There is a well-known Zimbabwean proverb: “If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing”. Yet until you have truly danced and sung it is hard to appreciate the depth of this statement. Solo singing requires a hefty amount of confidence and perhaps a touch of talent to feel truly successful, but anyone can join a choir and enjoy great choral singing.
Throughout Australia, choirs are in abundance, and Tasmania is purported to have the largest number of choral groups per head of population. So what makes choral singing so popular and why do we do it?
A choir is like a complex organism – a beautiful, organic machine. The chorister is merely a single cell within – part of the whole, but never the whole of the part. The conductor is the beating heart of this beautiful creature. If the heart falters, the unity will dissolve.
The amorphous sound of great choral music is an amazing experience. The massive swell of sound that is created as a chorus climaxes through a phrase becomes a part of you and you a part of it, sweeping you into highs and lows of emotional intensity.
Rehearsals build the structure that will ultimately deliver the musical objectives. The chorister grows in courage to sing notes at the right pitch and in the right place, with the right frame of mind and the right musical clarity.
Watching the conductor enables not only rhythmic unison but also shapes and blends the music. If a conductor asks a choir to smile before they sing, the quality is immediately more radiant, bright and beautiful.
In choral singing, you can experience the raw passion of a perfectly executed crescendo, the heartbreaking “angelicness” of a pure soprano entry and the depths of the bass voice vibrating the soles of your feet. As the voices climax, the music vibrates everything you touch. The unity of movement in a choir is an incredibly spiritual expression for many people.
Blending human voices until they resonate as one is a unique and powerful expression of the human psyche. Friendships are made. Endorphins are released. Music is created. As German composer Paul Hindemith once stated, “People who make music together cannot be enemies, at least while the music lasts”.