The September 2016 issue of Choral Journal featured an article by Philip Silvey titled “Coordinating Vocal Colors in Women’s Choruses,” which is intended primarily for high school and collegiate women’s choruses and can also be applicable to adult women’s choruses.
The author states the following in the introduction:
“When singers in women’s choruses combine their individual vocal colors, they create vibrant sonorities. As members of an equal voice ensemble, they must learn to coordinate these distinct colors to form an integrated whole, one that captures the expressive intent of a range of musical compositions.”
He continues: “Only singers have the power to alter and adjust sounds they contribute. They alone can do the work necessary to coordinate these vocal colors. Despite this, conductors play an important role in this process. They can encourage singers to know their own voices, invite them to find ways to capitalize on their strengths, teach techniques for optimizing their sound through adjusting tonal parameters in healthy ways, and provide opportunities for singers to independently hear themselves in context and make ongoing adaptations.”
Along with describing the conductor’s role, the author offers readers a system for categorizing vocal timbre “according to three primary colors in female voices: light (pastel), bright (neon), and dark (rich) with three secondary colors occurring as composites of each pair.” The author admits that reducing voices to three categories may be oversimplifying, but “many singers have a central tendency that corresponds to one of these three primary colors.” See the chart below for a visual.
You can read the full article online in PDF format by clicking here. (Note: You must be logged into the acda.org site as a member in order to access the Choral Journal online. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today!)
What do you think about this categorization system? How do you think this could help you as a conductor to teach your singers about their own vocal attributes?