Review: Cappella Romana: Rakhmaninov Vigil

Review: Cappella Romana: Rachmaninov All Night Vigil. 

Of the times I have heard Cappella Romana do the Vigil, this was clearly the best balanced. The extra bass personnel made for a very enjoyable concert experience. Benedict Sheehan did a masterful job of piloting the choir through not just the Rachmaninov, but also several other pieces that provided a  context that gave the audience a taste of what was covered in a typical vigil. The intonation was wonderful. On Nynye Otpushchayesi the tenor solo was good if a bit nervous. The descending bass line at the end was helped by the services of Glenn Miller, the basso profundo who has become well associated with this work throughout the USA through his participation with many choirs. There was even a nice F1 at the end of Bogoroditse Dyevo. 

There was a tendency to not accent the strong syllable through much of the concert. This became most problematic with the singing of the small glorification (6 Psalms). If the choir accented SLA of “Slava” as much as Rachmaninov wrote for them to, it was lost in the acoustics of St. James Cathedral. The Bell effect that Rachmaninov composed was mostly limited to the sound of the various voices together creating the proper tones and overtones. 

On the Velichaniye (Magnificat) the sound of the men was very satisfyingly solid. The women had balance issues with the altos and 2nd sopranos overpowering the 1st sopranos. 

The Cappella Romana added many of the parts that would change from service to service to round out the concert and give a sense of context. They performed these hymns quite well.

It was overall a glorious concert with the voices accomplishing a feat of stamina and not sounding tired at the end. 

As an encore the Choir proformed Chesnokov’s Nye Otverzhi Menye with Glenn Miller singing the solo that he first premiered with the Illumni Men’s Chorale, singing the original ending the Chesnokov wrote.   Later, he won a Grammy with Conspirare with this piece. We were spoiled richly. 

Rakhmaninov Divine Liturgy

Dear Readers, Choral directors and Choir members,

I am posting this link for a couple of reasons. Of all recordings of the Rakhmaninov Divine Liturgy, this one has the best tempos that make sense in context of the Divine Service for which the music is set. Notice that the tempo of many pieces are a bit faster than one usually hears when an english speaking choir attempts this work. Notice also how the choir lets the strong accents of the words come through. Rakhmaninov did not have to write the accents in; they are in the text.

The conductor is Olga Stupneva
The ensemble is “Rozhdyestvo”


Review of The Sacred Spirit of Russia CD

Review of The Sacred Spirit of Russia CD, performed by Conspirare, conducted by Craig Hella Johnson

The organization of of the CD is marvelous, following the outline of the Divine Liturgy. The Troparion and Kontakion and festal Trisagion and Magnification are of Christmas. There is an extended “Concert” section (the special music that the choir sings during the communion of the major clergy) including a couple of Lenten selections “Nynye Sily” (Now the Powers of Heaven) and “Nye Otvyerzhi” (Do not abandon me)

The tempos on “Let our mouths be filled” by Rachmaninov and Kedrov’s “Our Father” were a bit on the slow side; both of these works need a more energetic tempo.

The pieces that stand out from the rest are the Ippolitov-Ivanov Bless the Lord O my soul, the Chesnokov Cherubic Hymn, the Kastalsky Mercy of Peace.

Nye Otvyerzhi was magnificent with Glenn Miller singing the solo. Chesnokov wrote this piece for a very good and low Octavist. He later rewrote the ending for those who can’t hit a low G1. The revised ending is what most basses (even Russian basses) sing today. Glenn has the ability to sing the original ending, being likely the first Octavist to perform the original ending in concerts in the USA, premiering it almost two years ago with the Illumni Men’s Chorale.

The tenor who did the cantillation seems to know how the individual words are pronounced but did not know how they work in a sentence. The Sopranos’ vibrato did not match the rest of the ensemble. This gave the feeling sometimes that they were not quite a part of the rest of the group. Intonation was excellent. On the whole, there could have been more attention paid to the consonants. The men and altos did wonderfully.

This is well worth the price of the CD just to get Glenn Miller singing Nye Otvyerzhi with the original ending. And as a bonus you get a very competent choir singing wonderful music.

On February 8, 2015 this album won a grammy

The CD is available through Musica Russica.

Review of Capella Romana – Divine Liturgy of Rachmaninov

Review Capella Romana performance of Rakhmaninov Divine Liturgy

Saturday Jan 12 2013 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in West Seattle


The Church is very soprano friendly and the Sopranos over sang the hall on “Priiditye Poklonimsya (Come let us worship)”.

The announced roster of singers was light one bass and one basso profundo according to Pavel Chesnokov’s “The Choir and how to direct it” (page 13. the administrator of Capella Romana was informed of this lightness in casting the bass part back last year when they did the All-Night-Vigil). In spite of being additionally down 3 members due to the flu that is going around afflicting us all, the Chamber Choir more than filled the venue with the sound of their voices.

The tempi that Alexander Lingas chose showed a sensitivity to how the pieces functioned inside the Liturgy. What was remarkable in the year since the Capella Romano brought us the All-Night Vigil, as they sang the Divine Liturgy attention was given to the accented parts of the words. This made it sound much more authentic as if they were all native to singing Slavonic.

The long crescendi in places such as Priiditye Poklonimsya (going from pp to ff over 6 measures), “Otche Nash (Lord’s Prayer),” were very well executed. The Capella Romana did the split choir versions of “Vo Tsarstviye Tvoye (Beatitudes).”

The Troparion of Theophany needed more work on the pronunciation of the text. But to be fair, this is a tongue twister even for native Russian speakers.

The pitch was good for the first half suffering only in the Augmented Litany.

Coming back from intermission, the choir was beginning to sound fatigued. The pitch sagged on the Symbol of Faith leaving the low Bassos a very difficult final note. It was written as a low Bb, but by the time it came to be sung it was well below that.

The magic moment was “Yedin Svyat’ (One is Holy)” as the Chalice and Diskos are elevated. If there is a time to have a magic moment, that is most assuredly the time to have it.

Except for a few mispronunciations of the Deacon and Priest’s part (Priest’s parts were sung by Dr. Lingas due to sickness of John Boyer, and he had little time to prepare), this performance was the best I’ve heard from a non-Russian Choir. I do hope the Capella Romana plans to record it once they are all healthy.

Esoterics sing Schnittke – Chiaroscura

Review of Esoterics singing Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Chorus, Sunday February 20 2011 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in West Seattle as part of their Chiaroscura program

The intonation was wonderful. The Russian was, with only a couple exceptions, clearly and cleanly enunciated. The choir sang it very well and movingly. A word needs to be said about the venue and how the choir handled it. Holy Rosary Church is very treble friendly. It would have been wondrous if the soprano’s could have subdued their sound a trifle. Their overtones often served to obscure the sound of the rest of the choir in this Church. I don’t know how they could accomplish this, however on notes that often spent a lot of time above a high C. My other comment about dynamics and this hall is that they tended to hit fortisISsimo rather often. It would have been wonderful if the composer, conductor and acoustics could have conspired to allow this to happen once or twice a movement. But as already noted singing that high that often (and after having sung high many times in the first half) is very difficult vocally.

After singing the first 3 poems ably, the Esoterics then took the fourth poem to greater heights of sensitivity to the vocal lines and text. I was very impressed. Bravo Esoterics; you did both yourselves and the composer’s work proud.

<standing ovation smilie>

Steve Ericson’s Tips for Singing (Part V – Surviving a Concert)

previously at – Surviving the Long Concert

Republished with Permission


One of the best Basses I've ever had the privilege to sing with and a good friend.

One of the best Basses I’ve ever had the privilege to sing with and a good friend.

Most choir directors know better, but every once in a while they go a little crazy and put together a program that has the choir members singing at the extremes of their vocal capacity, both in terms of range and dynamics.

As a singer, how do you cope with the fatigue? What can you do to have enough voice to finish the concert? Today I hope to answer these questions, at least enough so you stand a fighting chance.

First things first: You know how long this concert is going to be because you have been rehearsing the music for several weeks. Sometime early in the process you found yourself going home with a tired voice, and you realized this was going to be one of those concerts. Time to start getting in shape to handle the load.

The sooner you start preparing, the more likely it is you’ll survive the experience, so once you’ve had that revelation don’t wait to start gearing up to handle it. Begin by spending more time practicing the music on your own, paying attention to dynamics and phrasing. Remember, dynamics are relative, so if you can sing the soft passages very softly you won’t have to sing the loud ones quite as loudly to compensate. Of course, if the performance involves something like Verdi’s Requiem or Orff’s Carmina Burana you have a rather large orchestra to contend with, but the principal still applies.

Proper support for your tone is vital in this situation, so whatever you need to do to get those neglected abdominal muscles in to better shape is strongly advised. If the abs are soft you’ll use your neck and throat muscles to compensate, and you’ll run out of juice around intermission.

Pay attention to posture, too. If your back gets tired from holding your rib cage high you need to work on it. Build up the stamina so you can make it to the end. If you use music on stage and hold it in a folder, then start practicing with the music in the folders at least four weeks before the performance. You’ll want your shoulder muscles to get used to the weight.

Beyond the physical conditioning you need, don’t forget to exercise your voice so it’s in the best shape possible. Practice the music using the dynamic markings as soon as possible, so the whole package is in your muscle memory, not just the notes. Practice the passages with sudden or frequent dynamic changes on your own so they don’t come as a surprize at show time. Few things are more embarrassing than being the only one still singing fortissimo when everyone else has observered a subito piano.

Make sure you start getting plenty of water at least two weeks before performance time. The vocal mechanism needs to stay moist, and if you’re underhydrated you’ll end up fighting a dry, scratchy throat. Proper rest is important, too. We all have a life to live, but the social part of it won’t suffer too badly if you spend a couple of weeks going to bed early.

Finally, on the day of the performance pace yourself. Don’t let the excitement of the moment steal away your preparation and cause you to over sing. Save some of it for the end of the concert. You want the finale to be grand, don’t you? – Keep your voice healthy

All too often singers develop problems with their voices which could have been prevented by a little knowledge applied at the right time.

Today I’m going to try to provide a few simple guidelines that I hope will help spare some of you the frustration of having your voice go out on you at a bad time.

One of the most important things you can do for your voice is to stay healthy. I know, not all illnesses can be avoided, but if you are serious about keeping your voice in shape you should make an extra effort to stay healthy. Ear muffs in colder climates can help prevent numerous ear and throat infections by keeping the inner ear passages warm. Washing your hands before touching your face or after contact with people who have the sniffles can help you avoid many forms of the common cold. Getting plenty of rest can help your body’s immune system resist the ‘bug’ that’s going around. A healthy diet will also help.

Beyond such obvious steps to maintaining your health, there are a few things you can do specifically to keep your voice at its best.

Drink plenty of water. It not only is good for you, it helps keep the vocal mechanism lubricated.

Moderate your alcohol intake, especially for a few days prior to any planned performances. Alcohol dries out your throat and can cause unnecessary strain on the vocal cords.

If you smoke, quit. The husky lounge singer sound belongs in a smoke-filled bar, not in the choir. You know all the health reasons to stop, so I’ll just add that it’s possibly the worst thing you can do to your voice.

Reduce your use of dairy products. They increase mucous production and aare generally not good for your voice. If you don’t believe they affect your voice, take this challenge: cut out ALL dairy products for a month, preferably the month before a scheduled performance. After the performance, resume your normal dairy intake and see what it does to your voice (and the rest of you).

Get plenty of exercise, too. However, avoid doing much exercise that involves heavy lifting. Many voice coaches teach that this type of activity can put excessive strain on the neck and throat, affecting the vocal mechanism.

Another thing: be aware of how tired your voice is. If you are tired, your voice is probably tired, and you shouldn’t strain it by trying to sing too loud. Once you have had a chance to rest, and to rest your voice, then you can use it with strength.

Here’s to healthy singing! – Glossary of vocal physiology

The following is a brief glossary of the parts of the body involved in vocal production. It is not a comprehensive list, but does explain somewhat how the parts fit together to produce a good vocal sound.

Abdomen – area below the ribs containing the digestive organs.

Cartilages – The framework of the larynx. The largest cartilage is the Thyroid Cartilage, whose bulge creates the Adam’s Apple. The Circoid Cartilage is a structural part of the larynx, and is attached to the trachea. The Arytenoids Cartilages are responsible for adjusting tension and the amount of separation of the vocal cords. The vocal cords are attached to the Arytenoids Cartilages at the back and to the Thyroid Cartilage at the front.

Clavicle – collarbone.

Clavicular Breathing – breathing from the top of the chest.

Costal – pertaining to the ribs.

Costal Breathing – breathing with the ribs, above the diaphragm.

Diaphragm – flexible partition of miscles and tendons separating the chest and abdominal cavities.

Diaphragmatic Breathing – breathing by relaxing the abdomen, forcing the diaphragm to drop and the lungs to expand.

Epiglottis – cartilage at the root of the tongue which covers the vocal cords during swallowing, protecting them.

Glottis – space between the vocal cords.

Hyoid Bone – the bone at the base of the tongue. Both the tongue and the larynx are attached to the Hyoid Bone.

Larynx – voice box. The cavity holding the vocal cords.

Palate – roof of the mouth. The front is called the hard palate. The back is called the soft palate.

Pharynx – throat. The cavity connecting the nose, mouth, and larynx.

Sinuses – small cavities in the skull behind the eyes and nose. this is where most vocal resonance occurs.

Sternum – breastbone. The front of the upper ribs are attached to the sternum.

Thorax – upper part of the body between the neck and the abdomen. Separated from the abdomen by the diaphragm.

Trachea – windpipe. The air passage leading into the larynx from below.

Uvula – fleshy hanging projection at the back of the soft palate.

Steve Ericson’s Tips for singers (Part II Extending the Range

Steve Ericson’s Tips for Singing (Part II – Extending the Range)

previously at – Extending the range – higher

Republished with permission

One of the best Basses I've ever had the privilege to sing with and a good friend.

One of the best Basses I’ve ever had the privilege to sing with and a good friend.

One of the biggest challenges facing most singers is the high end of the voice: those notes which are at or slightly above the range where singing is comfortable. Often that part of the voice sounds strained, or if abused too often becomes permanently strident.

This is not good.

As a young bass, my voice coaches often despaired of my ever being able to sing above the staff – anything above a B-flat for me was a real struggle. Looking back on it now, I can see what I was doing wrong (and where they missed some chances to help).

I’ll stick with my side of things. For too long I tried to muscle my voice up to the high notes. What I really needed to do was back off the pressure and tension I was putting on my throat and free up the vocal mechanism. More importantly, I had to learn to place the voice up into the big resonating chamber of the head. (Note: placing the voice in the head is a conceptual process, not a physical one. More on the mechanics shortly.)

If you are having trouble with the top of your range, try using a more gentle approach to singing. Relax the neck and shoulders. Lift the ribs and take a comfortable breath. Open your mouth tall, not wide, and imagine your voice floating above your head. Then gently sing a note that you know is higher than you are normally comfortable with. Don’t worry about the exact pitch, the idea here is to see how effortless it can be, and notes can get in the way at this point.

If you can grasp this idea, listen to the quality of the note you just sang. It may sound nothing like your regular singing voice at this point. That’s OK. There will be time to develop that sound later. It is important not to rush this process, as you can hurt yourself trying to do too much too soon.

When you achieve this free-floating high, light sound (not falsetto) you should feel a “buzz” up in your nose, behind the eyes, and along the brow ridge. That is because your sinuses carry most of the resonance in that range. With the relaxed neck and open mouth you are actually lifting the soft palate and giving your voice more room.

Once you have discovered the buzz you should work on bringing it down into the middle part of your voice as well. A real benefit of discovering and exercising this part of your voice range is the fact that it adds depth to the rest of your voice by opening up the overtones of your voice and giving it a vibrant resonance. With consistent practice you should find yourself singing notes you had previously given up on with relative ease.

formerly at – Extending the Range – lower

I am often asked how I sing so low. (I am a bass.) The short answer is that I just open my mouth and sing the notes.

Of course, there is a bit more to it than that. A naturally low voice helps, but my normal range is not that much lower than most good basses. I sing a comfortable D below the bass clef most days, but there are a few choral pieces which demand lower notes. Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil (Vespers) has B-flats and Cs in most of the movements, for example, and a handful of the basses in our choir were able to work down to that range for performances a couple of years ago.

So, how did we do it?

The first thing we had to do was get over the idea that those notes are going to sound pretty. Much of the “pretty” sound of a sung note is its resonance, and unless you have an unusually shaped head (and a large one) the chances are you won’t have the resonance needed to make those notes sound as nice as something in the middle of your range.

With that in mind, we can approach the extremely low notes with a new freedom. Now, just because they aren’t pretty doesn’t mean you don’t have to sing the notes in tune, but we’ll see how that’s done, too.

A common term for the very low notes in the male voice is fry-tones. That’s because they sound like bacon frying on a hot skillet – a controlled series of pops from the vocal cords. To achieve that sound you need to place the voice very far forward – go for a bright AH sound – and completely relax the jaw, tongue, and throat.

A good exercise for placing the voice is to do some downward glissandos. Start on a comfortable note, say a D in the middle of the clef, and slide down a fifth to the G on the bottom line. You want to start the top note on a bright EEE sound and end it on the AH sound, still bright and forward. Then go back and do it again, this time starting on the C-sharp and ending on F-sharp. Repeat this pattern until you can’t go any lower, then do one more.

The more you practice this exercise, the stronger your lower notes will become. And, as you practice this, listen carefully to the sound you are making. Work on tuning it with the piano so you learn to hear the intonation in that range. One word of caution, though. Don’t push it. Don’t expect your range to increase dramatically in just one or two sessions. This takes some time, usually a period of several weeks to achieve noticeable changes in your range.

Now here’s one of the great things about this. If you can sing the note in tune with the rest of the choir they will supply the resonance and make it sound like a beautiful low pipe on an organ.

This technique can be applied to all the voices, though the effectiveness is not as great with the other voice parts as it is for the low basses. Still, next time your choir director asks you to sing something really low you can just open your mouth and sing it.

Steve Ericson’s Tips for Singing

Steve Ericson’s tips for singing: formerly at

Republished with permission

One of the best Basses I've ever had the privilege to sing with and a good friend.

Steve Ericson was my best friend in Washington State. He chewed good fat (prime fat). Very smart (MENSA) man and the best Bass I’ve ever had the pleasure of singing with. He could handle Madrigal, Jazz, Opera, Chant, Barbershop, Large Choral, Quartet, Musical Theater, Doo Wop, in short he did it all and he did it very well. He could sing the low notes of a Basso Profundo and the high notes of a counter tenor. He was 4 basses in one. Steve died in 2008 of complications after minor surgery.

Eternal Memory Steve. †

With permission of his widow, Dawn, I republish this from his ChoirSinger Blog

How to Sing – Posture and Breathing

The pages on this site are about producing a good vocal tone. They are intended to help the community choir member whose formal education may not have included advanced voice training.

1. Posture

There is a good reason to start with posture. It is the foundation on which all other techniques stand.

You have heard of “good” posture, but what does that mean to a singer? Certainly it is not the ram-rod straight posture one associates with a military inspection. Nor is it any stiff and formal pose. Good posture for a singer is instead:

Spine straight and centered for balance but not stiff.

Ribs raised as if at the peak of a normal breath.

Shoulders squared but relaxed (not rounded).

Head up as though looking in the distance. Note: the chin should be at a normal angle to the neck, neither stretched up nor tucked down, to allow the vocal chords maximum flexibility.

Feet slightly apart.

Knees slightly bent.

2. Breathing

Once your posture is correct you can learn to breathe properly. “What,” I can hear some of you say, “is he talking about? Breathing is a natural thing.I know how to breathe.”

Let me explain: if you have ever observed a baby asleep, you may have noticed that the stomach goes in and out while the infant is breathing. Think about this for a moment. Take a deep breath. Did your shoulders rise? Your chest expand? If they did then you have a lot to un-learn in order to give your voice a properly supporting air column.

Go back to the baby again. Now, assume good posture as discussed above – spine straight, ribs slightly lifted, shoulders squared but relaxed – and then expand only your stomach. Did that feel a bit awkward? Try to do it without moving your shoulders or ribs. You’ll find a natural limit to the expansion you can get before things start to move. That is all the breath you need to sing.

Now the next part is easy -maybe. Breathe out. Keep your ribs and shoulders in position (but not tight) and push in until there is no air left. Again moving only your abdomen breathe in. Push it all out again. If you can learn to do this repeatedly with little or no movement in the shoulders you are well begun. All good choral singing begins with these two steps.

On the next page we will begin to discuss tone production. What makes a good singing tone? This page will discuss this issue, as well as taking a look at some techniques for reducing the risk of injury.

More about Breathing

Today we will investigate a few of the things we can do to enhance the breathing techniques we need to practice as singers. We all understand the concept of breathing from the diaphragm to draw the breath into the lower part of the lungs, but there is more to good breathing technique than just getting the air.

One of the more useful analogies I have heard is to consider breath support like inflating a tire (some of us who carry a ‘spare tire’ know where we’ll be inflating it). Before the onset of sound the tire should be inflated to a comfortable pressure. Be sure not to over-inflate; your abdominal muscles don’t have as much control if they are over extended.

Once the tire is inflated, you should always try to keep it between 80 and 95 percent full. This allows you to catch quick breaths as you sing without the need to ‘suck wind’ after a long passage. Collapsing the lungs too far also creates a poorly supported tone, something to be avoided at all costs.

Now that we understand how much air to put in the lungs, let’s look at how we use that air.

It doesn’t take that much more air to sing loud than it does to sing soft. Singing very softly actually requires more control over the air, as the support for a good tone must be balanced with the reduced volume. For that reason, singers should have strong abdominal muscles. However, they should not work the abs to the point where they are no longer flexible enough to accommodate proper breathing.

The dynamic range of the sustained tone will vary from singer to singer, but there should be a noticeable difference in the volume. If you are singing solos in a piece accompanied by a large orchestra you will need to learn how to project your sound, but not necessarily to sing louder – but I’ll save that discussion for another time. The important thing is to use that top 10-15 percent of your lung capacity to support the tone at whatever volume you are singing, and to breathe when you need to in order to keep the tire inflated. Timing your breathing with the phrasing of the music is, of course, ideal, but in long passages you may need to take a breath somewhere in the middle. Plan where you’re going to breathe in those instances, and avoid breathing at the same time as your neighbor (also known as staggered breathing).

Sustaining the tone is important, but how do you start and stop it? The answer, of course, is by breathing.

Many choir directors who have an instrumental background use terms like attack and cut off to indicate the onset and release of sound. Unfortunately those terms also carry mental pictures of violence to the voice. When you begin singing it should be with the breath. I don’t mean put a ‘H’ before each entrance, but rather make sure your vocal cords are not clenched. In the same way, you should never ‘cut off’ the vocal sound by slamming shut the vocal cords. Instead, you should end each passage by inhaling. This not only helps preserve the vocal cords, but it prepares you for your next entrance that much more quickly.

I realize these concepts are difficult to convey without a demonstration, so I will once again recommend that you work with a vocal teacher or coach to master the techniques. No matter what your age or experience level, there is always something new to learn, and working with a good teacher can help us catch and correct any bad habits we may develop.

How to Sing – Tone Production

These pages are about producing a good vocal tone. They are intended to help the community choir member whose formal education may not have included advanced voice training.

What makes a good tone?

Generally, in Western culture a good vocal tone is considered to be one which is full, clear, and audible.

A good vocal tone should not be strident, shrill, scratchy, or breathy. It should also not sound “forced” or “strained,” but instead should sound as if it flows effortlessly from the singer.

Within that definition is still a great deal of room for individual vocal timbre (pronounced TAM-bur), or characteristic sound, and for stylistic interpretation as called for by the music being performed. A singer trained to the Opera would use a different quality of voice than a member of a vocal Jazz group, yet both must produce a “good” tone or face the unemployment line. What is considered appropriate for early music in the style of Palestrina would be entirely inappropriate for a major work with a symphony orchestra, such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

How, then, is a singer to produce a good tone appropriate to the variety of musical styles typically encountered in a community choir? It all begins with the basics.

3. Producing the Tone: Placement

Beginning with good posture and breath support, the singer must also relax the jaw, so the air passage is not restricted in any way. The tongue should be relaxed and behind the lower teeth, and the throat slightly open – as though on the verge of a yawn. Be careful not to force the tongue down or exaggerate the yawning sensation, as these produce tension on the larynx and can make the voice sound “swallowed” and artificial.

Take a comfortable breath – not too large, but sufficient to support a sustained pitch. With the jaw relaxed and the throat open begin to sing with an “ahh” sound. Experiment with this sound, opening the throat more, then less, while singing at a comfortable volume. Notice the difference in your sound when you force the throat to open too far. Also hear how pinched it becomes if you don’t open it far enough. Find the range of positions that are most comfortable for your throat. That is what you want to feel when you are singing.

4. Putting It All Together:

Now you can put all these elements together: posture, breathing, and placement. You are ready to begin singing. You now have the foundation of good tone, so it is time to practice what you have learned. Try putting these elements together with some simple songs, ones which are familiar to you so you don’t have to concentrate on the words or notes, but can instead think about maintaining this comfortable feeling as you sing. Try singing them first in the middle of your vocal range. Then move up a few keys into a higher part of the voice. If it is too high, don’t push. Instead, concentrate on your breath support, and you will find yourself able to sing higher with less strain.

One word of caution here: Learn to recognize when your voice is becoming fatigued. Much damage is done to the vocal chords of amateur singers when they are tired, as they often try to compensate for the fatigue by resorting to poor vocal technique. Always go back to the basics of posture, breathing, and placement. This will do much to reduce the risk of vocal injury, allowing for years of singing enjoyment.

5. Odds and Ends

Some miscellaneous tips for the amateur singer:

Listen carefully at all times.

Learn to hear the other parts as you sing, and work on tuning with them.

Listen to the vowel sounds. Try to match the vowel sounds of the rest of the choir. When everyone is singing exactly the same vowel the perceived volume of the choir will be amplified, as the sound will be in better focus.

Take a foreign language. Concentrate on the sounds of the language. Your singing will be improved by your broader knowledge.

Listen to other choirs. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with several choirs, be sure to attend some concerts. Listen for what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t have access to other local choirs, look for a variety of choral music recordings at your local record store. If they don’t have a good selection of classical music then join one of the record clubs and build your library.

Try something new. Even if you don’t like it, you will have learned something.

Enjoy yourself. Relax and have fun. Remember, you sing because you like to sing. Sometimes the stress of rehearsing and performing can tend to make you forget that. Get back the enjoyment.