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Monday, July 20

Give Me Your Voice

When I set out to construct a virtual choir with the local children, I made a few incorrect assumptions. I incorrectly estimated the extent to which young children might have a singing range, but in some ways that was the least of my mistakes.

I got a few things right. I produced an arrangement for Mr Blue Sky (and It Must Be Love) that had both harmonies and enough tune to be singable, even if singing a harmony part. I was wary of big non-melodic jumps in the parts, and tried to make each part a singable tune. I'm pretty happy with the results. I could have done more, I could have made some bits easier, but on the whole, the balance between scale and difficulty is about right.

I incorrectly assumed that notebashing videos would help, but we pulled those before they saw the light of day. I spent many hours demonstrating how to take the lines apart and sing them in bits, and only I ever saw those videos. For young people, learning by rote as a whole is perhaps easier than having it taken apart and shown to you a bit at a time, while you can't quite follow because even if you have the sheet music, you can't read along.

Who knows, maybe the notebashing would have helped some people, but less is more. People don't follow instructions at the best of times, so reducing the amount they can fail to follow is probably the right thing to do.

The biggest thing I failed to grasp, though, was how intimate a request it was, and how insecure it would make people feel when we asked them to record themselves singing and send it in. There's no hiding from the glare of the camera lens, and people have a very intimate relationship with their singing.

  • People need to be able to sing as it frees them and allows them to express themselves
  • Many are afraid of how others will judge their singing, so don't want to sing
  • They want to believe their singing is amazing
  • They fear their singing is not
It's quite a big deal. You can deny someone the confidence of their own voice by giving them the wrong sort of feedback on their musicality at a young age. It's such an important part of who we are, the ability to sing, and yet it's so fragile.

Asking the children to give me their singing voice - in fact even asking the adults to do so - was a much larger request than I figured it would be, and I quickly realised the extent to which I needed to treat what they sent me with the utmost respect. While it's easy to criticise singing we might not like or might consider technically flawed, such criticism should only be reserved for those who are presenting themselves as professionals in their craft.

For everyone else, singing is a special thing that everyone should get to do, regardless.

That's not always been my opinion.


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