Resolving to Sing
New Year’s resolutions, while frequently focusing on the physical–going back to the gym, revisiting that diet, getting out the running shoes–can also bring singers out of hiding and into audition rooms. When January 1 comes around each year, audition requests start to trickle into choirs’ e-mail boxes as singers set new goals and plans for the year, and as groups broadcast audition details for the spring season.
Glancing through some of the messages I’ve received recently for Melodia Women’s Choir, I see inquiries from singers with as many reasons to audition as there are choirs in which to sing. An experienced professional who sings on commercials misses singing with a group. A recent graduate just moved to New York for a job and wants to continue her musical life and meet other singers. A singer recently completed a course of voice lessons paid for by a “passion grant” from the company where she works and is ready to try out for some choirs.
Many New York City choirs have a consistently rotating roster of singers as lives shift and change. Even when a choir may only have a few open spots, many choral directors are eager to hear all of the singers who are available to audition and who meet the choir’s membership criteria. Within a short time frame–usually 10-15 minutes–the director will make a rigorous survey of a singer’s skills. A series of vocal exercises, the performance of a prepared song, and a sight-reading exercise are usually part of the audition. For choirs that consistently tackle challenging contemporary works, a high level of sight reading is key in addition to highly accurate pitch.
For Melodia, we listen for a particular tone quality that is full-bodied but goes toward a straight tone without a big vibrato sound. Singers who don’t do well in the sight-reading part of the audition are rarely accepted. Melodia, like many choirs, has a lot of music to cover in a short time and needs singers who can read well and learn fast.
For a singer, finding a choir that is the right fit can sometimes take several attempts, but most will eventually discover a group that has the right pace, culture, and a repertoire that they love. Some singers, having joined a choir, will work on their vocal technique and choral repertoire in individual voice lessons. New York-based soprano and voice teacher Mary Ellen Callahan says that 95 percent of her voice students are currently singing in a choir. For many, voice lessons are an extension of their commitment to a choir and its repertoire, as well as their desire to continue working on vocal technique.
Have you defined specific music-related goals for 2012?