Behold! A Rant!

*sounds of groans and apprehensive gasps*

For some reason I expected the UCD Gospel Choir to be more… professional, more of a CHOIR than a Chorus. More of a cohesive unit than a director giving solos to the same five people throughout a 2-act concert. Yes, it’s music. But it’s not what I would expect. I guess I’m jaded, coming from Ojai and Ventura County where there’s so much music. Not just “good music” but really professional world-class musicians and singers. I guess I also expected that being under the Music Department implied that there would be more focus on music and not on the everpresent Jesus. Yes, religion is an important thing. But when you are giving a concert and advertising it as the UCD Gospel Choir, I would expect MUSIC and not an offshoot of the various campus Christian evangelical organizations. Especially if I’m supposed to get 2 units for this. As a chorus, it is a cohesive unit. But they only act as a rehearsed chorus when they are being exactly that — a chorus in the song. A refrain. The soloists are talented, yes. But I don’t think it shows much respect for the choir when the director says “give a hand to Antonio (braided African American who seems rather impressed with himself)! He’s only been to a couple of rehearsals so far but we don’t want to lose such a big talent!” When there are about a hundred singers standing on the risers who are putting their hearts and souls into the music (literally, since they’re singing about surrendering themselves to Jesus). After singing with Mrs. Jardine and Mister D at Villanova, I’m better than that. I don’t want to spend four hours a week on something that doesn’t challenge me. There aren’t any counterpoints, any challenging harmonies and dissonances. There’s just sopranos, altos, and tenors (I’ll get to them later) who are just singing the same melody in different octaves. For what it is, it’s a decent chorus. But that’s all they are. A bunch of Christian backup singers.
Before they started, the chorus members went out into the audience and “got to know them” … the guy who chose to sit down near us was talking about how there is no audition, you show up and you’re in. While that is a great ideal, I don’t think you can build a decent choir without auditions. Not that you’re going to cut anyone, you just need to know which section to place them in. Then he said that while he isn’t really a tenor, he sings tenor because that’s the only male part. So he has to strain his voice to get it up into that range. The music should fit the choir, not the choir being forced to fit the music. If he’s having to strain to hit the notes, they need to have a baritone/bass section. As it is, you can barely hear the men — they’re all singing in their falsetto range and blending in with the women.

Another thing. Every single song is repetitive. They all sound alike. And the refrain is repeated at the end until you are banging your head against the seat in front of you waiting for it to end. That’s not how it should be. Someone told me once… “you’re singing the same words. But you’re not saying the same thing. Make each syllable sound different. Pay attention to it. Make it interesting. Then you’ll really be singing.” They were interested, but their voices didn’t show it very well. There was no real expression there. I’m not wasting 4 hours a week on that. I have better things to do.

So, in case you didn’t catch it the first few times… I’m not joining the gospel choir. It’s just a group of talented backup singers, with a few handpicked to shine but the rest blending in to a single interminable refrain. I need more than that. I’m not there to catch religion. I’m there to sing. While I respect the choice to sing for your beliefs, I don’t feel any connection with the choir. It’s the same bland stuff you hear and see on the evangelical tv channels. And that’s not for me. I don’t want to shout in key. I want to sing in harmonies. I don’t want to proclaim anything. I just want to let my voice blend into something intricate and technical and challenging and beautiful. Not something canned and easily repeated. I want a once-in-a-lifetime song. Not a generic pop song.

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~ by jackelopette on February 28, 2003.

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