Sunday, May 20, 2012

"all the verses..."

Along with debates about the proper "range" for congregants to sing in, over at my favorite sacred music forum, there is often discussion about "singing all the verses" for the hymn.

I am of the opinion that since hymns aren't even "proper" to the Mass- they are already just "fillers"- it doesn't really matter if the time suggests that you ought to leave out some verses. Others think that it is horrible if you don't sing every single printed verse. Now, some of  those people acknowledge that the verses that are in most of our hymnals aren't even all the verses to begin with! (This alone seems to be a good enough argument to me, that it doesn't matter how many verses we sing, since it's out of our control as it stands now...)

This point has been more acutely experienced by me lately, as I have switched from GIA to OCP. Especially as I have been programming music for these upcoming 4 great Feasts which all have soooo many wonderful, traditional, loved hymns that are ideal to use, I have been noticing that in contrast to GIA (which has 3-5 verses per hymn, for example, 5 for "Crown Him with Many Crowns," but 3 for "To Jesus Christ the Sovereign King," but 4 for just about everything else,) OCP pretty much always has just 3 verses for all of the standard hymns.

Now, I have found that 4 verses is annoying for a recessional or processional, b/c you want 3 for a very short hymn like "I know that My Redeemer Lives," (Duke Street,) but maybe even just 2 for some of the longer hymns (like Come Holy Ghost, or Alleluia, Sing to Jesus {Hyfrydol.}) HOWEVER... 3 verses is faaaaar too short for offertory and certainly communion.
At least with GIA's variation in verses, I could program a hymn with more verses for offertory, and either sing all the verses that were printed OR simply announce which verses we were doing for entrance or recessional.

But for now... I am slightly frustrated with the lack of flexibility with only given the option of 3 verses. Thank you, OCP... I personally don't think the benefits outweigh the cons. I'm sure they were just trying to save space, thinking that people rarely sing the "traditional hymns" anymore. And, this is feeding into the belief that the entrance and recessional - the places where 3 verses are nice - ought to be the only places where energetic hymns are used. (Why would you ever want to use "Crown Him with Many Crowns" at offertory? eyeroll...)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hymn-tune-range rant

I've probably written about this before, but let me just say... I am soooo glad to have (for the first time ever,) an organ with a "transpose" button on it. I have been using it for just about everything! It is delightful!

Now, surprisingly enough (since this seems so obvious to me,) this is actually a very controversial topic in the organist/musician community. Many people argue that the congregation needs to just learn how to sing properly, then they wouldn't have any problems with the high notes.

Actually, no. First, the congregation needs to learn to have a hymnal in front of them with all four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass,) and then they need to learn how to sightread their own voice part; the voice part which is most comfortable to their natural range. Well, let me tell you... since that is that most definitely NOT happening any time soon, I think it's safe to say that not everyone is a soprano, and therefore should not be singing the soprano line as written. "Well perhaps," you might say, "we should just teach them how to sing properly." Ok. Have you ever organized an outside-of-Mass musical event that required any participation from Catholics? Ok, well then, you first! (If you can get more than 5 people to come, I'll be amazed; and if you can get them to actually do anything, well... you'll find me buying a lottery ticket on that day!)

So, the solution seems obvious to me. There is a large group of untrained singers, no chance to "teach" them how support their singing properly and breath correctly (etc, etc...) so that they can really sing high, I would estimate that more than 50% of them are not even true sopranos or why pretend that they are?

In my experience, people start to complain around high D. C-C is ok. B-B is even better. So, yeah... I've been transposing everything down 2-3 half steps. It's soooo fun. :-)
(With the occasional "ooops! I forgot to transpose that next song back up and am now groveling on a low Ab for this entire song...!")