Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hum (06/06/13)
TITLE: Not Like a Trumpet
By Sarah Dirk
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The teens broke free from their conversations and filed into the church pews. They sat in four sections, and looked expectantly at their new director.
He was older. Not ancient, but older. His head was alive with white hair, and his eyes danced with merriment.
“We are going to be an acappella choir, folks. It will take some work. There are two things that make an acappella choir good.” He paused and let his eyes glance over his students, preparing for a speech they would soon have memorized because of repetition. “When you can stay on pitch and sync with the director, without music in the background, and..” his eyes lit up, “when you begin a song perfectly, and the audience does not know where the pitch came from.”
There were a few confused glances.
“And how do we do that, sir?” A young man called out.
The director produced a small round object. “With a pitch pipe, of course. One of you lassies will have this, and she will give the pitch. She will then hum it so only the choir can hear it, and we will get our notes from her hum.” He tossed the object to a tall blonde. “What's your name, lassie?”
“Kayla.” She caught it and stared. The names of the notes were carved into the side of the instrument.
“All right, gang. We will start with “Amazing Grace”. Here are some music books.” Tugging a worn box over to himself, he drew out a stack of tattered hymnals and started passing them around. “The song is on page 24, kids. Page 24.”
Pages rustled until twenty pairs of eyes returned to the director.
“This starts in the key of F, so Kayla will give you an F.” He proceeded to tell the four sections whether or not they would start on the tonic note, sub-dominate note, or dominate. When he glanced at his music he missed the blank stares.
“Kayla, an F.”
The blonde found the carved F, and then blew into the small hole.
“No, no, lassie.” The director shook his head vigorously. “Not like a trumpet. You must blow very softly so only you can hear. Then hum so the choir can hear.”
She tried again.
“It still sounds like a trumpet,” he glared, and she giggled nervously before blowing softer.
“Good. Hum that note very quietly.”
She did so.
“Does everyone have their note?” A few confused tenors shook their heads. “Hum it louder, lassie.”
“Good.” He waved his hands, and the choir came in.
“Amazing gra....” Twenty voices crushed each other.
“Stop! That is not the note she gave you!” He marched to the piano, giving complete instructions on how to retrieve each note from the tonic note. A few heads nodded in understanding, and started whispering help to their neighbours.
Within moments, he started again and they came in properly. When they finished, he moved on.
“All right, gang, that is enough of that song. Turn the page to the next song. Lassie, the key is A major. Give us an A to start.”
“Not like a trumpet! The audience will hear you.”
Kayla blushed and blew quieter.
With a wave of his hand, the choir started.
* * *
“All right gang. We perform in two minutes. Lets rehears Amazing Grace.”
The choir stood stiffly in uniform, nervously waiting their first performance.
Kayla brought the pitch pipe to her mouth, and a silent moment later quietly hummed an F.
A wave of his arms and they launched perfectly into the hymn.
“Well done, gang! Lets go.”
Without noticing their pale faces, the director turned and marched onto stage. It took a little shoving, but the choir shuffled into position, and he turned to greet the audience.
“Welcome, ladies and gents, to our performance. The first piece...”
“Jen! What note do we start on?” Kayla's whisper to her neighbour was frantic.
“A, I think.” Came the nervous reply.
“No.” A tenor pitched in quietly. “I think it was F.”
“Written by John Newto...”
Kayla's fingers found the carved F, then she discreetly brought it to her mouth.
“...owned a slave shi....”
She moistened her lips, and blew.
*Names were changed to protect the innocent
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