See, the thing is I wanted to join a choir here in Pensacola. I've been missing singing in a group a lot lately. I apparently missed the auditions for the classical choir that sings with the symphony, so I thought doing a 180 from that kind of music might be good for me. Therefore, my Tuesday night this past week was spent with a chapter of the Sweet Adelines International. Yes, I delved into all-female barbershop singing, and I walked away a bit confused and slightly scarred.
When I showed up, it was of course all old women (and I mean OLD). There was only one gal remotely close to my age, who brought her 2-year-old and referred to herself as a "barbershop brat." Where are all the people my age? All those people I sang with in college? Can they please join some choirs outside their church already so I stop sticking out like a sore thumb?
Anyway, besides the expected age gap, they first ran a voice placement test on me. They cut my range test off at an E, which is only the top of the staff. In hindsight, I should've read more into that. They tried to get me to sing "Happy Birthday," but I refused because I hate that song and it doesn't show off any of my vocal assets. I chose "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" instead. I sang it in my head-voice soprano, and then they made me sing it down the octave. (Weird? Yes.)
They put me on the voice part called "Lead." I had no idea what this meant. When I actually got the music score in my hand, I was able to see the voice parts. From top to bottom on the staff, there was Tenor, Lead, Baritone, and Bass. Umm, I thought there were only women here? Those are dude voice parts. I guess women's barbershop means pretending to be a man? The Baris and Basses were indeed reading Bass clef (which I have never done). I found it really odd that women's barbershop made no concessions for actually being female. (And I loathed the thought that my high A would be completely worthless here.)
We split into sectionals and learned our parts. The Lead part? Yeah, it's just the freakin' melody. And it was pretty far down in my range, a lot of the notes sitting beneath the staff in traditional Alto range. I was starting to come down with a cold, but either way my voice hated singing in this range. Looking at the Tenor part, it seemed like more of a Soprano 2 (my usual part), and I found it odd they didn't put me there. This one woman (a "snowbird" who comes down to FL for the winter and hangs out with the chapter here during that time) explained to me that there was only one tenor in this entire group (about 20 singers). And that to do that part, you can't have any vibrato at all. Well, that explains it. (They tested my vibrato in the voice placement, and um, it didn't go so hot.)
The snowbird-lady also explained to me the over-arching goal of barbershop harmony is to create overtones, in much the way a piano can. Great idea, and one day I hope to hear it, but on Tuesday night I just plain didn't. Actually, all I could really think of the whole time I was there was this scene from The Music Man.
As I learned Tuesday, this really is all you need to know to sing barbershop.
But for me, I think I'll stick with classical singing.
p.s. this is my 100th [published] post! Awesome!