This continues a series of guest columns on how technology is reshaping hobbies and passions – basket weaving, rugby – whatever.
This time it is Gretchen Lindquist, who works on SAP security at Halliburton and could have written on a very wide range of her interests from debating to sailing to cruising to football. But she writes about singing – hers and that of her husband, Edgar.
“I am a staff singer and soprano soloist at Trinity Episcopal Church in Galveston, and I usually sing along in the chorus of my husband's concerts at the north campus of San Jacinto College, where he is chorus conductor and professor of music.
Music has evolved so much since my youth in Pittsburgh. I still remember violin lessons with a wind-up metronome. I would set the vertical slide to the speed indicated (such as Adagio or Allegretto) to ensure that I was playing it up to the suggested speed. These days it is common to have an electronic metronome. Instead of winding a key resulting in a pendulum swinging back and forth making a clicking sound, I turn a dial, and I have the choice of a beeping sound, a blinking light, or both, to indicate the tempo.
Or the handy old cassette recorder. I would take it to lessons or rehearsals, to replay at home later for practice. I still have hundreds of those cassette tapes piled high in a closet as proof – but I would struggle today to find a player at Walmart. Now, they carry digital recorders. I bought one a few years ago when I took on the challenge of leading a group of employees (on right) who wanted to learn and perform Christmas carols during lunch at the office. Most of the people were enthusiastic beginners who could not read music, so singing regular four-part SATB music was quite a challenge. To help them learn their parts, I spent an evening sitting at the piano and I recorded myself singing and playing each of the parts (well, I had to sing the bass part up an octave). Then I burned CDs so that each member of the choir could practice at home between rehearsals. Being music director and conductor of that employee choir was a real learning experience for me and a lot of fun, too.
When I need to decide on a solo for my work at the church, the first thing I do is get on the Episcopal Church's official web site and check out the lectionary, to see what scripture readings and psalm are scheduled for that week's services. Then I can check a file on my computer where I have indexed all the sacred solos I know, the music books where I can find them, and the scripture readings which are the basis of the texts. My indexed file only goes so far. I recently sang a solo for the Second Sunday of Easter; I did not find anything in my file related to that week's readings, so I sang a little Bach aria, Christians on this Day of Gladness, which had an Easter-related text. (BTW – our church, heavily damaged during last year’s Hurricane Ike, is being gradually restored. Here is an article on the delicate work on the stained glass.)
I bought a digital recorder for my husband, Edgar, for Christmas one year to use in recording his concerts. He is conductor and music director of a men's chorus called The Sons of Orpheus. I am usually the recording engineer during his concerts; afterward, he downloads the audio files, edits and normalizes them, then burns his own CDs. Our recordings of The Sons in concert have been played on the air by our local NPR station, KUHF 88.7 FM., and a number of their recordings have been loaded into their web site and onto YouTube. Their version of the Navy Hymn is in the video below.
Talking about YouTube – it has also made a huge difference in my learning and practicing. When I started singing with the Houston Symphony Chorus, some of the major works were new to me, so I would go to a local record store in search of a CD that I could keep in the car and listen to during my commute. Having learned Latin by rote repetition at Mass as a small child before I could even read, learning to sing works in Latin such as the Verdi Requiem was not too difficult. However, learning to sing in new-to-me languages such as Catalan, Polish, and Russian was a matter of a lot of listening and repetition, and that was how I did it.
When I am learning new works these days, I usually search for recordings and videos on YouTube; once I have sat at the piano and learned the notes well enough to sing along, I move to the computer desk and practice by singing along with Internet recordings. It helps me hear how my part fits in with the other parts of choral works, and it is great if I am practicing a duet, such as Laudamus Te of the Vivaldi Gloria. (the score on left). Edgar's spring concert is this week, and I have been practicing Haydn's Missa Brevis to get ready for it. Sitting down to a video added to my YouTube playlist was much easier than finding and purchasing a CD.
Back in the day when many of these classical works were composed, music was performed in the home or in church only and was the purview of the wealthy. All of these new digital technologies have made good music more accessible than the great composers of the past could have imagined in their wildest dreams.”