26 Feb Sound Mixing
Each term the joint music selection committee of the Harmony Grits and Village Voices, Fearrington’s community choruses, must track down choral music for the succeeding term, a veritable 13th Labor of Hercules, for they must answer not to one tyrant, but to 75, whose tastes and desires clash.
The Village Voices learned this truth about themselves from an opinion poll conducted last spring by Helen Flowers, one of their most discerning and diligent members. To the question, “Which songs did you really like?” 78 different songs were named. Of these, none was so statistically popular as to be declared the outstanding song of the past decade, and 15 (!) even showed up on the list of most disliked songs. Clearly one woman’s A was another’s F.
The Harmony Grits did not poll themselves to discover their own likes and dislikes, but from conversations over the years, it is clear that they too occasionally disagree on rating the songs they sing, both the TB (Tenor-Bass) songs that they sing by themselves and the SATB (Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass) songs they perform with the Village Voices. To one man, syncopation is a treat, to another it is a trial. One prefers classical music, another barbershop.
How then to find a silver mean?
One way was revealed in the Village Voices survey. Although there was no agreement on individual songs, there was some on types of music. Broadway, folk, classical, and classical pop seemed to be favored by the majority. Why not, then, pick music for this spring from these categories and please more of the choristers more of the time, instead of only some, some of the time?
But the music committee is a microcosm of the two larger groups, and they too, in their initial “brainstorming” session, expressed numerous divergent opinions about what kinds of music and what individual pieces each preferred. After going home to investigate offerings on the internet — Stanton’s Sheet Music Listening Library is a favorite site — when they reconvened, they were able to narrow the categories to three, not surprisingly, 3 of the 4 preferred in the Village Voices poll: classical, because it had been largely absent from our repertoire and much desired by some singers; Broadway, a universal favorite; and finally classical pop.
To those longing to sing classical choral works, Bach seemed a good place to begin. But he was not readily available in inexpensive formats. A chorale from the Christmas Oratorio, for example, could only be had by buying the whole work. Miscellanies of select choruses could be found, but not the desired individual pieces, and the cost of these seemed prohibitive. Even if price were not a factor, the piece chosen would have to accommodate the talents of the majority. It would be a good thing, the committee reasoned, if a few works nudged choristers out of their “comfort zones,” but not too far, and most of the Bach examined seemed too far.
Chagrined, one of the committee members suggested that, instead of that first famous B of the 3 B’s, the committee turn their gaze to a wider field. If not Bach, then why not B for Baroque? More internet investigations were undertaken, and soon three charming Baroque pieces — by Purcell, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Vivaldi — were picked to be sung in their original languages, English, Italian, and Latin. “Gia il sole dal Gange,” a Scarlatti aria from an early opera, though relatively easy musically, is definitely drawing the ladies of the Village Voices out of their comfort zone.
With three Baroque pieces located, it seemed but a breeze to find Broadway favorites, among them: “One Day More” from Les Mis, “Big Spender” from Sweet Charity, “Till There Was You” from The Music Man, and two songs from the Pajama Game, to be sung by the Fearringtones, a small SATB group of singers audition-picked from the main choruses. All of the pieces chosen offer opportunities for dramatic vocalization and gesture. Singers can enter the parts they are singing and for a few moments become fledgling revolutionaries or ardent lovers.
Was it then such a big step from the Great White Way to Abbey Road and a 3rd “B”? To the young, the Beatles may seem like ancient history, but to the over 64 set, they are like yesterday. It was a refreshingly easy choice. Numerous medleys of their songs have been arranged for community choruses like Fearrington’s. One was preferred by our Director, Matt Fry, and it will conclude this season’s spring concert in the Fearrington Barn (Wednesday, May 8), now happily entitled Broadway, Baroque, and the Beatles.