Guest Roffensis Posted September 20, 2005 Share Posted September 20, 2005 This topic is actually related to organ tone in England, as both go hand in hand. We often speak of the typical English sound, and cite Elgar, Howells, Stanford etc as the composers who wrote for the English church, and who have enriched our choral and organ heritage of music. So how are they related? An example, the classic Christchurch, oxford scenario, hardly the ideal English vehicle, interesting as it is, as a sound. But what of our choirs? how do our English choirs reflect today what WAS done, anymore than the organ at Christchurch? In other words, in England, do we have a lot of continental organs or not? well no, we don't. Do we have a lot of "continental" tone choirs? well, yes we do. It all began with George Malcolm, who at Westminster Cathedral created a tone that shocked as many as it converted. Gone was the typical English tone, with a clear ringing head voice, subtle use of vibrato lending a passion and sincerity to the singing, to be replaced by a hard, forced chest tone, that is brittle and actually very thin. Like Oxford's organ, it was A sound, but it broke many trusted and established rules on choral training. It also provided the catalyst for a sound that is still with us today in many cathedrals, albeit in a reduced, but still recognisable form. Listen to recordings of Kings under Willcocks, and listen to them now, and the differences are startling. Kings made it name as THE finest choir in the world under Willcocks with THAT SOUND!!!, and he trained in the traditional method, as did Vann, McKie, and a whole host of others. George Thalben Ball was another great, and we desperately need another George, because, slowly the traditional boy tone is being lost. Purposely, as "old hat", "effected", "falsetto" "hooting"and many other insulting and derogatory terms. So is "hard" "forced""brittle" srceeching" "thin" "uncultivated" "childish" the option? When is the last time you heard a celebrated boy soprano? these days they are called "trebles", and none stand out, like in the past they did. The last to really use the true tone was Aled Jones, and have you ever heard a boy treble make his name as a soloist singing in a forced head tone? it is not really pleasant to listen to at all. You certainly cannot sing Stanford in the continental style, but many try. It sounds wrong. it's Christchurch organ, in another guise. So what went wrong? why have we done away so much with our true English vocabulary, something to treasure, and our true English tone? we have narrowed the gap between girls and boys voices, and girls tend to be more reedy, and a forced boy tone can come very close to that sound. Of course you can train a boy to sing like a girl, and a lot of choirmasters actively encourage that sound, but you cannot get a girl to quite imitate the boy tone of an Ernest Lough, it isn't going to happen. There is a difference, or was. Correct diction, subtle vibrato, head voice that IS head, are all part of a tradition that is all but eroded away, right before our ears. We cry about this and that organ being "classicalled" or "baroqued" but the sound that goes with the English organ, which complements it, has been allowed to go. The Americans think we are crazy. I personally train my choir to sing the old way, which I still consider the best. All the boys love it, and so do the people who hear them. It takes time and effort, and a intuitive ear of all involved to realise that sound, and yes it is hard work, but when choristers get it, when it "clicks" it sounds magnificent. That sound can reduce a grown man to a pulp of tears. It has a meaning, distinction, dignity, excellence, clarity, beauty, passion, that is unrivalled. It has a place, and it is OURS. Treasure it as much as the organs at St Pauls, York ,Salisbury etc. Many of my boys in my choir are about 8 years old, but they sound about 13! Many cathedral choirs boys are about 13 and sound about 6?! Something is clearly amiss, and we need to encourage and regain the truly great English sound, and hark back to Thalben Ball, Vann, Willcocks and that true order of great choirmasters who left us so much, that sadly today has all but been so readily destroyed, and replaced with a Emperor's Coat. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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