Friday, November 10, 2006

God Save the Queen

If you're asked to play "God Save the Queen," and you can't find the music right away, fear not. Chances are you do have it, under another name. Try looking for "America" or "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Your next problem might be to shift it into a singable key. Many books offer it in the key of G, which confronts the singers with a series of D's and that last phrase lunging to an E. No trouble for a trained singer, but as public singing has dwindled in recent decades, so has the comfortable vocal range of most assembled groups. CyberHymnal has a score in F, quite accessible to most singers.

Since the anthem is used by tradition rather than any legal proclamation, I see no problem of protocol with shifting the key. In fact, while the Royal webpage for this anthem has a recording in the key of G, at the Canadian Heritage page you will hear it in the key of B flat.

However, for people who enjoy (or suffer from) absolute pitch, or for those who have this anthem firmly in their muscle memory, even a one-tone drop might be a problem. What do you think? F or G?

13 comments:

Madcap said...

Mercy! How about D? Just chord it.

Laura said...

D?? That would be great for me, but I sing low. I think I'll go with F. As for chording, it's such a straightforward little tune, I think I could actually transpose it on the fly to just about any key. Not many I can say that for, though!

Deb said...

D would be best for me but F would be much more singable than G.

I didn't think I had much of a voice until I quit going to church and realized the hymns were all played in the worst keys for my voice.

Laura said...

I used F, and they seemed to sing fine, but now that I think about it, this song has a very small range, so it probably could be moved down a long way before it gets too low for anyone. Baritones, what do you say? D?

Madcap said...

Yeah, when I fingered it out on the piano in D, the lowest note was a C#.

Laura said...

But isn't it good to let them soar a little - or if not soar, at least catch some air? In D, they could go through the whole thing at a comfortable bellow.

Madcap said...

Well, if it was soaring, I guess that would be okay, but I find most people have to scramble for a C above middle C.

Laura said...

Why is that? Are we forgetting how to sing (or how to believe in our own singing), or are we physically changing - better nutrition, bigger people, bigger voice boxes, lower voices?

Madcap said...

My guess would be that it's mostly a shift in taste. Most people don't care for the sound of a trained voice, and the lower register is easier on the ear. And the throat.

annadams95340 said...

When I was singing with the church choir, I sang with the basses. Whatever voice I once possessed (as an alto) is gone.

If you played it in G or even F, I'd have to drop the full octave.

I can transpose almost anything simple. We're talking 2 or 3 chords. I used to do it all the time when I played for the church. I agree with Deb about the hymnals.

Laura said...

Thanks Ann and everyone for your comments. I'm getting the feeling that I need to learn more about comfortable singing ranges. No thoughts about the problem of absolute pitch? I never gave it much thought until a couple of years ago, when I was surprised to learn that one current and one former member of our tiny choir both found it difficult to sing from music if it was played in a different key than written.

Kevin said...

I can't remember the last time I heard God Save The Queen sung in public. As a lad growing up in Arcola every single public function opened with Oh Canada and closed with God Save The Queen. My how times have changed. For the worse I'm afraid.

Laura said...

Yes, I guess it isn't sung as much as it used to be, even in this area. The Scout event last week had O Canada at the start, but not God Save the Queen. Remembrance services still use it.