Monday, March 13, 2023

The secret world of … Altos

This is a series of five posts looking in a light-hearted way at the different types of singers in a typical community choir. 

Last week it was the Sopranos, now here are the Altos. Enjoy! In other posts I deal with Tenors, Basses, and Floaters.

Here are ten things I’ve learnt about Altos after leading community choirs for over 25 years:

  1. Altos frown a lot. They never seem to quite know what’s going on.
  2. The whole concept of a choir is a bit of a mystery to Altos.
  3. Many find themselves in the Alto section by default. It’s the goldilocks part: not too high, not too low, just right.
  4. Altos are always on the edge of falling apart. It just takes one look from the choir leader, or one tiny mistake by one of the other Altos and everything crumbles. Or if a car backfires in the street.
  5. Every Alto believes that all the other Altos know what they’re doing, but not them. They’re wrong – nobody knows what’s going on.
  6. Even though the Altos might have nailed their part 100%, there is always a miasma of doubt hovering over their heads. Can they really have got it right?
  7. Altos are frightened of Sopranos and Tenors, especially when they get too close.
  8. There is an unwritten consensus that all Altos have to were muted, earth-coloured clothes.
  9. There is a competition in every concert to see who can hide behind all the other Altos.
  10. Successful Altos often leave to join the Sopranos or Tenors.

You might also find this fun from Classic FM: 10 worst things about being an alto


And finally, from an unattributed meme that’s circulating the internet:

Top Ten Reasons for Being an Alto

1. You get really good at singing E flat.

2. You get to sing the same note for 12 consecutive measures.

3. You don’t really need to warm up to sing 12 consecutive bars of E-flat.

4. If the choir really stinks, it’s unlikely the Altos will be blamed.

5. You have lots of time to chat during Soprano solos.

6. You get to pretend that you are better than the Sopranos, because everybody knows that women only sing Soprano so they don’t have to learn to read music.

7. You can sometimes find part time work singing Tenor.

8. Altos get all the great intervals.

9. When the Sopranos are holding some outrageously high note at the end of a song, the Altos always get the last words.

10. When the Altos miss a note, nobody gets hurt.

Chris Rowbury


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