Choir 101

June 16, 2011 Comments Off on Choir 101

I have a new obsession! (Cue groans from my audience.) I want to start an introductory choir class. Allow me to explain.

We’re doing a piece in Summer Choir in slow 6/8, which means that sixteenth notes are a simple half of the beat. But I’ve noticed a lot of people singing it as though it was part of a dotted rhythm, and I realized that they had no good understanding of rhythm, and only knew sixteenth notes in the context of a dotted eighth note. Then I realized that no one actually teaches you basic music theory after high school. Once you get to college choirs and older, most directors assume that you can count, that you know note names and why a C-sharp is the same as a D-flat, that you know the difference between major and minor beyond “happy vs. sad,” and so on. People who have always liked to sing and who decide, at 30, that they want to join a choir are at a distinct disadvantage, because there is apparently no substitute for having been in choir since middle school.

So here’s my idea. I want to start a choir that will be largely class-time devoted to music theory from the ground up (with a coursepack you can keep for future reference—because we’re not going to spend a ton of time on FACE and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge), plus a lot of sight-reading, and for perhaps the latter half of the class we will work on largely common/famous rep that everyone did or at least heard in high school: “Dirait-On, “O Sifuni Mungu,” “Sleep,” “Sicut Cervus,” and so on. I think this is an awesome idea.

The trouble is, I don’t know whether there’s any market at all for this. I think older people who want to start choir just join their church choir, or Choral Union. But then you end up with people like the members of Summer Choir, who think they know music because they’ve been in choirs for decades, but don’t actually know why a sixteenth note is not necessarily a dotted rhythm. To get people to attend my class I’d have to walk around Choral Union during rehearsals and call people out for not knowing jack about music, and require them to come. Obviously not practical. But I can’t leave it alone. I’m writing the coursepack as we speak, and keeping the syllabus open on the side of my screen so I can add things to it as they occur to me. Maybe I’ll just have to start it and see if anyone comes. In the meantime, let me know if anyone has any insights on this.


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