We all know that old saying coaches like to use for team-sports,
“There’s no ‘I’ in team.”
That’s good advice for athletes, in terms of how they should actually play the game, but it’s mostly addressed to the mental, attitudinal,aspect of team membership. The message is that no one should believe or behave as if he’s the most important member of a team.
Although choral singing is decidedly not a team “sport,” directors,coaches, and judges admonish us choristers NOT to stand out, and in fact to do everything we can to blend in, with our own singing section and with the ensemble as a whole.
Consider, though, that any team really is nothing more or less than the composite of “I’s”, individuals. For example if no one in a “chorus” sang a note, it wouldn’t be a chorus! If only one or two sang, it still wouldn’t be a chorus. We reach chorus-hood when we’re all singing.
Now, does it matter how we sing? Oh, yes, it matters.
And how we sing collectively, as an ensemble, is, of course, the result of how each of us sings individually. I’ve seen 100-man choruses which sang, yes, but not very well. Sure, they were loud, which is pretty impressive, but their lack of good singing techniques and artistry kept them singing like, well, pretty much any average group of shower singers or folks singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or “God Bless America” during the 7th-inning stretch. We usually call it gang-singing.
Excellent choruses got to be that way because they know that the quality of sound in the ensemble really boils down to the quality of sound coming from each singer. That’s the secret of getting better chorally — getting better individually! Our chorus is filled with men who don’t consider themselves very good soloists or virtuoso singers, who wouldn’t consider performing alone in public. But they have learned to sing well enough with others so that the ensemble sounds pretty good, or very good, or really, really good.This is the “I” in the team sport of barbershop. And it is undeniable.
Each of us needs to do his part, by himself, to try to be all he can be as a singer. The collective result will be amazing, without any one of us considering himself the next great soloist. It’s one of barbershop’s little secrets. Average singers really can create the WOW effect. It’s just glorious. We are all, each one of us, the “I” in this team sport called barbershop.
Tom “The Wizard of Wow” Pearce