Choral singing – a satisfying outlet for vocal expression
By Virginia Betz
The popularity of karaoke and the ensuing proliferation of televised singing contests have helped distort our perception of what singing mostly was in most cultures for most of human history – a public expression of social and emotional solidarity. If you love to express your musicality with your voice, but want to avoid the egocentricism that solo performance often implies, you should consider becoming a chorister.
The Valley has many outlets for those who prefer singing with others, and there is usually a place for persons of varying talent and training. Below is a partial listing of well-organized and successful amateur choruses in the metro area whose expert musical direction guarantees the development of your vocal skills.
San Tan Chorale
San Tan Community Performing Arts, 2329 Extension Rd., Mesa 85210
The San Tan Chorale is a non-audition community choir and can number up t0 70 members per session. There are three sessions per season, each session culminating in a concert. The choir also participates in community outreach performances. Membership cost is $40 per session and restricted to men and women over the age of 18. The song repertoire encompasses many muscial genres. Rehearsals take place on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. You can register on-line at email@example.com or call 480-297-7552 for more information.
Tempe Community Chorus
P.O. Box 26071, Tempe 85285
The Tempe chorus is also a non-audition chorus that organizes it season around three sessions: fall, spring and summer. The Chorus performs at a variety of area arts venues and retirement communities. The music covers a complete range of styles and members participate in song selection. The up-to-90-member chorus rehearses on Monday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. Smaller ensembles requiring a particular blend of voices, like the Mill Avenue Singers, can be formed by chorus members. Registration costs $60 per session; click “Join us” at tempecommunitychorus.org to join, or click “Contact us” to arrange to practice with the chorus during the first three weeks of rehearsal before commiting to join. The Chorus rehearses at University Presbyterian Church at 139 East Alameda Drive, Tempe 85282.
Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix
P.O. Box 217, Phoenix 85001; 602-271-9396
Orpheus has been around since 1929 and is made up exclusively of volunteer singers. They perform in a variety of venues, local, national and international, have made numerous recordings and are involved in a number of musical and non-musical community service activities. Members have to be males at least 18 years old who have passed an audition. To learn about auditioning, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Rehearsals begin August 13 and are conducted every Tuesday evening, 7 to 9:30 p.m., through May.
The Scottsdale Chorus
P.O. Box 5856, Scottsdale 85261-5856; 602-258-0383
The Scottsdale Chorus is an all-female ensemble specializing in barbershop harmony. Barbershop features easy-to-sing melodies sung a cappello and arranged so that the voice parts form consonant four-part chords for every melody note. The Chorus is an official chapter of Sweet Adelines International, and they do compete with other groups in the barbershop genre. They are also into glittery costumes. Women of all ages, including under-18s, are invited to join, but must go through an audition cycle. To learn more about the audition process, e-mail email@example.com. Their rehearsals, 7 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights at Sheperd of the Desert Lutheran Church at 9590 E. Shea Blvd., are always open to visitors.
If a less formal, more intimate group seems more your style, there are a slew of smaller choirs with very competent musical leadership that are always eager for new voices – just ask around. However, in a smaller group, a single voice has a greater influence on the total sound.
Most people really feel joy while singing, but many also feel that only the shower tiles would be a receptive audience. Is your lack of confidence keeping you from taking your voice public? Is that lack of confidence justified? LPM asked vocalist/voice coach, Dawn Kerlin (dkvoice.com), some questions that wannabe singers might ask themselves.
Are people good judges of their own vocal quality?
DK: Not typically. What you hear in your head is different from what is heard out there. Record your own voice and listen to it – see what you think. It is a very good idea to be assessed by someone else. Joining a community choir is a great way to get such an assessment.
Is it possible to improve one’s voice without extensive and expensive training?
DK: Sure, but it varies a lot on an individual basis, particularly with respect to level of commitment. You can pay from $40 to $400-plus an hour for lessons, but an informal choir setting is a great stepping stone to improvement. Being in a choir helps you break through your inhibitions and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow singers with the same goals. There is strength in numbers. Also, guidance is essential; it is possible to try to strengthen your voice in the wrong way. Choir practice can introduce you to learning scales, easy ways to improve breathing control and other rudimentary techniques.
Are there differences in the skills of a chorister versus a solo singer?
DK: There can be. Basically, chorale singing is just more structured; vowel sounds must be sung all together. There is less focus on individual style and more on technique.