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highly operatic singing in church...thoughts?

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  • highly operatic singing in church...thoughts?

    I thought of my grandma who died about 10 years ago, and her funeral. Blessed Assurance was one of the hymns played. Was browsing youtube for versions and discovered this striking one:


    She's clearly a highly talented, well trained singer...but I don't remember hearing such arrangements during service music, even at fairly high church places like the National Cathedral. Nor do I imagine most "megachurch" music sounds remotely like this, even when it's a soloist accompanied by an organ. I think it's great...I'd much rather hear this if I were a church goer than a praise band. OTOH, to people raised on popular music, I can't even imagine what this sounds like. Something from outer space I reckon. Thoughts from the peanut gallery? I'm guessing with Diane Bish at the helm back in the day, this is vaguely what some Coral Ridge music sounded like before the big schism they had. It's her arrangement. BTW the slight schmaltziness of the arrangement may be more in the tradition of musical theater, but her singing seems firmly rooted in operatic convention. Nothing wrong with what Bish did...it's a somewhat schmaltzy hymn.

    (In case you aren't aware, this is from the traditional-music oriented congregation that splintered from the Coral Ridge Church, so it's not surprising they have a nice sounding Walker organ and a Peabody trained soloist.)
    Last edited by circa1949; 07-10-2012, 09:19 PM.

  • #2
    I find this compatible with high church liturgy.


    • #3
      I like it. We attended a church that had a former opera singer for a music director and the music there was great. I would much rather hear this kind of music than what passes in most churches.
      "The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like." St. Pius X


      • #4
        I find this compatible with high church liturgy.

        Agreed, my question was more along the lines of is it uncharacteristic, which is somewhat different. Without going too much into this: this soloist singing in a evangelical church in Florida kinda reminds me of how funny it was when Ana Gasteyer played Celine Dion in SNL skits, she was a far better singer than Dion. Ana was a classical voice major at Northwestern. There is an element of the unexpected; and I don't think I'm being unfair at all since, quite tellingly, one of the main reasons for the Coral Ridge breakup was over traditional versus more "popular" music. It's the traditional music advocates who are now "refugees" meeting in a high school. (Granted, with a Walker organ, which must be the nicest high school-leasing congregational instrument ever.) It's what I'm always saying: today's rich/ultra-rich just don't give a c--p about educating their kids in the way of refined culture as prior generations did. Even when I grew up in the suburbs of DC in the 80s, every upper-middle class family had a piano. Today, my brother's kids and their peers just aren't exposed to it. I bet a # of those kids wouldn't even know what a piano is until they reach 1st grade at the earliest. Granted they are in the slightly more secular suburbs of Philly, but still. Churched versus unchurched doesn't have much to do with it. I knew what a piano was from my house well before I knew what was going on at church with the organ, even though I went to church as a youth.


        • #5
          Actually I liked that version very much! And, I come from a more lively music background (Pentecostal). I can't for the life of me see why so many people have to chose one genre and stick by their guns till death do us part attitude when it comes to music. Even my own folks where I attend church, making supposedly "joking" comments about me liking "classical organ" now. Yet I can tear it up on a Hammond...black gospel style....and to them that is the "only" way. I don't know....I have a hard time with narrow genre mindiness!
          Allen 5300-DK, Hammond A-105, Conn Custom 905-DK


          • #6
            I belong to and sing in the choir of a Lutheran Congregation that is down the street from the Eastman School of music, this style of singing can be heard in our services on any given Sunday. Although our choice of literature tends more towards selections by Bach, Handel, Mendelshon, etc. often in the original German or Latin. Each section of our choir has a professional classically trained section leader, and these section leaders often sing solos similar to this.


            • #7
              I liked it a lot. She has a very fine voice. I was a little put off by a couple of "artistic" changes in the rhyhm, but I can get over it. We once had music like that at my church, but sadly very little any more. However, should something like that be sung there, I can guarantee that there would be enthusiastic applause afterward (which totally destroys the mood for me).



              • #8
                Definitely agree with your point about the applause. To have had a long moment of silence after such a breath-taking performance would really have upped the atmosphere of "holiness" in my opinion. I was quite surprised by it - perhaps it was actually a special concert program and not a service? A little italicized line or two in the service bulletin can go a long way to maintaining decorum...but can get taken too far! I have in the past enjoyed going to services at the National Cathedral (though of course I preferred the organ recital when I lived near DC) but I often felt like there were many, many directions to be followed over the course of the hour...


                • #9
                  One more thing...to the extant you can tell in a youtube clip (download it here: www.keepvid.com and put it on a digital widescreen TV) that organ is pretty darn realistic sounding for a digital. And of course, you can't really tell very easily, but some YT clips of digital organs still allow a bit of that digital buzziness/brassiness to leak through the recording and compression. I could easily believe this was a large Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.


                  • #10
                    I liked it, a little schmaltzy, and the ending was a bit much for me, but I liked it. A couple of small nitpicky points on her performance (this is coming from me as a singer), I wish she had rolled her R's, I think she could have elided some of the text a little better IMO, but that's nitpicking on a fine performance, and is not really relevant to the discussion at hand.

                    So, back to the discussion at hand of whether or not this type of singing is appropriate in church, absolutely it is appropriate (although I'm sure there are some really old Presbyterians, Puritans and Calvinists out there who would vehemently disagree with the whole idea of instrumental and vocal music in churches just on general principles).

                    So, maybe to add a log or two to the discussion, or at the very least, provide further examples, I offer two videos of me as a baritone soloist singing at Hiram Christian Church (where I attended regularly the last four years most of that time in the choir). Here they are in chronological order: 1) Good King Wenceslas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBvi02PHZtc and 2) The Call http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJS2u9frtnw


                    • #11
                      Very nice YouTubes, Austin766. I hope you get a job soon, BTW. It's no fun being unemployed.

                      As a teacher of Linguistics, I was wondering about your comment above about the rolled R's. I would like to know why you believe it would be proper to introduce a phoneme foreign to American English into this young lady's singing? Granted, if she were singing in a language where the trilled [rr] (its correct name) is part of that that language's sound system, it would be perfectly correct. As a singer myself, I know that the American [r] is not very pretty, but there are ways to sing the consonant without it being ugly. As for elision, it's often a matter of taste and experience.

                      Lastly, when one worships, God is deaf to our definitions of correctness; He hears only our heart, and others' reaction to the singer's presentation of their gift.

                      And keep running! It gives us singers good breath control!!


                      HISTORY: Lowrey Celebration C-500, GX-225; Wersi EX-10 Expander; Roland RA-90 Expander; Roland AT-80, AT-80 SL; Lowrey Prestige; Roland AT-800AE
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                      • #12
                        My initial instinct was to strongly concur with Atelier55. One is aware, naturally, that performance practice on the British Isles sometimes dictates trill Rs for high church performances. I'm not sure what rules govern the use of it there. In this country I have sometimes heard it, for example, rather lightly but unmistakably during a Vaughan Williams art song (in concert, not in church!). But for a late 19th century American hymn with such a proto-gospel quality, I just don't think it would make sense. But of course, the interpretation of a song always occurs in a certain context. What originally struck me about this was that it was almost an oddly high church/operatic performance of such a barn stormer. So, maybe a couple rolled Rs in there could lend a certain dramatic effect...it certainly wouldn't seem as out of place as it could have with a less skilled soprano.


                        • #13
                          That was a stunningly beautiful rendition. I would be hard pressed to criticize anything really. Her diction was excellent IMO as she was able to project the full "operatic" vowel sounds yet every word was clear even to my old ears. At one point I noticed an "i" that was slightly harsh but only once. As to rhythm changes I too would not particularly have gone that way but it seems within the realm of good taste. Frankly I would be delighted if I ever approached that level of perfection in a performance. I was so impressed that I did a search of youtube for her other performances. Well worth looking up.

                          I wonder why they changed the words from "born of" to "born in" on the first verse.

                          Her channel...


                          If it is Caesar that you worship, then Caesar you shall serve.