HE BOYS of Westminster Cathedral Choir, London, are legendary for their sight-singing capabilities. Msgr. Lawrence Hull—who at one time sang as an adult member of the choir under its famous founder, Sir Richard Terry—reminisced:
“I well remember…the suggestion for a Continental tour. A maestro of one of the great churches, delighted at the prospect of a visit from Dr. Terry and his choir, and wishing to be as accommodating as possible, wrote to say that he would willingly send the music it was proposed to sing, in order that it might be learned. His letter was read to the boys, who all chuckled in genuine amusement at the idea of having to ‘learn’ any music. They were used to singing-practices in plenty, but never for learning notes.”
What if you never had to “teach” your choir notes again?
One of the greatest investments you will ever make in your singers is to take the time to teach them to sing at sight. Think of the mother of a 5 year old who teaches her child to help around the house. It is more work in the beginning, but it provides a great benefit later on. In addition, the child learns to take ownership in the household and has a greater sense of belonging. The same is true for your choristers. But how?
I was not trained to be a music educator, so I have come to most of this through the school of “learning it the hard way.” To put it in a better light (and to lift your spirits if you have struggled and failed), I think of Edison trying a thousand different times to create the light bulb and failing each time. When he finally succeeded, he understood the why as apposed to just the how. You will too.
I would like to begin our journey into the world of sight-singing with a book by John Bertalot
If you haven’t heard of John Bertalot, treat yourself right now and get your hands on a copy of his book. It is not only short, but it is fun to read. Next week I will begin with his Practical Secret. If you can manage the Practical Secret, the rest will be a piece of cake!
Warning: The website of John Bertalot is very slow, so be patient!