Sunday, March 29, 2009
Tenors: The Endangered Chorister
I read a very interesting article in the Edmonton Journal the other day remarking on the fact that there is a severe shortage of tenors in choirs. I am not sure if this localized Canadian epidemic is a global pandemic but it is enough to cause worry for mixed and male ensembles everywhere.
The president of the Vancouver Jubilate Chamber Choir, along with some male choristers dressed in tuxedos, stood outside in downtown Vancouver holding signs alerting the public to the fact that they needed tenors in hopes that those angelic male voices would miraculously emerge from the public to join their choir. You can ask any chorister how challenging it is to find enough male voices to fill a choir section. Many factors may be affecting the propagation of this disease but it just seems like singing is not the most popular hobby among young boys. In a society where we nurture socially male accepted activities such as sports and video games the arena for male musicians is limited to savant types only...or at least men whose sexualities are constantly called into question. The article throws out wild suggestions such as hormones in meat to be the cause of tenor shortages, but if this was the case, shouldn't all other voice types be affected as well? Tenors are not the only meat eaters in the world. If the hormonal meat intake of tenors is causing them to have reduced upper voice ranges...then does that mean female altos would start becoming tenors? It would be extremely unsettling to suddenly see a female alto section developing more masculine features due to increased testosterone uptake from their diet. I don't think this is the case but it seems like that would be the reasoning behind the diet claim.
Personally, I do not believe it is something in the water or the meat, rather, it is what we as a society have reinforced as appropriate social behaviour. If young boys were immediately enrolled into musical programs or were placed within a musically stimulating environment, I can only see this helping our tenor shortage epidemic. Male only ensembles within Edmonton, and even worldwide, are very limited; however, there is talk of a Cantilon Boys/Male Choir forming this coming Fall. I am not sure how confirmed this news is yet, but if it is the case, then there would finally be an outlet to foster the talent of these young male musicians and they could unite together and combat the social stigmas of being a singing male! The first step in addressing the male singer shortage is to provide programs that support the artistic development of male musicians. If there are no programs to aid in their musical training, then these talented musicians will be lost as they will pursue other outlets in their lives.
At any rate, I am hopeful that there is a male choir in development and I will update you all with any further news in that area. Until then, take care readers!