Saturday, March 29, 2014


She gives me the part.  Maybe she believed me when I said I'm a choir chameleon who can blend with any group.  Maybe she just liked my voice.  Then again, maybe not because once I have the part, she tells me to sing completely differently.  In her heaven, the angels all have lots of vibrato.  In my heaven, there is no vibrato.

I have never been formally trained.  I used to take a sort of pride in the openness, cleanness, and clarity of my voice (when I wasn't rusty).  I don't actually know how to control and use vibrato for good and not for evil.  Actually, I don't even really know how to use it for evil.  It is not something that comes naturally to me.  I'm not really an alto either, something my old choir director used to say but I didn't really understand until I was out singing with older adult choirs.  Yes, I will now freely admit that I am a mezzo who doesn't have a high range anymore (since I wrecked my health a bit my senior year in high school).  I can't quite bring myself to say I'm a mezzo-soprano, I, who have spent my whole choir life holding up the alto section because I could hit the low notes.

She wants me to sing with more of an alto tone (deep and rich and solid), to keep my voice tall and closed, to pour on the vibrato.  I give it my best shot, trying to memorize the piece so I can spend that mental effort on trying to blend the soprano 1's and alto 2's vibrato while also bridging the openness of the soprano 1 with the closed-ness of the soprano 2 and trying to remind folks about dynamics and to--above all else--listen and make lovely music. 

But at the last practice, our first with the orchestra, I forget everything because the choir is singing and they are getting it right and the orchestra is so full, and I let all the beauty going on distract me, catch me up, pull me away from my duty as bridge/anchor/chameleon, make me forget that I am tasked with singing about the holiness of God so wonderfully it blends into a whole where I don't stand out at all but support and redirect attention where it belongs.

This is why one of the ladies who has also joined the choir just for this events says she likes singing with church choirs more than professional choirs: because this music is not only beauty to us but is also truth.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Audition, Part 2

When I posted the first part of my audition adventure, one very kind writer friend said, "i don't get why you couldn't audition with what you had prepared, since that was their instruction, right, to be ready with these songs."  First of all, I made an assumption based on the information on the audition sheet that was, in the words of another friend, "Totally understandable but also totally wrong."  I had questions; I should have asked them.  My own fault I didn't.

My kind friend said, "i am assuming you did not get the part, or get a place in this group?  it all seems so wrong, given your beautiful voice."  I don't know yet if I got the part, but I thought that maybe it would help to explain the audition in terms of writing and publishing because there are some similarities. 

When a writer sends in a submission to a magazine or anthology publisher, the writer should know that it's not (only) the quality of the submission that is being judged but how well it fits in with the whole.  Maybe your piece is lovely but just not quite matching the theme or maybe there's another submission that is slightly better than yours and covers some of the same territory.  It's not just the quality of your writing that is being examined; it is how your piece blends in with the whole.

A rejection is therefore not necessarily a judgment that a writer is not good at writing.  (This is why reading through some issues of the magazine or journal one is trying to publish in is highly encouraged: it can cut down on wasted submissions of perfectly good work to places where it just won't fit, which saves time for editors and emotional energy for the writer.)

One way a vocal audition is not like trying to get published is that, while you have a short time to wow the decision makers in both situations, you sometimes have to somehow try to demonstrate the whole stylistic range of your vocal talent in an audition, to show all the possibilities.  You don't have to do that in writing.  In writing, it's okay to just be really good at one style or genre.

Sometimes a person has a lovely voice for one kind of singing that doesn't necessarily translate to being a good fit with another kind of singing.  I have a good voice for sacred choral music (straight tone, resonant in a good acoustic, no vibrato, able to blend well with other parts).  The group I am joining for this endeavor is singing operatic, classical choral.  The quartet I auditioned for would likely be made up mostly of church ladies who are (on the whole) not formally trained and use excessive vibrato or are formally trained and use vibrato.  I knew that going in.  That's why I was kicking myself so much for forgetting that BLEND should have been the thing foremost on my mind and not just getting the notes right in that audition.

I'm not even sure I want the part.  My health still isn't totally reliable, and my voice definitely isn't.  (And if I get the part, it means I have to expend more than normal energy avoiding illness until after the concert.  I'm not sure I even have that energy.)  I think maybe I tried out because the process of preparation is important; I wanted to show myself that I can do that part in case I ever get healthy enough to get back into music more seriously.  Maybe that's why it was so disappointing that I couldn't even get that right. 

In the end, I explained the situation to the director and, unusually, ended up getting a call back for a second audition of the song I had prepared but for a different vocal part, so I learned that and prepped it and then had my audition.  I asked her what she was looking for, and she told me to just sing it, so I did.  She was impressed by my accuracy but seemed dubious  about my ability to blend with the others.  I told her that I was actually a choir chameleon because I could blend with nearly any kind of voice (which was often true in my last choir) and help pull the whole together.  And then I waited for a final decision, something writers who try to publish are very familiar with.  : )