushed me. (Thus began the decline in the relationship between Mrs. Goff and I, which was never recovered.)

In seminary, the first music director with whom I worked generally had no patience for non-singers, but the people next to whom I sat in chapel, strangely, continued to encourage me. We got a second music director who worked much better with me and for him I am eternally grateful. It was with him that I took the Use of the Voice class my senior year and he really helped me, was patient with me, and told me that if I wanted to, I could do this singing thing. I worked at St. Luke's as the seminarian intern, and as some of you know well, the musical tradition there is high and lofty, which is to say, quite excellent. The interim organist/choir master there also helped me some, giving me some tips and general encouragement.

Now, in my first position, I've begun training my voice with the aid of a parishioner who is a trained opera singer, a Dramatic Coloratura. She opens her mouth, and the walls collapse. Now, you would think this would be intimidating (and in a way it is), but she is so kind that you cannot help but feel comfortable. She acknowledged up front that she was good and she knows she's good, but that I was not to be afraid of singing in front of her. That was helpful. We practiced for about 45 minutes the other day and she said just in that short time span, I improved under her tutelage. She gave me exercises to work on and some hymns to practice (#420, #450). But, most importantly to me, she framed singing in a theological way which I've never heard before and I appreciated that greatly.

All this is to say that I've been thinking about music recently and in so doing, have been missing the music of the St. Luke's choirs - that traditional, harmonized, soaring Anglican sound, accompanied by the organ. This led me to search around on Rhapsody for something that I could listen to, but I didn't find anything (mostly, as I soon found out, because I didn't know how to look). So, I googled some stuff and came across this essay from someone in the prayer book society of Canada. Now I knew what to search for, and so found several things. Right now I am listening to the Psalms for the Soul, by the Choir of St. John's Church, Elora. I also found the record label Hyperion which has some wonderful collections that I hope to find.

Anyway, I'm listening to the sounds I love right now, my soul is singing with them even if my voice isn't. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior! When in our music God is glorified and adoration leaves no room for pride, it is as if the whole creation cried, Alleluia!



Did you download the St. Luke's choirs version of the Bibel "Ave Maria"? It's still on the site, at http://stlukesevanston.org/downloads/biebl.mpga (I think the "a" at the end of the extension must be a typo, and if you download it then delete the "a" froim the filename, it should play fine as an .mpg file).

By Blogger AKMA, at 11:51 AM  

I will try to send you some of my Rhapsody music lists in the future. Their cataloging of choral and church music is not very accurate at times.

She is good and she knows it... Must be a soprano :-)

Still, it sounds like she knows that she is not teaching you to sing opera but to sing the liturgy, which are two different styles. They do share various vocal techniques.

As always, I am confident you will do very well.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:39 PM  

Yes, I have gotten that one, as well as the "Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven" from the St. Luke's website - they are both tremendous.

Al - I would appreciate that, since I don't know the names of all these composers, singers, and choruses. The teacher is very well aware that she is instructing me to sing the liturgy and not opera, which helps tremendously. Thanks for the encouragement.


By Blogger Ryan, at 2:25 PM  

Yay Yay Yay for you!

And Al - I know plenty of tenors & basses who are "good & they know it," thank you very much! :P

By Blogger Susie, at 2:59 PM  

And altos, for that matter, if we're being comprehensive.

The Robert Shaw groups (Chorale, Chamber Singers, etc.) are among my favorites here, especially for Christmas music. In fact, I used their version of "Coventry Carol" to lead it in class tonight for many of the reasons why I listen to them at all - they tend to be accurate in pitch, precise in enunciation, etc. without being boring or uninteresting, and their arrangements tend to be mostly straightforward but with fun descants and things. In other words, they sing hymns and carols the way I think those things ought to be sung, and in ways that I can learn and sing along with because they're close to the way actual people sing them in churches and homes.

Hmm. There are a lot of words and not much content in that paragraph. I apologize, and promise to sleep soon.

By Blogger Beth, at 1:03 AM  

Oh, I used to really want to be in the Robert Shaw corale, that was a dream of mine for a couple years in middle school/high school... so, I'm with Beth on that one. (Yeah, like me agreeing with Beth on music is shocking to anyone.)

By Blogger Susie, at 1:56 PM  

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