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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

August 22, 2018

The Three Tenors

evelyn @ 8:05 pm

No, not those three!


Organist friend with deep speaking voice: Yes, I’ll come and sing in the choir for the parish concert.

Me: Great! We’ll have a really strong bass line.

Organist friend: Well, actually I’m a tenor.

Me: Oh, that’s good, too. We have only one tenor, and he doesn’t like singing on his own. So now we can be SATB.

It was a parish gathering and I was recruiting for the choir’s appearance at our forthcoming parish concert.  I pounced on my next victim. He was the MC, announcing things in a strong and (as I thought) low-register voice. I’d heard he’d just joined a local choir. He agreed cheerfully to take part in the concert. Later someone told me he had joined the local choir as a tenor.

Then we realised our second bass would be on holiday at the date of the concert, leaving us with three tenors and one bass.

Why does our choir always buck the trend? It is well known that tenors in choirs are like gold-dust, and now we have three of them. Choirs are supposed to be awash with sopranos, but there was a time when we had none at all. That was OK with hymns when the congregation sang the tune, but just try doing Mozart’s Ave Verum with no top part!

So here we are, out of balance again. Our solitary bass is very good, and perfectly capable of singing on his own, but he still could be drowned by such a strong tenor part. We are hunting basses now, but if we strengthen that line too much we’re going to need more ladies to stop the upper parts being overwhelmed. We’ve already had complaints from the altos about the off-putting sound of the men immediately behind them.

This parish concert – an innovation suggested by our priest – is going to be a riot …

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