So I got to go to a callback for Pro Arte Singers this afternoon. Altos were supposed to show up at 4 p.m., and I didn't find out until 2:30 -- and I had a meeting to go to at 3:00 -- so I didn't get to spend any time warming up. Luckily, I didn't have any trouble finding the room and the building, and when the clock ticked four, I was in a room with the nine best altos I'm ever likely to be in a room with.1
We sang an excerpt from, uh, from someone's Sanctus -- I don't remember the composer, but it was a piece that the ensemble is going to be doing this year. First we sang together, and then the director chose individuals to sing various passages a few times.
I managed to get all the way through my passage without stopping, and the director said that my intonation was great, but that she wanted a more "pure", "head voice" sound out of me. Now, a clear, pure head voice is what's called for when you are singing an excerpt from a piece that was written in the 16th century and goes "sanctus, sanctus, sanctus" and in fact consists almost entirely of the syllable "aah". It really is appropriate to sound kind of like an innocent twelve-year-old girl, preferably one with wings and a halo. But back in undergrad, I had an irrational fear of sounding "little-kiddish" and would overcompensate by singing such pieces in too gritty of a voice, and it was a bad habit that I never broke then and that I still have now. It was kind of interesting -- the director gave other people suggestions on improving their intonation or phrasing, but I think I was the only person whose actual timbre she took issue with. I tried to do better on my second and third times through, but it's not the kind of thing I can change at the drop of a hat. Even though my intonation and pitch memory were good, I felt -- how do I explain it? -- very "raw", very untrained compared to the other singers in the room.
Another thing I noticed about the other singers was that they had style. I'm not sure I can entirely explain what I mean by style, but one aspect of it was that even when they were screwing up, they sounded good. For instance, the singer next to me misread a couple of measures pretty badly, and she knew it, but she still calmly sang through to the end of the passage. She didn't sing what was written, but what she did sing sounded great. (And then she went back and nailed it after a couple of tries.)
Near the end, the director picked out various groups of four or five of us to sing passages together, and I was the only person she never picked during that part, so I'm pretty sure that means that she doesn't want me. That's okay. I get the feeling that I probably don't have enough training to be in Pro Arte. And I'm pretty sure they'll stick me in some ensemble.
Afterward, one of the other singers told me, "Nice job!" I reciprocated and asked if she was a music student, and it turned out she was just starting a masters program. Then she asked if I was a music student, and she was surprised when I said no! So, at least one person thinks I can sing like a music major, and I got called back for a good choir. I can't complain.
- Unless I actually do get in. Then I'll be in a room with them three times a week.