Being Selected to Be Visible

A 12-member TFC chorus had the distinct pleasure of singing the National Anthem with the Boston Pops for Game 5 of the Celtics this week.  Take a look:

A brief discussion broke out on some of our internal mailing lists and various Facebook pages, because these are the same 12 people who sang the national anthem at a Red Sox game.  In general, it’s clear that there is an “A-list” of singers who are invited more often to participate in television appearances and other special events (like when James Taylor needed some backup singers for his Tanglewood concert, recently.)

First of all, frankly speaking, those A-list singers are absolutely some of our best singers and they totally deserve to get the nod.  Secondly, everyone is VERY happy that the TFC was represented at the Celtics game, and vicariously thrilled for the 12 people who got to sing.  I don’t think anyone wishes them ill.  But, given the type-A extroverted go-get-’em personalities that almost by necessity make up the chorus, one can’t help but wish that they’d “spread the love around” and allow other singers a chance to make these appearances.

The way that chorus members are selected for rosters and gigs has always been (and will continue to be) a mysterious process.  Musical abilities come into play: your singing ability, the characteristics of your voice,  how you blend with others who might be chosen, and the work that’s being sung.  Dependability enters into it too: are you on time or frequently late?  Have you backed out of any performances at the last minute?  Did you still need your music when we were supposed to be off-book?  Chorus members joke that they only pick beautiful people to be on camera; doubtful, but certainly more energetic, emotive singers probably add a little something.  And I’m sure devotion to the chorus enters into it: some people have considerable seniority over others, some people have served on the Chorus Committee, some people have volunteered for extra Holiday Pops concerts or other tasks.  It all adds up to a decision that is handed down from the director and the chorus manager.

I’m Just Another Bass, and don’t expect to be selected for these sorts of things.  My voice is good but not operatic or dominating; I still need to work on the mechanics of my voice so that I sing more efficiently and more consistently.  But I think I know the role I’ve carved out in the chorus.  I’m great at hitting very low notes like in the Mahler 2nd.  I’m dependable and reliable.  And, I’ve been successful as a late addition to a roster when someone cancels out — I’ve jumped in with a few weeks to go and memorized very painful text (Oedipus Rex and its very nonstandard Latin comes to mind).  My goal isn’t to sing at the Celtics game.  My goal is to be good enough, in all the categories I listed, to be considered to sing at the Celtics game!

2 responses to “Being Selected to Be Visible

  1. TFC anonymous

    I appreciate your honest and tactful assessment of a touchy subject. I’m very grateful to be an an occasional A-lister, but I’m well aware that each season’s auditions may bring in a new set of favorites. And not knowing how they’ve been accumulated, I can just as easily lose any of the mystical “brownie points” I’ve possibly earned. The best any of us can do is to keep loving our chorus and our art. We certainly don’t do it for the money!

  2. I don’t know how big the A-list is, and I can understand that if a particular group did the national anthem very well at one event it makes sense to have them do it again a few weeks later. And I’ve never had occasion to think about this before. But it does seem to me that it would make sense to spread the assignments as widely as possible without risking compromising the quality of the performance, and it sounds as if that isn’t management’s approach.

    Well, what can’t be cured must be endured. I hope your fill-in calls are enough to tell you that you are good enough to be considered.

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