I have often written about the importance of singing teachers.
The voice is a highly sensitive instrument and is easily damaged. Forcing the voice can lead to nodules on the vocal chords and these will cause permanent damage unless diagnosed and removed. Singers must take care of their voices and treat them with the greatest respect.
I have recently heard some extremely nasal singing based upon a distorted chest sound. Not only was it thoroughly unpleasant but I was left wondering how many of those singers would still have a voice in twenty years. If you want to learn the trombone you go to a trombone teacher. Similarly, if you want to learn to sing you should attend singing lessons.
Depending upon the demands of the conductor, singing in a choir can cause vocal problems. Choral singing is very exciting and this sometimes leads to a loss of vocal control, i.e. shouting. This is where the input of a choir's director is so very important.
The competent director will always ensure that choristers use their voices correctly and will never allow singers to “over-sing”. He/she will ensure that a choir's fortissimo is well produced and never strained.
Choir directors must have an extensive knowledge of vocal technique and this can only be achieved through taking singing lessons with a good teacher.
I remember many years ago attending a rehearsal of the Sistine Choir in the days when Mgr. Domenico Bartolucci was its Director. Throughout the rehearsal a singing teacher was present and if he noticed a choirboy misusing his voice he would take him to another room and correct the fault. I was amazed to see that this worked extremely well.
I wondered if a car with two drivers would ever be viable! It worked because Director and singing teacher had respect for each other's work. They completely understood that the object of a rehearsal is to produce the best possible performance.
Another great choral director was George Malcolm, who was Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, London, for many years. He revolutionised the sound of English boys’ choirs and totally changed the attitude of choirmasters towards the training of boys.
George Malcolm had a clear vision of the sound he wished to create and had a whole series of singing lessons in order to understand the voice so that he could put his vision into practice. He often told me how indebted he was to his singing teacher.
Choirs should work in conjunction with a good teacher, either as a group or individually. The success of this will inevitably depend upon the quality of the relationship between teacher, director and singers. It has to be right and must be based upon mutual respect and understanding.
A wise choirmaster will always work with a good vocal teacher.
Colin Mawby KSG