The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #24078   Message #271894
Posted By: WyoWoman
05-Aug-00 - 11:21 AM
Thread Name: Gender and the soprano voice
Subject: RE: Gender and the soprano voice
As I've never heard a choir that mixed pre-adolescent boys and adult women, I can't really address this specific issue. However, I do know, as a soprano myself, that I've sometimes done works for which the conductor requested that we use a "clear boy-soprano" voice. Meaning without any vibrato.

Part of what makes an adult woman's voice rich is SOME vibrato (too much and we all know how odious that can get). But some works, particularly the earlier sacred works, were written for boys' voices and the quality of the music is better if the soprani, of whichever gender, keep their voices as clear and without vibration as possible. For singers with good vocal control, this isn't all that difficult, providing they're not in their senior years (although my mother sang in an excellent choir until her late 70s and it wasn't until she was 76 or so that she had to go down to second soprano because her voice quality was diminishing...)

It may be that the conductor simply hasn't asked the soprani to sing the works that way, or that they don't know any better.

I have been in choirs in which the conductor auditioned us according to whom we would stand beside. Within the section you can have two singers with beautiful voices (male or female), but if they sing beside each other the vibrato in their voices compete and the sound isn't great (imagine radio waves at intervals vastly different from each other). Place those same voices beside someone different and the problem is solved. This is how the best conductors achieve "blend," and I'm amazed at how few seem to know about this technique.

And some of us singers who've been at this for a while get pretty adept at listening to the quality of voices we're singing with and tailoring our singing to blend in automatically. If, God forbid, I was plunked down next to a boy soprano and told to sing a Gregorian chant with him, it would be a pretty big challenge. Not impossible, but it would require eternal vigilance to keep my voice as straight as a string.

Hope that helps -- and I'm relieved you weren't saying that women singing in ANY combination bring down the quality of the music. You'd probably feel a great bit of wrath from the Mudcateers over that one...