We’ll See How It Goes

Michael has an interesting discussion about Orthodox church music. I bring this up because at St Michael’s, I sang in the choir. I loved it.

Music was a bit odd there at the time. George, +God rest his soul, was still alive. George was this very nice, little old immigrant from Syria, and he had been the chanter for fifty years, since St Michael was still an Arablic language immigrant church. George knew only Byzantine chant, in Syrian style, and in Arabic. He sounded like a muezzin. Father was an Arab (born in the US), but did English only. George chanted Matins and Vespers, so either was Byzantine, but Arabic and English back and forth. Then, starting with the Great Doxology at the very end of Matins, we took over, and we sang Russian music.

The effect was rather like two churches in one building. Oh. Sorry. I went off on a tangent. Anyway, like I was saying, I sang in the choir.

We have a remarkably good choir here, given that there are five men and four women, and all of the music is (of course) a cappella. I very much want to get involved in the parish (besides just going to services), especially since post-Liturgy events aren’t really possible (not easy if you have to run home and cook). So in this week’s bulletin, the choir director put out a call, and I answered.

I’m not sure how this will work out. For one thing, I have a big voice. I mean a really big voice. I have never had to use a microphone to be heard clearly in big lecture halls, and I don’t have to raise my voice to be heard, either. St Michael’s is a big, Byzantine architecture church, you know, with high ceilings and a big dome, and we were up in the choir loft. The big voice wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was probably a boon.

Holy Trinity, however, is a very small church, with low ceilings (it was a Protestant church — Methodist, if I remember correctly — the parish bought). They just last year turned the front porch into the narthex, making what had been the narthex the back of the nave, and put another addition onto the back, and still, we’re packed in shoulder to shoulder on Sundays. The acousics are entirely different, so I’m not sure how the size of my voice is going to work.

I don’t have a particularly lovely voice. I would not be my own first choice as a soloist, if I were a choir director. However, my pitch sense is laser accurate, I’ve been reading music as long as I’ve known my ABCs and am as good as a sight reader can be, and I can hit those crucial low Cs.

If they need a tenor, I’m not what they’re looking for. Middle C is as high as I get, only on really good days, and then, it’s a big strain.

Oh. And I can do ison.

One other possible little glitch that may not be, and it’s not the music. For the most part, the choir here sings the same music we did at St Michael’s. It’s the translations. I am always slipping back into the Antiochian translation and getting tripped up (uh, think of Antiochian as King James English and OCA as Revised Standard, and you get the idea). Grant this, oh Lord v. Grant it, oh Lord. True God v. Very God (in the Creed). And worst are when word orders are different (the Communion Prayer gives me fits, although I did get through the Prayer of St Ephraim last night without a hitch, so I think I’ve finally internalized the differences there). But I hate service books so I don’t stand there looking at one, and at least in the choir, I’d have the text in front of my eyes.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. Choir practice at 7 pm tonight.


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