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October 3, 2006

So You Think You Can Sing!

Seattle Times (WA):

Everyone owns one musical instrument, and it travels around with you. It's your voice.

It comes free of charge, and you're born knowing how to use it (just ask the parents of any newborn). It is so distinctively yours that a recording of it can be used as legal evidence, just like your fingerprint.

No wonder singing is the No. 1 form of arts participation according to a 2003 Chorus America survey, which also found that an estimated 28.5 million Americans regularly performed in one of America's approximately 250,000 choruses. Empirical evidence suggests those numbers continue to rise.

Why do people love to sing? According to the veteran choral conductor Weston Noble, it's because this is the only art form that unites two important avenues of artistic communication: music and words.

"Choral music is literally life-changing," Noble said in an interview last year. "When you add a text to use as a medium for the interpretation of music, you go beyond the realm of language and into the spirit."

Here, in the greater Seattle area, the wealth of choruses of all kinds points to the fact that "this is a big choral town," according to the Seattle Pro Musica's Karen P. Thomas. Thomas, whose highly successful chorus recently became one of only seven nationwide to receive an American masterpieces grant to host a major choral festival next June (plus several outreach concerts and educational events). The festival will bring in choirs from around the Northwest, plus such major figures as Dale Warland and Morten Lauridsen.

"It's human nature to communicate verbally," says Thomas, who also points to the egalitarian nature of singing: "It embraces everyone."

And choral singing fulfills a number of other roles. Choruses advance social goals, such as the quest for peace and tolerance. Church and other religious choirs express and further a religious mission. Ethnic choirs are an important avenue of cultural transmission and celebration. And all choirs expose their singers to other languages, eras and cultures through their choice of music.

And you're never too old. The esteemed Seattle voice teacher Roberta Manion, now living in a retirement community, leads an informal chorus whose oldest member is 105: "The love of singing lasts a lifetime," Manion says.
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Some choruses are full of highly skilled professional singers and music teachers who must pass rigorous auditions; others accept anyone who shows up and wants to sing, and many others fall somewhere in between

Posted by acapnews at October 3, 2006 12:03 AM