Different Voice Types, Different Points of View

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sing a vocal part other than your own? A playful series from Classical Minnesota Public Radio takes a look at the world from soprano, alto, tenor, and bass perspectives.

"Commissioning this series has been such a delight!" said Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, who recently started in the new position of manager of the Choral Works Initiative at Classical MPR/APM. "I found each perspective to be unique, witty, fun and full of satire, even if on occasion some of the comments only seemed to validate the stereotypes being lampooned."

Below are some highlights as well as links to the full versions of each article. Have your own favorite quotes or want to sound off? Let us know in the comments below.

A soprano's-eye view of choral music written by Sonja Tengblad

"In their careers, a lot of musicians have met that one soprano who simply ruined it for them. We've all met her. She's ruined it for all of us. Sure, maybe she was oblivious and self-centered. But...maybe she was having a hard day because she was a little tired of leading her superhero life. Yes, sopranos are superheroes. It's a bird, it's a plane it's a...half woman, half boy! Wow!"

"And it all comes down to this: can you even imagine a world without the soprano line? 'Hey you know that one piece? It goes like...umm, well you know...that one part that...'"

An alto's-eye view of choral music written by Anna George Meek

"[Singing the alto line] feels like nougat. It feels like the warm place inside the engine. It feels like being the secret ingredient, the red-gold saffron you paid $50 a bottle for and loving the glow." 

"The big reveal is this: most people I know singing alto in various choirs in the area are actually mezzo-sopranos. If you're a singer, it's not that big a surprise. You know that blend in a choir is crucial to making a single instrument of multiple voices."

A tenor's-eye view of choral music written by Vaughn Ormseth

"Grandiosity is the charge most often leveled against Men Who Sing High Notes. In opera, tenors are duly famous for the grand gesture...Choral tenors feel a kinship with their operatic brothers, to be sure, but most would never, ever presume such stage-stealing in an ensemble. Quite the opposite — trust us! Yet this is the very straw man basses, altos, and sopranos routinely prop up when trying to take tenors down a few notches. 'We're a choir,' they fume. 'This isn't La Scala.'"

"But let's face it, tenors command a vista, indeed a dimension, extending far, far beyond the confines of the soprano/bass continuum."

A bass's-eye view of choral music written by Jim Ramlet

"So you're sailing down the Pacific Coast Highway in your 1964 Ford Mustang convertible (with the top down, of course), and 'Blue Moon,' sung by the Marcels, comes on the radio. What do you do? C'mon...admit it...you sing along with the bass line! You can hear it, can't you? Bomp-baba-bomp, bomp-bomp-baba-bomp... Melody? Ha! Who needs melody with a bass line like that?"

"We bring our lunch pails, stand in the back row, and, as a friend of mine once put it, start laying pavement. Get to work. No flashy high notes, nothing fancy, but we get the job done." 

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