Choral music and the sound man . . !


SINCE I love choral music every once in a while I’m asked to come as a judge to hear choirs perform. Before the pandemic an event turned out to be quite an interesting day for me.

I sat with two other judges and listened to nine choirs rendering beautiful choral music. I love choral music and can spend hours listening to choristers lifting their voices and producing melody divine.

With pad on table, I sat and waited for first choir to render number when I saw the sound man adjusting mikes on stage. “No mikes,” I said.

“But sir,” said the sound man, “if the choirs want mikes let them have them.” “The rules mention that mikes are not to be used.” I said and found the organiser of the contest at my elbow.

“But what’s wrong with having mikes?” he asked respectfully, after all I was the musical judge. “If you use mikes,” I said “we will never be able to judge four part music harmony.

These choirs have come to sing in four parts and all the parts balanced together produce the harmony.

The mikes will pick up certain voices like say tenor, and leave out the part that produces the melody, or the microphone may be near the person singing bass and not amplify the one singing alto. The mike doesn’t know, nor,” I said sadly, “does the sound man down there, what voices to pick up.”

Well they didn’t use mikes but I did see some very disgruntled faces looking angrily in my direction.

I have over the years heard the best of choirs becoming a cacophony of noise when they decided to use mikes. These mikes are placed randomly in front of the group and suddenly audience hears the weirdest of sounds coming over the PA system.

Years ago when there was Doordarshan and only Doordarshan, a group of singers of which I was a part was asked to sing for Christmas.

We sang, they recorded with Doordarshan mikes, and their DD technicians and the end result was Christmas carols that sounded like Santa Claus and his reindeer having a fight..!

Choirs have a conductor who stands in front and directs. He or she waves their baton not to hurry up a herd of buffaloes but to instruct the choir along in timing, in expression and balance. The conductor knows how the whole four part chord should sound and with that sound in mind, balances the members.

As I walked out of the hall that evening, I thought of how like our nation, choral music is. We are a country of diverse people, and to live together in harmony, each group should be allowed to be able to keep balance with the other.

Most often however, it is the sound man who takes charge and he allows one group to outshout the other; the majority group roars, the minority whines and there is pandemonium and chaos.

I don’t think I need to specify who the ‘sound people’ are; they are obvious with their rhetoric of hate and ideas of division. And the conductor? You all know who He is. Let Him balance our people, and divine music will flow..!

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