One of the skills you learn at music college as a student of singing is to suit your voice to the music, and that includes volume. Singing a song with piano is obviously different to singing an aria with orchestra, for example. However, it;'s only experience that teaches you the art of self-regulating and adjusting your voice to different spaces as well. And it's not always about the size of the space either.
Traditional churches were built to help amplify the spoken word from the pulpit, so often the acoustics are generous. However, the echo can muddy sung words. So, we need to adjust how we sing to ensure the mourners hear the words. (Hearing us is not a problem!) Equally, older crematorium chapels are like mini churches, but on a more intimate scale, so we can sing with a full sound, but without the projection needed for a larger space.
Modern churches can prove one of the most tricky places to sing in, as they are often designed with unusual angles and set up for modern worship with a four piece band using amplification. At one such church recently, an organist had been booked to play, but no instructions had been left as to how to use the electronic keyboard with the sound system. So we spent 15 minutes grabbling around with leads and switches before we could start rehearsing - thanks goodness for years of touring opera with a digital piano! Only then could we work out the best place to stand for the best acoustic - 5 minutes before the first mourners came in from the cold.
Crematorium chapels are usually surprisingly good, although we'll tend to direct our sound upwards to make the most of the reflective qualities of the roof (carpet absorbs sound like a sponge, as do curtains, drapes and foliage.) We'll also spend time to make sure we're in the optimum position to be heard and seen as part of the service, whether religious or otherwise.
By the time the family and mourners arrive, of course, we've sorted all these issues out. All they see is a professional soloists who is involved in the services, appears calm and confident, and sounds great in the space. And that's the way we like it.
Singing outside brings another set of requirements and again with our experience in opera touring singing alfresco is something we’re quite used to. See our blog on singing at the graveside, for how we deal with the situation and why it is so special.
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All our articles are written either by Toni or Kirsty. If you'd like to write a guest blog, just let us know!