Developing the Vision with Route Sixteen

‹-- PreviousNext --›

route16feb21I spent part of Thursday evening on zoom with my friends from Route Sixteen in Dordrecht. If covid had not come along, they would have recently have premiered an arrangement they commissioned from me as part of an ambitious concept set to defend their Holland Harmony championship, but instead they have spent the last year as we all have working round the limitations of our new circumstances to continue their musical journey as best they can.

They are still focused on bringing this concept package to fruition, either for the Dutch or the European barbershop conventions, whichever comes first, though they have found the vision adapting in some ways in response to the covid experience. We spent some time discussing the practicalities of how to rehearse and perform their ideas for staging as they emerge from lockdown.

The difficulty here is not so much the performance. Once we are at a point where it is safe for large numbers of people to gather for a convention and sit together in an auditorium for extended periods of time, we will be well beyond worrying about the possible dangers of singing together on a stage for 10 minutes or so. The greater challenge will be managing the transition back to that point.

There will almost certainly be a time when it is deemed safe to meet to sing again, but only with mitigations such as significant social distancing. At this point, they will be able to work on vocal performance, but with the need for all singers to remain in their defined spot, work on any staging that involves either moving around the performance space or close contact between singers will have to be deferred. So their previous aspiration to get these dimensions of performance into rehearsal at an early stage may well be thwarted by safety needs.

To an extent, they are just philosophical about this: it will after all be the same for everyone. But they are also thinking round how they may be able to extract elements from the concept to rehearse separately in small groups. And we also spent some time discussing things they can do, both now while rehearsing remotely, and in a stationary, spaced-out stack.

Characterisation was central to this discussion: it is the sort of set where each singer will have an individual role, and developing these characters is groundwork they can start immediately. What is that person’s back-story? What is their attitude to the main theme of the set? How will the events taking place in the course of the set change them?

Then, as they practise singing the song: how does inhabiting this character affect their posture, their body language, the way they use their voice? We didn’t delve into this together, but there are some interesting compromises to be made in a barbershop chorus context, where not every artistically interesting characterisation is consistent with the kind of vocal production for optimum chorus sound. In Musical Theatre, the chorus ideal is to relish the coexistence of all the different vocal characters in their varying relationship to plot, but notwithstanding barbershop’s increasing interest in theatrical method for story-telling, the aesthetic of lock and ring still demands a unified vocal sound.

I was very struck during the session by how artistically engaged Route Sixteen remains. For many choirs, the time of remote rehearsing has been basically marking time, keeping things ticking over until they can get back to the normality of proper ensemble singing. Route Sixteen’s focus on their artistic plans was quite different from this – it clearly comes from their director Marlous, but it is also clearly shared by the membership.

This artistic engagement is both intensely future-focused and meaningful for the present. There is a clear goal – they may not know exactly when they’ll be able to perform this set, but they know what impact they want to create. But their theme is also one that generates personal responses and ethical discussions within the group, and thus provides a sense of purpose and validity for the explorations they do together now. Thus there is both a sense of direction, of knowing where they are headed, and a sense that the time spent online together isn’t just waiting for that future to arrive but enriches them in its own right.

...found this helpful?

I provide this content free of charge, because I like to be helpful. If you have found it useful, you may wish to make a donation to the causes I support to say thank you.

Archive by date

Syndicate content