Why Should Anyone Care About A Choir?



by Andrew Cook-Feltz                                                       Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon

The other day I was walking down the sidewalk on my way home from work, and I started to quietly sing the bass line of the SATB choral song “Choose Something Like A Star” by Randall Thompson.  Choral Chameleon sang this song at our concert in December.  The bass line, in and of itself, is simple and step-wise.  There is nothing special about it.  In fact, that’s true of the bass line in most choral pieces.  If the bass line were to stand all by itself, if it were to be the only existing melody in the song, that song would probably suck.

Choral Chameleon sings at the Day of the Dead concert on Nov. 1st, 2009 in New York City.

CChameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleonhoral  That’s one of the truths about choral singing, that the individual voice parts alone do not regularly provide a lovely musical experience.  It’s the combination of voices, the harmonies, the sweeping chords and eerie dissonances that compel the listener. 

Without one another, a choir is empty, incomplete.

Perhaps this is why choral groups are not always given the same amount of attention as a solo act.  Perhaps it’s easier to identify with one voice, with one sound, rather than a robust group of voices.  It also appears that broadway shows and professional opera productions receive more credibility and larger audiences than professional choral ensembles, unless they have big name soloists or immensely popular oratorios on the bill.

It’s been my experience as a professional singer, as an insider on this topic, that choral singers (myself included) are often regarded as underlings when compared to opera singers.  The large, projected classical voice is quite thoroughly treated as more legitimate, more deserving of attention and merit than the subtle choral voice which thrives in nuance and collective sound.  It’s certainly alluring to an audience member to attend an opera, to see a story unfold with lights, staging, costumes and a full orchestra.  Yet, even today’s audiences, who have been exposed to blockbuster action movies and hundreds of tv channels, can easily become indifferent to the classic tales of the opera, preferring instead the solace of an iMax movie theater for a fraction of the cost of an opera ticket.  It’s difficult for me to convince my non-singer friends, as enthusiastic as I may be, to attend one of my choir concerts, especially given that they rarely feature staging, costumes, lighting, or a plot.  It would appear that to enjoy a choir concert, you first need to enjoy choral music.

Why should anyone care about choral music?

Choral Chameleons (from top left) Greg Cicchino, Erol Gurol, Jeremy Pasha, Leigh Trifari, Julie Waters and Betsy Jilka

Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon Choral Chameleon

 Professional choralists tend to be highly-skilled, technical musicians with years of training.  They tend to be excellent with pitch, intonation, musical markings and phrasing.  They are excellent listeners, with an intuitive ability to match timbre and color in such a way that a unified sound is achieved.  It’s been said that there is strength in numbers.  Anyone who has enjoyed a choir concert can attest to the rarest of moments, when something magical takes place.  The looks on the faces of the singers… their bodies breathing as one entity… their voices ebbing and flowing in effortless synchronization… emotions taking over [Click Here and listen to Choral Chameleon sing “Choose Something Like A Star” ]  There is nothing as powerful as a group of people working together toward the same goal.  This is why choral music is still important.  In a world of tragedy, desolation, and human misery, it’s the job of artists to inspire and communicate their messages of harmony and truth to the rest of the world.  All art is relevant, and also can be irrelevant.  Art derives from the word artifice, and can sometimes feel “put-on.”  Yet sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  When a choir makes an emotional statement, they’re not just creating art, they are joining forces to musically capture an idea, and to express that to everyone around them.

And that is why Choral Chameleon is relevant, because we communicate different messages through changing styles of music.  We go through a cycle of changes when we sing one style, and then another, and continue to move into yet another style- yet we remain ourselves.  We reveal ourselves in different time periods, in different ideas.  We let people know that it’s okay to let their guard down, to be expressive under any and all circumstances.

That is why professional choral music is just as important as all art- it makes people feel something.


Gearing Up For The Next Concert

Choral Chameleon is back, and better than ever, with an exciting program for the concert on April 18th, 2010. (laimen and laiwomen out there, that’s a clickable link to buy advance tickets!)

Among other wonderful songs we are presenting at the upcoming concert, a brand new oratorio by composer-in-residence Jeffrey Parola will be unveiled (with a libretto by Tony Asaro!)

Also happening in the upcoming weeks are some behind-the-scenes performances by various Chameleons at schools… and other fundraisers yet to be scheduled.

We’re taking over New York, one song at a time!

And be sure to check out some photos from the Day of the Dead concert, taken by the ever-so-talented Amanda Peskin.  More to come soon.