By Judy Pringle
A music retailer is asked every day for assistance with repertoire. It can be both challenging and amusing. For example: I need a thrilling SATB anthem for Easter Sunday with brass accompaniment, and the sopranos can’t sing above an ‘e.’ Can you make a suggestion?
We smile at this request, but it can be a reality for a choral director. Those of us who conduct adult church and community choirs deal with the aging voice constantly. It is a fact that with age, our singing mechanism does not improve. Yet, it is my experience that senior singers are some of the most devoted choristers, and the joy of singing is integral to their lives.
If we, as directors, wish to optimize this lifelong joy for our choristers, and ensure that the aging singer is a benefit to the ensemble, we need to offer tools that will optimize the singing voice as the body naturally and inevitably ages.
Equally important is the singers’ responsibility to understand, exercise, and maintain a healthy vocal instrument. We must include the weakening singing voice in the regular care and exercise of our bodies.
Merely by searching the web for articles on the aging singing voice you will find an abundance of helpful information by specialists in the field. And the June & July 2013 edition of CHORAL JOURNAL, the official publication of the American Choral Directors Association contains an excellent piece by Sarah Parks on this topic.
My recommendation for concise, authoritative, and fun, interactive education for directors and singers is Dr. Victoria Meredith’s book “Sing Better as You Age” published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing. It is a book you should have on the shelves in your personal library, your choir room, and in fact, I encourage adult singers to purchase a copy. You cannot go wrong with this book. Here is some description from the publisher:
Note to the Singer
This book is designed as an interactive workbook that will help you to understand how your voice works, and to gain insight into what is taking place physically as you experience vocal changes. Most important, it presents ideas as to what types of actions you can take to improve the condition of your voice so that you can enjoy singing to its fullest.
Note to the Conductor
With an average population that is becoming older each year, many conductors are finding an increase in the number of mature singers in their choirs. Specifically, conductors working with a church or community choir are now often in the unique position of needing new tools to guide these singers toward preserving, or re-building, a healthy vocal condition. This book provides those tools in the form of guidelines and practical exercises geared to enhancing vocal vitality and longevity for adult singers of all ages.
The Association of Canadian Choral Conductors has named Sing Better As You Age the recipient of the 2008 National Choral Award for Outstanding Choral Publication.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Adult Choral Singers: Who, Why & How?
2 The Many Sides of Choral Singing
3 The Singer’s Voice
4 What Happens to Bodies as They Age?
5 What Happens to Voices as They Age?
6 Guidelines for Vocal (Re-) Conditioning
7 Vocal Changes and Challenges
8 Ensemble Musicianship Skills
9 The Next Step
Set a goal this fall season to pay attention to the training of the aging voices in your choir. The benefits will be well worth your efforts. And when you visit your music retailer in the future, just say, I need a thrilling SATB anthem for Easter Sunday with brass accompaniment, and my sopranos have a solid high ‘A.’ Can you make a suggestion?
Other Interesting Voice Articles: