Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Harmonizing With Myself


Deb: Since I can remember I have sung the harmony. I have the Beatles to thank for that. And my nature, I suppose. I literally do not hear the melody when I hear a song. I mean, yes, I hear it, but it does not resonate with me. The melody and I are not harmonious.

I am in the choir at church. I have to harmonize there because I am an alto. Or as my friend Cheryl says, “a base passing as an alto.” It’s lucky for me that I love harmonies because my low voice could not possibly reach the gorgeous high notes of a soprano line.

But I love it. I love reading the music as I am learning to do more and more. I love the “where are we going now” aspect to it. Harmony takes me to unexpected places, I guess that’s what I really enjoy. One minute I am right beside the melody, note by note, and the next moment I am soaring above it or scraping the bottom kissing the base-line.

Last night we did our annual Carols by Candlelight at our church and it was, as always, a wonderful evening. This was our fifteenth annual concert and it did not disappoint. Our special guests are always the Salvation Army Brass and all the offering goes to them and their very good work. This year their need is higher for obvious reasons and I am happy to say that the crowd who attended last night doubled their givings from last year!

As I was sitting in the choir loft during rehearsal, I thought about the melody and the harmony and realized that I would not want to sing in a choir at all if I had to do the melody. Isn’t that odd? Don’t misunderstand me. I love the sound of the melody, the beautiful ladies voices reaching the heights. But it doesn’t appeal to me. It would not keep me engaged. I was singing in a small women’s chamber group for a lovely piece in the concert.  At one point the altos had to carry the melody and I had to stop myself from rushing it, so I could sing my way back to the harmony.

Now, descant. Descant is another story. Oh the places I could go with descant. It sends chills through my body. I am thrilled and awed by the sound of descant. But of course an alto can’t do descant so I continue to search for the twists and turns and blending sounds that a harmony can make.

For me, the melody is a gorgeous walk down a lovely path. But the harmony is adventure!

Barbara: “But the harmony is adventure”—you said that to me recently and I just love that. The adventure of singing! I’ve always noticed that you sing the harmony, Deb. I didn’t so much question it as appreciate it—so many of us follow the regular path and never have the courage to jump around all over it. Of course, with someone singing the harmony, the song also sounds more lush and interesting, more complex. It’s why I’ve always loved when you’re on the singing team (ie carols’ time coming up!). Sadly, I am not a very good singer and it’s an effort for me to sing on key all the proper notes of the melody, so I will stay where I am for the time being (maybe learning as I go), and I will marvel at and appreciate your vocal adventures!


28 comments:

  1. Aww....You always enthral me Miss McGrath!!

    Harmony IS AN ADVENTURE!!!!Ahhhh the descant! Love the descant....LOVE IT! Aww I can just hear you sing.......You must be fabulous!!

    I do think Harmony is the heart of everything... I mean Melody is important...but harmony is what makes its soooo delicious. You're right it is an adventure. Ahhh it soo true for so many things. Harmony is everything! Isnt it just....soooo wonderful when your in harmony with life. Sucha Wild ride! Lol peptalk again! IDK how you girls endure sometimes...But I cant help it....My mind always sticks to peptalk when I talk :D

    And I cant sing...I try....maybe if I get proper training I'll be good at it...but right now I sound like I'm being strangled and I'm calling for help.

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  2. Lemme tell you how I sing.... Because I sound like I'm being strangled when I sing like a normal human being...sooo I like singing songs that go....

    "WWEEEEEEEEEEAAAEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOO

    DADADADAN.....DADADADAN.....DADADADAN......DADADADADADA
    (DAAAA DAAA DAAA DAARAAAAAA)
    DADADADAN.....DADADADAN.....DADADADAN......DADADADADADA
    (DAAAA DAAA DAAA DAARAAARAAAAAAAA)

    DOOOOOOWEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOO............EEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    DADADADAAAADARRAAAAAAA (Ahhhhhahhhhhaahhhhhhahhhhhh)

    DOOOWEEEEEEOOOOO..(dadadadaaa)..DOOOWEEEEEEOOOOO..(daaaadededeeee).......DOOOWEEEEEEOOOOO...."

    Check this if you didnt get it...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYteCmkw2hE

    I know....Its a minute long.... But I felt bad for you guys and stopped at 30seconds B| and dont you just LOVE THE DESCANT IN THIS SONG????

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    1. HIlarious Shalaka! I love the descant!

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  3. Oh, I love singing in a choir! It's been years since I've done it, but Christmas Carols are my favorite! I'm an alto, too, although I can do soprano, it is not where my voice is strongest. And I suppose since I was trained that way from a young age, that is why I usually try to harmonize when I sing. Oh, and never a solo for me, unless I'm in my car or the shower.

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    1. In the car or the shower is my favourite place to sing!

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  4. I can't carry a tune in a bucket if my life depended on it.
    I know this so I only sing when the radio is blasting in car to drown me out :) But I love that you sing harmony!

    Now obvously I have never been in choir class in school or anything so harmony is the harder one to sing right? I think so, if I can remember correctly. Plus I think its a little harder because everyone else is doing the main up front stuff that you have to remember not to just join in with them......Is any of this correct??? I have very little knowledge of singing as you can tell I'm sure, But I love that you enjoy it so much Deb and that you fit perfectly into singing harmony! What you were made for!

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    1. "carry a tune in a bucket" one of my fave sayings! Thanks Kelly! and the answer is "it is harder than the melody"

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  5. Oooh great topic. I too am in the choir in my church as an alto. If I don't know the alto part though I just sing the melody :]

    I'm also in the College's Women's Choir. I started out as a 1st soprano (I can do soprano/alto) but then got switched to a 1st alto. I was really ticked at first because I like singing the melodies. But now that I've been an alto I really love it! I love the harmonies in some of the songs we sing! :D

    I feel that in a choir every member should be challenged to try the part they normally don't sing; you'll be amazed at what you discover about your singing voice :]

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    1. Kelly I love that you don't know the alto so you just sing the melody! Great!!!!!

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  6. Can't sing worth shit. But I love when others can.:)

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    1. Love this comment Madge but I am sure you underestimate yourself. Try the shower!

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    2. One of my longtime ensemble directors told me this:

      If you can talk you can sing
      If you can walk you can dance

      :]

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  7. I cannot sing to save my life. Like Kelly said, only time I sing is in the car with the radio blasting to drown me out! It's funny because, when I was in elementary school I was in a musical with a leading role! I guess as I got older my singing voice left me.
    So happy that you get so much pleasure from it Deb!

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    1. Thanks Steph. And may I just say, that if the radio is up and you aren't worried about anyone else...sing that song baby!

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  8. I love singing, and one of the difficult things about travel is not being able to be in a choir. I used to sing tenor because I have a low voice and we were always short of men. I love the harmony, but I have to listen for it to get it, and I was always jealous that my older brother picked it up naturally. But it meant that I sang melody to his harmony, which worked out well. We always used to do Beatles songs too, Deb!
    I still sing and switch between melody and harmony all the time. I miss my choir so I just sing along to music.

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    1. Hannah this is lovely. And I can relate. "There are places I remember, all my life, but some have changed."

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  9. I'm also an alto. When my voice is in good form, I can do a bit of soprano, but I'd be more comfortable in the tenors. I learned to sing harmony when I was very small and I had a wonderful children's Christmas album (yes, an LP) that taught you how to sing harmony. I've always done it ever since. I love making up my own harmony. I love to sing melody too, when I can find a song in my range. When I played in the band, years ago in school, I played the bassoon. I always played bass lines and thanks to that, I'm very aware of the bass parts of songs and I often pick out those parts before I learn the melody.

    A beautiful blog, Deb, on music, harmony and the fact that it takes all kinds to make this world beautiful.

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    1. We are kindred spirits Molly. I also love the tenor. Maybe one day we will find ourselves in the same choir. Who knows?

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  10. Harmony is a great trait. We need more of it in everything. You probably bring harmony to everything in our life. You are an harmonious person!

    Dorothy

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    1. What a lovely thing to say Dorothy. Thank you so much.

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  11. Oh I love singing, especially descant! :D I always sing the descant to Silent Night whenever I hear it, and I make up my own to other songs I hear on the radio. I don't know why, I just find myself doing it. I guess I was born to sing! I'd hate not to. The world would be such a sad place without music.

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    1. Descant is killer great. I have a lovely Silent Night harmony but I think the descant would top it Roz.

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  12. Deb, I can just picture how strong your voice is as the harmony, because we sing more strongly when we are enjoying ourselves. It sounds (see what I did there?) as though you enjoyed yourself quite thoroughly last night, and do every time you sing.

    I am also an alto, and am finally learning the harmony of songs, instead of just singing the regular melody in a lower voice. It's a lot more comfortable for my voice, and I sound better, which is as much of the goal as anything else. :)

    I can't read music worth a damn, but my ear is getting better at hearing where I need to harmonize. Listening to favorite songs (mine are by Dennis DeYoung, of Styx, who sings the harmony beautifully,) helps greatly.

    My dad is a powerfully talented singer. He majored in voice in college, and continues to sing in the church choir purely for the joy of singing. He's a tenor, not a bass, and can hit a large range of notes. I attend church on Christmas Eve for the sole purpose of listening to him sing "Oh Holy Night." I have always been able to pick out his voice, regardless of the size of the group, and this is one of his best songs.

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    1. That is one of the only songs that I sing around the house while doing the domestic stuff. Just love it and feel a connection with that song. No shame in my lacklustre voice when I'm belting it out (in the privacy of my own home, of course!)

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  14. I've just joined a 50-member choir in September, and I'm an Alto 2. My biggest difficulty (thank you slight hearing loss) is that I can't hear myself when I sing in such a large group,so I'm praying that I'm singing with the rest of my section. So far, where I stand in the choir, the other alto 2s aren't complaining. :D But then again, they just may want me so I can drag my husband (a tenor) who has been singing in choirs on and off since he was a young lad.

    And as an alto, you typically do harmony. Unless you get some funky arrangements where the altos carry the melody at some point (I'm thinking of my choir's current repertoire - "Windy"; "Carol of the Bells" (Dang you, choir master/arranger of some music)! :)

    I'm quite intimidated by my husand's family - he has a cousin who is a (I think) reasonably well-known Canadian folk singer. I still remember going to my husband's Great Aunt's 90th birthday bash, and
    there we were, hubby and various relatives sitting in the living room, singing songs from The Arrogant Worms. LOL.


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  15. I don't sing, but I do play the viola, and all we ever get is harmony.
    It's nice, I guess, but it does also mean that our notes are never as complex and we're always kind of shunted to the back of the collective sound.
    My friends who do sing tell me that every part has a brilliant bit to play, but in orchestra that's not really the case. It's just a way of separating the violins, the instrument that people all go "ooh how advanced" about, from the violas, which most people have never heard of.
    But the best thing to do, I suppose, is just to play loud and strong. That way the harmony can shine just like the melody.

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  16. One minute I am right beside the melody, note by note, and the next moment I am soaring above it or scraping the bottom kissing the base-line.

    Great post, and I love how you worded this especially. I used to play viola in high school and felt the same way about it. The teacher called it a "swing instrument" as it could join the melody or dive into harmony unpredictably, and I liked the way it swam around like that :)

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