BOUT TWO YEARS AGO, I watched the whole series of Sacred Music documentaries featuring Harry Christopher and The Sixteen. In one of the episodes, Harry Christopher talks about how he asked his sopranos to imitate the way boy choristers sing in order to create a more accurate and authentic sound of the Renaissance music. In the past, only male were allowed to join the church choir because it involves the singing of sacred texts, and therefore it was only proper for clerics and boys (future clerics) to participate in the choir. So nowadays, some professional choirs are trying to recreate the sound by learning from choir boys. But I think there are more we can learn from the children.
I hope you have all experienced the powerful singing of boys’ choirs: the pureness in their singing, with bright and light, yet energetic, voices. Children are very simple creatures; when they are asked to sing, they try to sing in the most beautiful way. Their goal is not to show off themselves, but to do what they are asked to do and they often give their best. As members of church choirs, we are called to be childlike, to be very “simpleminded” in a sense. We should focus on singing well, instead of showing off ourselves. Most importantly, we should focus on glorifying God.
Most children choristers also demonstrate great teamwork in choral singing. When children sings together, they tend to listen and imitate each other since they do not focus so much on themselves nor on showing off. This is why if one of the choristers start making funny noise while singing, it is very likely that the rest of the choir will start following him and mess around. On the other hand, if a few choristers are singing very well and the rest of the choristers are instructed to imitate their singing, the choir will have outstanding performance and will continue to sing better and better.
When we learn from the children choristers, both in the technical and spiritual aspects, our choir will improve greatly in blending, balancing and tuning. And we would be able to put our focus on the glorification of God, which is the ultimate goal of music.