shop talk before work

I was thinking last night that usually going into Holy Week or for that matter any performance I realize that the work is all done. All that is left is to execute. My main work is preparation and rehearsal. Actually performing is more like a cumulative moment.

This is still partially true for the choirs at church but it has been changing. There is a model many amateur singers have, one that emphasizes individual skills in pulling off a performance. I suppose unfortunately this is also a professional musician model. The professional who disdains rehearsal and comes into a performance utterly reliant on his or her own skills.


Whereas the professional may pull this off, church choirs are notoriously bad at this sort of thing and rely on large numbers to cover up the sins of poor preparation.

At my present gig, I have for the first time relinquished weekly rehearsals for choirs. The reason for this change is poor attendance at rehearsal. Rehearsals are now limited to before and after a service. Consequently preparation time is reduced in quantity and quality.

This Holy week I have four anthems planned that combine youth choir with the regular chamber choir. Usually I would have had at least a run through of these anthems in this manner by now. Unfortunately, I actually have no idea how these anthems will shake out. I have chosen very very simple anthems for combined use and more challenging anthems for the chamber choir alone.

I am finding myself dedicating more rehearsal time to less anthems in order to prepare the singers. Of course when people miss or are late this diminishes their understanding even further.

And I don’t seem to be able to impress people that choral singing is a group sport. Like a basketball team, individuals can help but ultimately it is the group effort that can elegantly achieve beauty.

Switching rehearsals to the weekends has caused me to put my own notions as a choral conductor of excellent choral blend lower on the priorities. My attention is taken up with making sure people can sing their notes. Working on good voice production and consistent vowel sound has to take a back seat to pounding out notes.  An acceptable over-all-sound is not always achievable but much more rare under these circumstances.

Ah well.

I continue to read through the eleven volumes of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonatas (actually I think he called them “Essercisi”).

I am on the third volume. I bought them from my organ teacher, Craig Cramer. He has written notes all over them which is fun. I like having used music with the imprint of the previous owner on it. Having it be Craig is a bonus. He has written extensive critical notes quoting the best scholars and other editions. Very helpful.

The edition itself is not that helpful because it has tons of added instructions that Scarlatti himself did not put there. This was a usual 19th century editing process with a few exceptions. Interestingly (at least to me) Brahms was an exception as an editor. His edition of Couperin is very true to Couperin’s original score and is a delight even now to use.

On a goofy personal note, I was happy to see that the American Guild of Organist magazine published the information from my organ recital from December of last year.

This trade magazine has a list of recitals from organists around the country which includes the titles and order of pieces they performed. I did some unusual programming so I’m glad that if my colleagues choose they can see what I am doing.

Since I feel somewhat out of touch with the local yokel professionals every little thing like this helps.

Yum. I made hummus last night after I loaded the dishwasher. I fried up some ground garlic in olive oil and used that in it. Omitted the tahini. I think it’s a pretty low fat version of hummus and it is tasting good in my breakfast this morning.

Here’s hoping the music goes well today.

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0 thoughts on “shop talk before work

  1. I have listened to some (6 or 7 pieces) of the music on your site. I am impressed with your work. More comments later, when I can.
    You know the church would be wise to record the music and services and offer them online for their parishioners who are ill and unable to attend. This has an added feature of people hearing their efforts and perhaps motivating them to want to rehearse more. This is exactly what happened in our church. They actually made (at the time cassette tapes) and sent them to individuals who requested them. However, choir rehearsal attendance skyrocketed. As a side note, it is not difficult to record in large room areas, but it is not a perfect controlled environment. It does need someone who can make adjustments to volume levels and so forth, but that is all. I would record digitally right to a computer format and mix later, but even that would be fairly simple. There is not much remix after auditorium recordings. Of course the added benefit is that they are recordings of your performances.

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