Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Singing together

The melodies Verdi gives us (in Requiem) make it impossible to sing it any other way. But you don't get the full effect until all the different voice parts are singing together. The sweetness that Verdi wrote to embody such an important request as forgiveness and mercy comes from the harmony. No one voice alone can produce this sound.
Stacy Horn in Imperfect Harmony

These lines from the last page of Stacy Horn's Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others (Algonquin, $15.95) nicely sum up the message in her book. Singing together with other people, not alone in the shower, makes all the difference.

Horn, a middle-aged New Yorker, confesses to being an atheist, yet every week she walks several blocks to sing some of the greatest choral works of Christendom with the Choral Society of Grace Church. She has been doing this for a number of years. "Singing," she writes, "is the one thing in my life that never fails to take me to where disenchantment is almost nonexistent and feeling good is pretty much guaranteed." Maybe she doesn't always believe what she's singing about, but, she says, "I believe in singing." Elsewhere she writes, "Singing is the ultimate communion."

She cites research showing the benefits of singing to mind and body. She interviews other singers, as well as composers and choral leaders. Mostly, however, she writes about her own experiences and the joy she feels each time she sings with other people.

Horn admits to not being among the best sopranos in her choir. She says, however, that singers don't need to be great to make great music together. As evidence of this, she points to the Virtual Choir, the brainchild of composer Eric Whitacre. Thousands of people from around the world submit videos of themselves singing one of Whitacre's compositions, and the voices are combined into some intensely beautiful music. Nobody is turned away because of an inadequate singing voice. Imperfect voices blend into perfect harmony. Check out Virtual Choir 4 video on YouTube to see for yourself.

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