This past Sunday I had the good fortune to attend a free concert by the Master's College Chorale. It's a college choir, all students, very well trained.
One thing that's so impressive about choirs like these is how every individual member of the choir knows their part for themselves for sure. No one uses anyone else as a crutch.
The video above is from a performance that the Master's College Chorale did in Israel back in 2009. You can see how they're standing single-file all around the room. Not only that, every singer is standing between two other singers who sing a different part from theirs. The song they're doing in this video starts off with a lot of unison, but they break into full harmony at the 2:00 mark.
When I saw this chorale perform in Long Beach, they were not only spread out across the stage and around the walls, but also down the two center aisles. Right next to my seat was a soprano, behind her was a bass, behind him an alto, behind her a tenor. And every one was singing with full confidence.
Those of us who direct choirs at small churches sometimes wish that our choir members were all that solid. Most of us have that alto who has to be sandwiched between two other altos, or else she'll start sliding up to the soprano part. Or maybe that tenor who will start singing the melody (but an octave lower) if you don't watch him. Or the soprano who will have a tendency to sing parts that are even higher than she needs to go (until she notices that the other sopranos aren't with her).
One of the beautiful things about choir is the fellowship of working together. Like the Hezekiah Walker song -- "I need you . . . you need me . . ." Together, we help each other and strengthen each other. But there's nothing wrong with wanting to build up each choir member to the point that they can still go forth even if there's no help around.
It's interesting to think about what kind of practice would be needed to get every member of the choir to the point where they could sing their part with no support. Having them sing one by one in rehearsals? That could be frightening to some. I'm going to do some thinking about this.
If any of you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments.