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Help: Momma Sang Tenor?

13 Aug 02 - 02:47 PM (#764550)
Subject: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST,Brían

I know this might e obvious to many of you. Why is the high part in Bluegrass music referred to as Tenor regardless of whether it is a man or a woman singing?

Brían


13 Aug 02 - 02:49 PM (#764552)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: MMario

The same way that if I sing a saprono part in a SATB song - it's still the soprano part.


13 Aug 02 - 04:55 PM (#764652)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: Amos

In bluegrass singing the harmony part pitched at an interval above the melody is commonly called singing "tenor" even though it might be sung by a soprano. The term might have slipped over from the traditions of barbershop singing, I guess, where it was usual for a man with a high-pitched voice to sing that part. Or perhaps it comes from white gospel which is often similarly arranged. In any case it describes a function of singing a higher harmony, not the constraints of the voice singing it. At least that's the usuage as I understand it.

A


13 Aug 02 - 05:01 PM (#764657)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST,Bill Kennedy

the part is written for tenor voice, doesn't matter who sings it; in the song it's the family sitting around singing a song in parts they all knew from others,

'Daddy sang bass, momma sang tenor, me and little junior would join right in there...'

momma sang the tenor part, that's all


13 Aug 02 - 05:05 PM (#764658)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: Burke

Some of the early bluegrass singers came from a shape note singing background.

In the old books with open scores, the melody was on the 3rd line from the top. The top line is a harmony that tends to be higher than the melody. Top to bottom they are Treble, alto, lead or tenor, bass. Men & women sing both the Treble & the lead in their own octave. Even though the exact indication has changed, the idea of high men & women parts being called the same thing seems to have carried over.


13 Aug 02 - 05:42 PM (#764685)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST,Brían

Thanks, everyone. I suspected there might be a gospel or shape-note connection. I've heard the expression tossed around without expaining where the term originated.

Silly me, I could have asked my wife. My wife tells me she sang tenor in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE to help the men who had trouble projecting their voices, so the expression seems to be associated with the vocal part rather than the vocal range.

"Come friends who plough the stormy seas. Let's vary piracy with a little burglary. Here's your crowbar and your centrement your life saver, you may want to hit your silent matches, your dark lanterns sieze. Take your file and your skeletonous keys...

Brían


13 Aug 02 - 06:30 PM (#764720)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST,Just Amy

In my church the Alto lead is sung by a man called a counter-tenor.


14 Aug 02 - 12:15 AM (#764933)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: Amos

I thought that was what you threw down on thebar after the third drink...


A


14 Aug 02 - 04:08 AM (#764993)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: Joan from Wigan

And in ladies' barbershop singing, the parts, as in mens' barbershop, are tenor, lead, baritone, bass.


14 Aug 02 - 03:09 PM (#765333)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST,leeneia

Meanwhile, in early church music, the tenor men had the melody. "Tenor" means "holder." I guess the highest line was the descant. Or maybe the treble.

I figure they did it this way because tenors sing louder and last longer than do boy sopranos - decades rather than a few years.

I used to play through books of old music, wondering why it was so dull, until an academic slipped up and let the secret out on the last page of book of medieval carols. Now I know that if the top line sounds boring, look for the tenor part and see how it sounds.


14 Aug 02 - 09:57 PM (#765558)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST,Brían

Thanks, Leeneia. I am fascinated in the origins of words, and I like the image of the tenors holding the melody which I can see is the original meaning of the word. Interestingly enough in bluegrass music, the tenor seems to be singing harmony usualy, where the melody seems to be called the lead. The meaning seems to have changed over time.
Brían


15 Aug 02 - 10:44 AM (#765830)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST

Just Amy: In your church the Alto lead is sung by a man, a counter-tenor? Alto is a male voice, the highest, adult, male voice, hence the name. (cf Alto Cumulus = the highest level of cumulus clouds). If it were sung by a woman the part would be 'Contralto'

Nigel


15 Aug 02 - 10:45 AM (#765831)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: GUEST,Nigel Parsons

Sorry, that was me above, I've lost my cookie.


15 Aug 02 - 12:23 PM (#765907)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: Joan from Wigan

Although the woman's part is called 'contralto', it is most often abbreviated to 'alto', hence the confusion. And four-part harmony arrangements written for two male and two female voices are noted 'S.A.T.B.' for female Soprano and Alto and male Tenor and Bass. Just to muddy the waters even further...:-)

Joan


15 Aug 02 - 01:13 PM (#765948)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: Dave Bryant

As Leeneia said in early music the tenors always "held" the melody, this also applies to most British "West Gallery" anthems. In the American "Sacred Harp" tradition singers are allowed to choose which part they want to sing and which octave they want to sing it in.

In some French music (Berlioz's Requeum) there is no Alto/Contralto part and it is quite usual for one of the tenor lines to be re-allocated.

I've also sung in several choirs which had ladies singing tenor - after all we male tenors are always the most rare of choral voices.


15 Aug 02 - 08:00 PM (#766189)
Subject: RE: Help: Momma Sang Tenor?
From: Burke

The way terminology has evolved over time "Daddy sang bass, momma sang tenor, me and little junior would join right in there..." could mean she was singing the melody, she was singing a harmony in the male tenor range or she was singing the high harmony. Take your pick.

Tenor did start in meaning as melody. According to Grovemusic:

CONTRATENOR ALTUS: "A line in polyphony lying just above the tenor. In the 15th century, as music came to be written in four rather than only three voices, composers approached the addition of the fourth voice by an extension of earlier compositional procedure. The most common arrangement of three voices had been superius (or cantus), tenor and CONTRATENOR; in the new four-voice texture the composer used two contratenor parts, a contratenor bassus and a contratenor altus. In Italy contratenorbassus was abbreviated to bassus, controbasso or basso; contratenor altus became altus, controalto, contr'alto, contralto or alto."