(Rehearsal) Planning for the Unknown

During the abcd Initial Conducting Course I led earlier this year, I had several conversations with conductors about how to manage rehearsal planning in the particular circumstance that you don’t yet know the much about the choir you’re planning for. How do you work out what will be appropriate repertoire when you don’t yet know the skills and experience of the singers you will be working with?

This is a circumstance that can affect anyone who is lined up with a conducting job they’ve not yet started, but it is felt most strongly in early career musicians who don’t yet have a fund of previous similar experiences to draw on.

So, the first thing is to do what profiling you can. For those moving to new teaching jobs, the age of the children you will be working with gives you quite a lot of information about what to expect, and you can also glean a good deal from what kind of repertoire your predecessor was using with them. If they have any recordings of recent performances, this will also tell you a lot.

Brief hiatus...

Just to let you know not to expect new blog posts for a couple of weeks. My attention is going to be on other things for a goodly chunk of August, and I am taking the opportunity for a proper digital detox while I'm at it.

Normal service will resume later in the month. I'm reasonably confident that you won't run out of stuff to browse in my archives in the meantime...

Music-Team Training at Junction 14

jcn14musteamI spent Saturday with the Music Team from Junction 14 chorus, delivering a bespoke workshop that touched on all three of the themes I offer for this kind of training, but with its main emphasis on Effective Rehearsal Skills. The team has welcomed two new section leaders into their posts within the last few months, so it was a good moment both to offer support to the less experienced members and to help the whole team feel more integrated as a unit.

One of the areas the team had identified in advance as something they’d like help with was knowing what to listen for in section rehearsals, and their director Hannah had suggested a checklist of target issues might be useful. It took very little time for the combined brains of the team to compile a healthy collection of things they could usefully attend to, and we then went through each systematically identifying what would be the compliment you’d give if you heard it being done well and what would be the to-do you’d ask for if it needed improving.

On Heroes and Literature Review

When Doug Harrington was teaching a tag to the assembled delegates at LABBS Harmony College back in April, he passed on some advice* that he’d been given by Jim Cline, a long-time barbershopper who had shared a good deal of wisdom and craft with the young Harrington brothers to help them on their way. It got me thinking about how and why we cite our heroes, and the ways that this functions within musical traditions in much the same way that citations and references function within academic writing.

When we choose communicate an idea we have learned from someone else, and to include in that communication where we learned it, we are doing several things at once.

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