Magic Choral Trick #130 Old Repertoire, Old Singing Habits
Every choir enjoys singing pieces that they’ve known for a long time. But if the choir has improved significantly in the last few years, these old songs may not actually be a joy to listen to.
The place where these songs are stored in the memory may predate the learning of good vocal technique or good choral singing habits.
Unfortunately this seems to be a lesson that I’m foolishly doomed to learn over and over. I keep hoping that my memory of how the chorus sang a song isn’t rosier than it should be. But these hopes are usually dashed.
Last night my two Barbershop choruses sang in the local music festival, and though they sang very well, the adjudicator mentioned that there were a few vowels in the combined chorus number that needed to be taller and cleaner. Now – nobody works harder on vowels than my choruses, so this made me realize that I’d once again fallen into the comfy old song trap. Aaaaarrrrgggghhh.
There’s a flip side to this one.
If you worked and worked like demons on making a song note perfect, tuning perfect, vowel and presentation perfect when you were learning it, that song is likely to continue to be a joy to sing for many years. My women’s chorus has one of these songs that fifteen years later we can still haul out – though at the time, working the song note by note and chord by chord (very slow motion) made me quite unpopular.
I guess the moral of this story is that unless the original learning of the song was flawless, ditch the piece immediately – so that its bad singing habits don’t begin to infect the current, well learned and rehearsed repertoire.