On Singing Latin, and Other Uncomfortable Things

    Well, as most of you know, I moved to Pennsylvania and am settling in.  I joined the Pike County Choral Society because my mother and sister are altos there and I thought it would be fun to sing again.  I haven't sung in a choir since high school.  Seriously.  I am so out of practice it isn't funny.  

    You learn, in a good high school chorus, how to sing a little Latin, a little French, perhaps some German.  You don't really learn enough, of course, but you can get the gist of how each language is supposed to sound while being sung by a group of people who can or cannot really sing well.  

    Having forgotten that you're supposed to drop the H and that I is "ee", I found myself mispronouncing all this gorgeous Latin stuff that Dvorak wrote in his Mass in D.  As for learning German, I never learned it, so all I can say is that singing Bach in chorus is a hell of a lot harder than learning Bach on the piano.  And I happen to be a smoker, so instead of being a high soprano or a soprano or even an alto (which is how I progressed in high school over the course of two years), I am now a tenor.  And the Pike County Choral Society only had two other tenors, before I showed up.  So now I'm singing some wrong notes AND mispronouncing my Latin and German whilst singing the tenor part with only two other people.


    After two very uncomfortable rehearsals wherein I felt I was in WAY over my head, I got a CD from my sister which features some other chorus singing the songs we are practicing, and I also was led to a handy little website called Cyberbass.com.  I can now practice at home, which is a good thing because having one two-hour rehearsal once a week just won't cut it.  I also looked up "How to sing Latin in Chorus" and got some great tips on the internet.  Lastly, I transferred the CD my sister made onto my iPod so that I can go to bed each night listening to all the songs we're featuring in our concert.  It helps just to listen to it, without singing, so that it 'sinks in'.  I'm finally feeling like I can get these songs ready by the Holiday Concert coming up next month.  I'm also having some really good dreams lately, too, which was unexpected.

    It would be really cool if someone would come and videotape us so that we can stick the concert up on YouTube, but then again, I'd be scared silly if they did.  I just think it would be kinda cute to sing Latin for my good friend Dick Day, LOL...

    Anyway, if you ever find yourself in a choral society and you're singing Latin, here's some pointers:  A is "ah" as in "Father".  E is "eh" as in "Fed".  I is "EE".  Period.  O is "aw" as in "Fought".  U is "ooh".  Period.  Y is I which is "EE".  

    Make light of your consonants and concentrate on your vowels.  Breathe in deeply without moving your chest or shoulders, and only breathe when you can sneak in a breath.  Which isn't often.  Always look at your director except when you're busy looking at the music.  Always follow the music except when you're busy looking at the director.  Um.  De-um.

    De-e-e-um.  Daylight comin' and me wanna go home...


    Also, sing with your mouth wide open. Many folk try to sing through little slits, and it makes their voice sound flat.

    When looking at your music, bring the book up, and angle your eyes down. Don't tilt your head down, or your voice will be aimed down instead of out.

    Sing from your diaphragm. Not the one in your purse, the one in your thorax.

    Choir was fun. I miss it a lot.

    Thanks, Donal!  Yes, my high school choral director was very good about teaching us diaphragm exercises.  To this day I find myself doing "belly breathing" more than chest breathing because of him. 

    As for the music, our Cantor told us just last week that he would like us to hold our music books up higher, so that we can move our eyes from him to the music faster.  My problem, though, is that I wear contact lenses for distance, but find that my reading vision is getting blurred (due to age, I guess).  So if I hold the music score too close, the lyrics get fuzzy.  I'm trying to play around with different lenses, using one slightly weaker scrip in one eye, to see if that will help.  Sucks for driving, but works for reading. 

    Thanks for the good pointers. 

    Here's how you sing Gloria, BTW:


    One thing I remember from back when I was in our church choir - it's "in egg-shell-cease day-o". (Duplicated link is deliberate.)

    "Egg-shell-cease"!!  I love it!!!!  I never tried that before, but it's so easy.  Thanks!!! 

    (Now, if you can help me break "consubstantialem patri" down, that would be great, LOL...)


    Or for Verdi, Aida Triumphal March---Gloria, I got your res-u-me. 

    LOL!  That made me think of "Toreador-a, don't spit on the floor...use the cuspidor...that's what it's for!"



    Dick, this is beautiful!  Wowzers.  It gives me chills to listen to this.  I love the acoustics.


    I never knew Bunsen Honeydew could sing.

    Thank you, Flower...it's gorgeous.  I'm a Cat fan but - believe it or not - I'd never heard this song before today.  I like!!  And the video is awesome too (especially that seal).

    I love that song, and it's great to have a copy with words.

    Hope to see your concert on youtube.  That would be so cool:)

    I don't think it's gonna happen, but thanks!  It would be cool.  Oh, hey...I need your email address.  I just changed phone numbers yesterday (got a new Straight Talk phone) and I'm transferring all my contacts over.  For some reason, I have two different phone numbers for you, and I don't know which one is current.  Email me?

    Hey, LisaB. Glad your resettled and singing. I really miss it. Beethoven's Ninth was the most difficult one, both on the music and the language.

    I've also done small group singing and been watching the Singoff on NBC. Such a good show although I don't much care for some of the new genres. They are down to five groups and they are very, very good. One song Monday night by a Howard University mixed group (SATB)named Afro-Blue  reduced me to tears, literally.  I think Pentonic, one woman, four men, all the parts and all the instrumentation done by five voices, will win it.

    I love it when a musician (or musical group) sings so well that it moves people to tears.  I remember watching Paul Potts and Susan Boyle on youtube over and over again, crying every time.  I know ... I'm a mush, hahahaha.

    Your singing in the choir is great news.

    I listen to Arvo Pärt a lot. I wish I could make that kind of music.

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