Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Teamwork for a Nation of Altos

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Teamwork for a Nation of Altos

Article excerpt

If Thomas Day of Salve Regina University were to update "Why Catholics Can't Sing," he might retitle it "Why Catholics Can't Sing - And Protestants Are Going Flat." Our mutual reluctance to belt out "The Star-Spangled Banner" indicates how far the average singing range in the US has declined. So does gradual replacement of four-voice treble clef/bass clef hymnals by song sheets and "follow the bouncing ball" slides.

Overprofessionalized choirs, amplification of soloists, "new" hymns that won't stick in the ear, and other factors identified by Professor Day have pushed congregations toward musical passivity - as opposed to melodies that soared and words that thundered in most Protestant churches back in the 1950s and early '60s. Small wonder many church members search for emotional fulfillment in political activism, now that there's no music and poetry waiting for them on Sunday.

Here are three steps for members who want to be able to say, "Let's go to church next Sunday and sing, not just listen!" Make sure the congregation sings in "alto-friendly" keys. Compared with a generation ago, more of us (at least 80 percent now) are altos and weak baritones for whom a high C is tops and the high B-flats and Fs in our hymnals are out of the question. "Faith of Our Fathers" is still singable, since its high F (in the key of F) should certainly be transposed down a fourth to the alto-friendly key of C. (One of the newer Presbyterian hymnals is a step in the right direction.) Better a pitch pipe with everyone singing in a comfortable key than a magnificent pipe organ with everyone croaking and groaning, except a few show-off sopranos and tenors. Make sure the choir has an outreach role. Singing in a first-rate choir is rewarding, musically and socially, but its volume and virtuosity can intimidate the congregation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.