Can’t recall which book in the quartet hosted this scene, but at one point in the Protector of the Small series – the Keladry of Mindelan books by fantasy author Tamora Pierce – Keladry had a lovely conversation with someone about different classifications of warriors. Her conversation partner – not 100 per cent certain who it was, but I think it was her Knight Master Raoul – said that warriors could be broken up into four categories: foot soldiers, knights, commanders, and heroes.
Not long ago, I got to thinking that community choir singers could also be broken up and classified in these fantasy warrior terms. Not by part – soprano, alto, tenor, bass – but by the types of singers within those parts.
Foot Soldiers: Choristers that make up the choir’s numbers and build up sound. Despite their love of music, they often have little or no musical background, and must rely heavily on those around them. Their voices, in general, are not particularly powerful, with reasons ranging from lack of confidence, to lack of training, to lack of general oomph. Though the loss of one or two may sadly go unnoticed, the choir would not be able to march/perform without a large contingent of Foot Soldier Choristers.
Knights: Choristers that, by-and-large, know what they’re doing. They often have some musical background (though some entirely raw singers can rise in the ranks and become knights). These choristers help hold a piece of music together, and provide support and leadership for the foot soldier singers. They are generally more confident than foot soldiers, but may or may not possess powerful voices. Shyness or lack of confidence may keep a good knight from becoming a commander.
Commanders : Choristers that usually know almost exactly what they’re doing (always keeping the usually and almost exactly in mind). They often partake in study of the choir music outside of rehearsal, and almost always have an extensive musical background, though not necessarily in singing. This gives them confidence to sing strongly, even if it’s one of those times they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Because a good commander knows the only way to fix a problem is to know it’s there. And how will anyone know it’s there if they can’t hear it? Commanders have powerful voices that the foot soldiers and knights can rally behind and follow. Sometimes it is even necessary they carry their part through a few more unusual or difficult bars of the music.
Heroes: Soloists. Enough said.
After completing this enlightening classification process, it became clear to me that my job was not yet done. More, that it would remain not done until the four parts of the choir – carrying on in the spirit of the Protector of the Small series (and pretty much any fantasy book that has a sword in it) – were armed appropriately for medieval-style combat.
Sopranos: I’m giving them longbows so they can aim high and accurately. Maybe the mezzo sopranos should give crossbows a go – a bit bulkier, a bit more power. Plus they can wallop anyone who gets too close. They should all probably tuck a dagger in their preferred location of concealment as well, just in case.
Altos: Altos are solid. They’re strong. And they generally mean business. Giving them axes would probably not be the best idea. Unless, of course, we’re sending them into combat. Which we are. AXES FOR ALL THE ALTOS! And when they split into alto ones and twos – ones take the higher part, twos the lower – I think I’ll give the alto twos … BIGGER AXES!
Tenors: Tenors shall be special, in that they shall be the only voice part to receive entirely different weapons when they split into higher and lower parts. The tenor ones shall receive spears which they can throw – not as high or as accurately as the sopranos shoot their arrows 🙂 – in soaring arcs, or else jab away to their hearts’ content. The tenor twos shall receive the coveted sword and (if desired) shield. Good tenor twos require both strength and some measure of skill and agility. I feel a sword would give them the best opportunity to shine.
Basses: Maces. Enough said.
The choir is now armed, and ready for battle! Prepare to march!
Good, very good. Now, let’s attack in the RIGHT KEY! And at MY TEMPO!
Does this make the conductor a general? Colonel? Hadn’t thought about that …
Maybe best not to. That’s just getting silly.