Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tonal Tuesdays - Can I Really Sing?

Some years ago, I had moved to a new school and one hot August day was unpacking, sorting and organizing for the new term.  A couple of young ladies questioned through the open window as to whether I was the new music teacher.  I answered in the affirmative and they stated quite firmly that I had no chance whatever of getting them to sing alone so not even to think of asking.  I accepted their words but added that before the year was over, they would have sung by themselves but only because they wanted to.  They guffawed and said something like, "that will be the day," and off they went.

That fear of singing by one's self is equal to the fear of public speaking, in my view.  I think people feel vulnerable and exposed and fear making mistakes.  That is one of the reasons I have never required auditions for choir membership.  I know that if you have a very specific sound requirement or a professional paid position then auditions are a must.  However, my choirs have been peopled by volunteers.

It is often said that everyone can sing.  And indeed, most can.  Some have not had as many opportunities to explore making musical sounds as others and thus are not as adept at reproducing adequate pitch etc.  Apparently, only 1 in 20 has amusia or tone deafness.  My Uncle Ed was one.  Aunt Peggy would play the piano and Uncle Ed would happily sing up a storm.  He had no idea he wasn't singing the right notes.  He just couldn't hear it.  A sing song with Uncle Ed was like the clash of the titans.  You certainly learned how to sing through the dissonance.

More often people haven't had the chance to learn to tone match.  That is, they need to learn to be able to reproduce the tones they hear.  One year, I was blessed with an extraordinary grade 7 class.  They worked together well and were exceptionally supportive of one another.  They had decided that they wanted to enter the Music Festival as a grade 7 classroom choir.  That meant that all the students had to agree to participate.  One of the boys, had come from a school outside Canada and had not sung much in his former school.  He truly couldn't tone match but was willing to learn.  Now, 12 and 13 year old males are all ready dealing with voices that can squeak and squawk at will but they were not deterred.  The boys on either side and behind him made a concerted effort to sing towards him.

The day he finally found his voice was so exciting.  His partners stopped and shouted that he had done it.  He had sung the right notes.  We did it again and this time he heard it.  We had quite the celebration.

So, yes YOU can sing.  If you are willing to learn some basic skills and practise them, you can sing all you want.  Remember the young ladies I met at the window.  Indeed they did sing by themselves but it was during a project and the students were working together to write jingles.  They sang their creations to one another in a relaxed and non-judgmental situation so they indeed didn't realize they had "sung by themselves" until I told them during evaluations.  They were totally surprised and declared that it hadn't hurt a bit.  I love it when a plan comes together!


Colleen said...

You forgot my favourite story. Remember in church choir you taught someone profoundly deaf to sing. And if someone who is profoundly deaf can sing then anyone and everyone should try.

Embro Thistle Singers said...

You are right. That was very exciting and that young man went on to play in a band as well . Thanks for the reminder. He wanted to learn to sing and really worked hard at it. He was a great example that there isn't anything you can't do just that the impossible takes longer, as someone we know and love would say.