Pushing the tenor
Years ago Guy Penrod pushed Jonathon Pierce right out of a job. Guy had such a big range and it put jonathon in a strain.What I am saying is sometimes a lead singer with a good high range can really push a tenor. Maybe that wouldnt be the case with a Baritone to lead. Am I making any sense? Does anybody understand what im trying to say.
I think I do get what he’s saying: small ensembles singing harmony – like quartets and trios – need balance, not just in intensity or volume and timbre or blend, but also in range. Not range in the sense of “can the guy above or below me sing my part.” At least not that exactly. Rather, it’s a question of how wide of a range each person at each part has. And it’s especially important (and can be especially tricky) for tenors and leads (and to a lesser extent leads and baritones … it’s not much of an issue for baritones and basses).
If the lead can comfortably sing into the tenor range, usually he will, either consciously, by dint of habit or showmanship, or both. And that effectively recalibrates the tenor part up, whether the tenor can sing further up or not. Arrangers will start arranging the group’s songs around the lead’s extended upper range, so that the combined effect will be to push the tenor up and up in order to make his part stand out. If he’s got a fairly low ceiling to his comfort zone, then he’ll pretty quickly end up either out of his range and out of a voice, or outsung by the lead – and both outcomes can mean he’ll soon be out of a job. Cause who wants a tenor who can’t keep up.
I don’t know if this is what happened with Jonathan Pierce or not (speaking of him, he seems to have fallen off the grid after that 2003 solo project, or have I missed something?). Like all quartets, the Gaither Vocal Band has gone through phases when their sound was higher and lower. But arguably one thing that has set them apart – among many, many other equally or more important factors – is that they have sung reliably sophisticated arrangements reliably well in a reliably higher range than most groups, since you can get a bigger bang out of your ending with David Phelps on an E above
middle High C or whatever than you can singing a high B flat (I’m making those notes up btw … it’s been too long since I placed his tones to recall where exactly some of his higher moments were, on the scale … the point is: they were very high).
Wes Hampton has proven far more terrestrial than Phelps the Stratospheric Power Diva. And perhaps that accounts for the drift in style and slackened intensity of the Vocal Band’s more recent work. It’s not so much about