Why do people sing Carols so slow?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Roger Thorne, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    When conducting Carols (and Hymns for that matter), I try and capture the 'feeling' of the title/words in the chosen tempo, but no matter what speed I play an introduction, the congregation/choir/general public have this uncanny knack of slowing down the tempo's and singing everything at a slower tempo - Why!

    I'm not saying that all Carols should be played at breakneck speed, but aren't we 'celebrating' a birth here? We accompanied a choir last night and after about twelve carols I was feeling pretty suicidal. It was as if we were playing for the passing of the vicar's dog! Honestly you would have thought we were at a funeral!

    Am I alone on this one, or do others feel the same?

  2. 1alexm

    1alexm Member

    Yeah, my conductor complained about that because we was following them and not the conductor, maybe they want the band to play for longer, or they want to sing with dramatic emotions
  3. Tell me about it!

    I'm the songster leader (choir) at Gorgie SA and last night I had them out singing carols and they just got slower and slower no matter what I was doing!!!! Maybe its because carols have so many verses that people just get bored with it so drag it out?! It is annoying though.

    There is always at least one carol that gets faster and faster - 'Ding Dong Merrily on High'. Thanks for that last night Gorgieboy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hehe.
  4. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Hurray! I thought it was just me....

    When I was in school my music teacher had a bee in his bonnet about turgid carols, and took exactly the same view; he also abominated the practice of a rall at the end of every verse, which I still hear now an again and it gives me the willies.

    The one that really :icon_mad: gets my goat is The First Noel, which needs to be sung at a kind of lilting waltz tempo for me; all too often I hear it done so slowly it could be conducted in quavers. AAARRRGH. Bah Humbug!
  5. 2nd man down

    2nd man down Moderator Staff Member

    It doesn't stop there tho does it? Why do they all think there should be a days gap between each verse?!?!? The start of every verse sounds like an old gramophone record being wound up as everyone realises that the band has started playing and they should be singing!

    I hate Christmas. :mad:
  6. Hehe - I forgot about the first noel! We did that last night and stopped after 3 versus - there was no way we were singing all 7 versus - my arm would have dropped off! I think carolling is the reason I think I hate christmas!!!!!!!!
  7. Texus

    Texus Member

    Damn congregations make a conductors life a nightmare......
    Doesn't matter at what level. Feel for me - i have 14 assemblies and a concert of carols to go this week, and all at a snails pace!
  8. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

  9. Texus

    Texus Member

    they may be slow Dave, but they stand more chance of being in tune on the descants!
  10. Bungle

    Bungle Member

    Don't play them them an introduction! I am sure once people hear the introduction, they think oh yes, I know how this goes and ignore the band tempo. Try counting the singers in, they may pay more attention.
  11. AndyFlugel

    AndyFlugel New Member

    Coventry (Funeral) Carol is a killer - certainly, slowing down on a tune such as that leaves you begging for a quick death!
  12. Hornblower RN

    Hornblower RN Member

    Why not communicate your thoughts to the congregation before starting telling them that it should be a joyous time and that carols should be sung "joyously".....then play The Coventry Carol :D :clap:
  13. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Isn't it because the congregation are playing 'catch up'? (following the musical lines as well as reading the words, instead of being able to follow and anticipate the conductor's beat?).
  14. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    You'd think that they'd know the words by now......

    Having said that, I can honestly say I don't!
    I've always been in a band at carol services, never in congregation!
  15. catherine_S

    catherine_S Member

    It's not always congregations - we have had conductors who seem to believe that anything connected with "religion" should be played "reverentially" i.e. at a snail's pace. Their watchword is "Don't RACE!!"

    In defence of congregations, there is often a terrific time lag between the front and back of medieval (especially) churches. I sit in the back of our church (on the philosophy that if I "foghorn" out hymns from there it may make the rest of the congregation sing in self-defence and if I sing in time with the organist's hands I am singing about a beat ahead of when I hear the organ. Most congregation members can't be expected to anticipate what they hear so the drag gets more and more emphatic as the hymn or carol progresses. And they do need time to breathe - most have not been taught to take a quick breath!
  16. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    I can appreciate the delay factor in a big church, but I think in general the slowness is caused by people just going through the motions of singing, rather than really enjoying it (funny how no-one ever sings Jingle Bells slowly, isn't it?) The same goes for hymns in general though, not just carols.
  17. 2nd man down

    2nd man down Moderator Staff Member

    Is your local church Canterbury Cathedral?!?!? :-? How big is it?? :rolleyes:
  18. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    It's the Church of England effect - everything has to be slow to be religious, and ideally getting slower at the end of each verse! I think it also stems from people's lack of confidence. They don't want to be seen to be the one leading the way, so everybody is waiting for everyone else to sing before they join in (if you see what I mean!) which means there is an ever increasing delay.

    The point made by Catherine_S is a good one. The further you are towards the back of the hall means the sound made by the band takes longer to arrive than it would be if you are at the front. However, the people at the front can hear the people behind them singing and follow their lead, (which is late!).

    I used to sing with a church choir which had the opposite problem. Although the organ console was next to the choir stalls, the pipes were at the back of the church so not only was it virtually inaudible unless played quite loudly (which meant the congregation who chose to sit next to the pipes complained it was too loud! :rolleyes:) it also meant that the choir had to anticipate everything. We got quite good at it, but it did mean if we ever sang anywhere else it took a bit of adjusting!
  19. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Dave, maybe if they took 10% off their time like you do with your sales everything might be okay ;) . Seriously, I don't this situation can ever be changed (unless it's the BBC who have a schedule to watch and the congregation have to be rehearsed).
  20. catherine_S

    catherine_S Member

    No:) Old Malton Priory church - it is a severely cut-down (just west 2/3rds of aisle left!) church, originally similar in scale to Ripon cathedral! Nowadays seats about 200 - but it is very high. But medieval churches were designed acoustically to make voices ring which means even in small ones you do tend to get a time lag!