Thursday, October 29, 2009

Unexpected Busy-ness

I had no idea that that this week would become so terribly busy for me.

I now have 2 church jobs. Crazy, right? You bet.

I thought I was only marginally booked for music obligations, but apparently, I am very booked. I have more than the 2 church jobs on my plate.

From Oct 25th to Nov. 3rd, I have 6 performances and 10 rehearsals and it's not even Advent or Christmas yet.

Oi vey!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Alto Pride

In polyphony of the Early Music periods, every line is important. Altos were featured greatly. Many of the lines in Early Music polyphony that are marked as soprano lines today, were actually alto lines. The re-labeling of these parts beginning to occur during the Classical era.

Once we entered into later periods, particularly starting in the Classical era, the alto line in choral music became more like what seems "an after thought" for many composers. Creating parts that are terribly boring, or conversely, alto lines that "fill in the gaps" of the chordal and/or rhythmic structure without having much of a line of their own, that verge on the unmusical. The "catch-all" line.

You know the joke: "Altos are just sopranos who can read."

Well, no.

Yes, there are a few modern composers who write real lines for us, but altos have never really regained their position in choral music in any kind of widespread way.

However, now, alto sections are littered with the remains of sopranos who have been "demoted" because they have lost their high notes, or who never trained to have any.

Yes. I said "demoted". That is the word I have heard used time and time again in regard to this common practise. It's negative propaganda. As if being an alto is somehow, a lesser position, rather than a voice type. And that negative propaganda has certainly led to that widespread mindset and perpetuation of "after thought" alto lines in compositions. And that propaganda has certainly effected the numbers of altos who are putting it out there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm An Alto

A contralto, really. Not a mezzo. Not a soprano without a range. A real alto.

It's not so easy to be a true alto. Throughout my career I have encountered literally dozens of people who refuse to even use the word, as if mere utterance of the word itself would somehow cause the earth to open up and swallow them. I have had my bio changed after submission to read "mezzo soprano" in programs, countless times, for reasons that still elude me to this very day. The message has been sent time and time again, that for some reason, being an alto is wrong.

How can it be wrong? I am what I am.

As educated as most musicians are, it astounds me that so many think that the alto voice isn't actually a real voice type. Voice type isn't about range, it's about quality within a range. A soprano who has lost their top notes doesn't magically become an alto by virtue of a limited range. But this seems to be how this is viewed.

I have a 3 octave singing range. Not merely 3 octaves of notes I can voice. I am an alto. I am in the middle.

Altos are like air; we are mostly invisible and largely taken for granted. Sopranos and baritones covet our solo music.

It's not easy to be an alto. But it's absolutely wonderful.