One of the workshops I took at the New England Folk Festival this past weekend was called “Easy Four Part Gospel.” The workshop was led by Sol Weber, who is best known for his monumental collection of rounds. Maybe forty people showed up for the workshop, Sol Weber divided us into four sections — soprano, alto, tenor, bass — and he handed out sheet music. For the first number, he taught us the four different parts, but after that we just sight-read the music.
Now, I am not a great singer, and while I can read music I don’t do sight-singing. But when I discovered that when I was sitting with maybe ten other people, at least three of whom do know how to sight-sing, I could sight-sing the bass part of an easy gospel song without too much trouble. It was a classic example of how the shared knowledge of a group can help a deficient individual (me, in this case) perform above his/her level of ordinary competence.
Plus it was a heck of a lot of fun. So now I’m wondering if I can teach others at church how to sing four-part gospel songs, just so I can have the fun of singing that music once again….