Magic Choral Trick #145 When Less (Directing) is Much More
It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of singing group in front of which we wave our arms – we over direct them all.
Most children watch only our faces anyway, and tend to sing only what’s been religiously drilled and drilled. They’re usually not much for following spontaneous hand movements.
Church choirs need to keep producing anthem after anthem, week in and week out – so don’t have the luxury of a ton of rehearsal on the one piece. All they want from us is beginnings and endings of phrases. Apart from that, they’d prefer that we just left them alone!
My Med School choir has a fabulous accompanist – and since we do mostly very rhythmic songs, and they always use music, they really don’t need me to keep the beat. In fact, by the time we perform, they probably don’t need me at all. But apparently my presence is reassuring.
And Barbershop choruses – well, they need to be so well rehearsed before a competition, that you’d think I’d know by now to just back off, and show them only the most essential details.
I seem fated to have to learn the too much directing lesson over and over and over with my Barbershop choruses. Sisyphus, that’s me – except I could choose not to keep pushing that rock up the hill.
There are several up sides to minimal directing:
The chorus takes more responsibility for being synchronized – and listens more intently. When they really listen, blend, balance and tuning will also be better.
The chorus does not come to depend on me for remembering the emotional and dynamic plan.
In the final rehearsals I can leave them alone to sing, and go to the back of the hall and listen.
During the performance, a director who’s showing mostly just phrase lifts and cut offs is not a visual distraction. In fact, by moving only as much as the individual singers are moving I become invisible, and the audience is able to focus on the chorus and their performance.