(Frequently Asked Questions)

What’s “a cappella”?

Unaccompanied. Cappella is Italian for “chapel”, and the term originally meant “singing in the chapel style” (without instrumental accompaniment). Now though, it has come to mean any singing without instruments.

Although there is a huge repertoire of classical unaccompanied music (for example madrigals), the term “a cappella” today often implies more modern pop/jazz.

Is it hard to sing a cappella?

No… but it’s hard to do it well. Because there is no support from instruments, you may find it harder to stay in key during the song. Your voice needs to work well – because there are less places to hide.

What challenges are there?

If you sing classical, you’ll find it’s not enough to sing the right notes at the right time at the right volume. A lot of the stylistic stuff can’t be written on the page. The ‘right notes’ may not be written on the page. Some of the rhythms are more tricky than you’re probably used to. And you have to listen more carefully to everyone else as you sing.

If you sing pop or folk or jazz, you’ll find you need more discipline. You have to sing the right notes at the right time at the right volume, like everyone else.

If you sing barbershop, you’ll find that each part has a lot more in common than you’re used to. Everyone gets the tune at some point. Everyone has to harmonise. The harmonic texture is a lot more interesting. And the music is more natural.

Can I join? Am I good enough?

At the moment we have the luxury of a full complement of singers, but we’re always interested in hearing from potential new members for the future. You’ll need to be able to sing in tune and to blend with us, and be happy to learn as fast as everyone else – but you don’t need to be a superstar. Reading music is always a help to any singer, but if you don’t read, we have support materials to help you learn the songs – this is how most of our people learn. If you fancy yourself as a superstar, well, we do have some very good singers alongside some with less experience.

Men? Women?

Yes. Yes. Most of the music is in 5 parts – soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor, bass.

5 parts – how does that work?

The more usual ‘SATB’ choir has soprano, alto, tenor and bass parts. Our popular repertoire requires more; the usual solution for an SATB choir is to split each part (two soprano parts, two alto parts, etc) – but that means 8 parts have to be manned every time we sing. One of our hallmarks is that everyone gets the tune at some point and everyone gets to sing harmonies – so every part is important. Having a mezzo part is an ideal solution, and the format is great to arrange for.

A cappella? A capela? A capella? ….

A cappella. Two p’s and 2 l’s. Double it, if you can. Twice the fun.

Pedantic? Yes, me too. ‘Cappella’ is Italian; ‘capella’ is Latin, but music uses Italian, not Latin.