23 October 2006

The Highs and Lows of the Baritone

While I enjoy singing in choirs at my churches, I run into a simple problem with the range of my voice. My problem is that I am a baritone. This means that I have a voice that overlaps the upper range of the bass singers and the lower range of the tenors. Basically, baritone is means something like "in between," or, more accurately, "neither."

The problem that I run into is the fact that most of the choral music I sing is written forSATB choirs. For those of you who don't know, SATB means Soprano/Alto/Tenor/Bass. Notice the omission of Baritone. We don't exist. Basically, the writers of these arrangements are telling the lowly B-tone: "Suck it up, princess, and streeeetch. " In which direction is the real difficulty.

For most of my time as a chorister, I was the only male in a choir. Therefore I was asked to be the Bass. (This situation also added the additional awkwardness of being singled out when going over the individual parts ("Sopranos..... good. NowAltos..... Good. You....good"). But I recently joined a choir which provides the music for the local TLM, and this choir of six is all male, with two good Basses. And therefore I am asked to provide the tenor.

Yesterday I found myself getting up bright and early and heading off to the TLM, singing tenor, then hotfooting it over to my other church to sing bass. I don't mean to complain, after all, it's not as if I have a choice. I have some talent in this matter, and I'm not allowed to bury it or hide it under a bushel. So I'm stuck with it, and trying to perfect it to the best of my ability, for the glory of Him Who Gave it to me. I just wonder why the makers of so much of the liturgical music aids choose to ignore our existence. I mean, there is music out there for us, I sang some yesterday, but it doesn't find it's way into the hymnals. I am left confronting each piece and trying to decide which end of my range I wish to exceed.

Although there may be solutions. One of my directors told me that to become a true basso profundo all that is required is a strict diet of Vodka and cigars. He also told me I could become a tenor with a simple operation: just have my brain removed, so the sound can reverberate around my skull. Beats out the operation to become a countertenor. He has a PhD. in music, so he should know.

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