A Very Weird Argument about Choral Singing

In an article about the problems that may arise out of the growing popularity of choral singing, Niall Crowley, a singer in the amateur chorus of Birmingham Opera Company, writes:

“The great danger for today’s choral renaissance is that, in enlisting it to help cure everything from fragmented communities to stress relief, we will drag it down to the level of the mundane. And must we measure everything in terms of health benefits? Should joining a choir become an adjunct to the ‘five a day’ directive? If we concede that choirs are little more than a healthy lifestyle option then it won’t be long before another part of our private lives are colonised and regulated by ‘experts’ and health professionals.

“Choral singing may have curative qualities but if we recast it as just another healthy lifestyle activity, like going to the gym or visiting our GP, then all that’s magical, inspiring and elevating about the choral experience might just melt into air.”

I wonder if he really believes this. First, people participate in activities to varying degrees. Some people read War and Peace and others read Fifty Shades of Grey. I may think the Grey people are missing out, but they’re having fun, so, fine. Second, I joined a choral society for two reasons: I was depressed and I thought singing Christmas music might help, and to meet guys. I had no idea how much more I would get out of singing masterpieces, but I soon found out. So, in the end, what difference does it make why people start?

I would guess he was just raising some interesting points to think about, I don’t think he truly believes there’s any real reason to be concerned. Unless I’m missing something.

At times I need to separate the cats when feeding them, otherwise Bleecker would eat everything in sight. But that often means bringing the food to Finney wherever he is, like curled up on the couch, and then watching like a hawk, otherwise this happens.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

4 thoughts on “A Very Weird Argument about Choral Singing

  1. If he couldn’t pose a challenge to conventional wisdom about choirs, the Independent wouldn’t have printed his article. He’s just being a good writer, feeding the 24-hour appetite for news or news-like content.

  2. Hi Stacy,
    Actually I do think I understand what he was talking about, but I’m not sure it applies to choral singing.

    Really his argument is a classic refutation of post-modernism and the post-modern point of view.

    Let me express it this way.

    There is a very, very expensive restaurant in Dallas. Naturally, their wine cellar contains some of the most exquisite vintages that can be purchased in this part of the world.

    People who dine there often are the kind of folks who can take a sip and tell you whether there was adequate rainfall on the grapes that year. What year the vintage was bottled. They’re the kind of people who say things like,

    “It’s a self-effacing little vintage with just a hint of impertinence.”

    Now this is all well and good. However, from time to time some people will roll in to this restaurant half loaded, because they have just made a lot of money opening their escort service or whatever, and they know absolutely nothing about wine, fine dining, social deportment, or anything else.

    They have the money to purchase “the best” and so they slosh down these ethereal vintages like they were Schlitz malt liquor, get drunk on their asses, and have to be carried out to the portico and helped into their Mercedes.

    So the question is, does any of this really matter? That is, the fact that someone totally inappropriate and even offensive can gain access to something entirely beyond their capacity for appreciation.

    Is there anything in this that actually represents an issue or is it simply a concern that is dismissible?

    I believe there is an issue here, but as I say, I am not sure it applies to choral singing.

  3. Yeah, it’s not really the same. It’s like the people in the restaurant you described getting mad that places like Macdonalds also exist.

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