I’m in the part of a choir set that I love. I mostly know the music and can now get down to truly making music.

This set with the Santa Cruz Chorale felt a little more difficult to learn than others because for so much of it, my part is written in tenor clef. I’m a decent sight reader, but tenor clef just really messes with my brain! Because it’s simply an octave lower than the treble clef that I normally sing in, it seems like it ought to be easy. But it’s not. My brain just has trouble computing where those notes should be in my voice. And when the notes start getting down in to the bottom range of where I can comfortably sing, I start to lose track of the pitch. I know it’s low, but I don’t always know exactly where it is. Very disconcerting.

I am again noticing a trend regarding really good sight-readers. Many of those readers appear to still be reading.

My story is that because I have to work harder to learn the part in the first place, I spend more time getting the music all the way into my body so that I can make it music instead of just a series of notes.

There are some things that I automatically do to notes. I don’t even think about these, they just happen. And it’s a pleasure when I then hear Christian ask us to do that thing that I have just been doing. I’m not automatically doing everything he asks for, so I always try to listen carefully to his requests in order to learn something new, but it pleases me to know that some of the things I understand without having to be told.

An example of this came when Christian was working with the brass last night. We are performing a piece that I performed in October with the Funks (same guys we’re working with now), only they’re playing the parts that we vocalists sang, and we, the choir, are singing what they played. I’m loving this because I’m listening much more carefully to the whole piece. I often just find where my part goes and work to lay it in to the exact spot that it’s supposed to be (pitch-wise, tempo-wise, volume, musically, everything), but the rest of the parts don’t quite sink in. So this time I’m singing that other part and getting to know it.

Hmmm, back to what I wanted to tell you. Christian was giving direction to the brass about how to make the line more musical and as I heard him describe it, I realized that he was asking for what Jas and I had done with those lines. I don’t remember us necessarily talking about what we wanted to do there, we just did it.

So, I just went back and listened to the recording of the Shutz Da Pacem that I have been talking about. It was interesting to hear it again after having learned the alto line in the other choir. I was hearing even more things in the music to improve. I felt very good about that performance, and I still think we did a credible job, but I can now hear many other things. Of course, in listening critically I can also hear where I made mistakes. Sigh. That’s the trouble with listening carefully; I sometimes get caught in the trap of “damn, I could have done so many things better.” It’s one thing to listen carefully to learn and improve and it’s another thing to listen to criticize. I’m working on that distinction these days.

I’m going to give it another listen to see what things worked well and what things could be improved and how I can improve my vocal technique and musicality for the betterment of any group I sing with.

Off to listen and learn!