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Production vs Production Capacity: Practical Ramifications.

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I talked back in July in broad terms about how Stephen Covey’s distinction between production and production capacity can usefully guide the choral director’s thinking as they plan rehearsals. But I thought it might be helpful to ponder a little further on this and articulate, in practical terms, what the results of using this distinction might look like.

My basic premise is that every rehearsal should include some of each. Even when rehearsal time is very tight, you need to keep your eye on the big picture, if only to maintain some sense of control over your destiny at a time when you could feel under pressure. And even when your primary focus is on skill development rather than preparing for performance, you need to give the singers some sense of concrete achievement from the occasion.

There are three main ways directors typically introduce production capacity development into rehearsals:

  1. The Warm-Up. I talked back in January about the way that the warm-up can be so much more than simple physical preparation to sing. No need to repeat it all here. But it’s a good place to make sure you look after the long-term future even if the rest of the rehearsal is driven by short-term aims.
  2. Devising exercises from current repertoire. We often like to think the repertoire we’re working on will provide skills and experience that singers can take into future pieces. And this potential should exist. But the transfer won’t necessarily happen if our rehearsal processes are focused on concrete operations: sing these notes, these words, be louder here, quieter there. If however we invent exercises and teaching strategies from the music that abstract the key skills that it needs we not only help our singers learn the current repertoire, but also make those skills more portable to other pieces.
  3. Dedicated slots to activities/exercises other than rehearsing current repertoire. This is something that, in general, I think most choirs can afford to do more often. It not only a sure-fire way to focus on the developmental agenda without getting distracted into routine rehearsal, but it also ensures that the choir becomes aware of the bigger-picture needs too. It’s also a great palate-refresher. Ten minutes playing rhythm games or learning how to improvise gives brains a rest from learning new notes, while ten minutes honing sight-singing skills gives a bit of intellectual back-bone in the midst of a rehearsal focus on emotional expression.
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