Monthly Archives: August 2012

Magic Choral Trick #178 The Music Team

My name is Janet, and I am an Autocrat.

However, I’m very proud to say that I’ve now been successfully in recovery since I took over my women’s Barbershop chorus almost 20 years ago. A huge part of the success of this chorus is that we not only have a Board – which is elected by the membership – but also a Music Team. (And a Choreography Team, and a Costume Team and a Make Up Team, and a PR team, and a Fundraising Team and a Road Manager, and a Historian and a Show Team and a Charity Team and a….more about these and the other teams another time)

The Music Team includes leaders from each of the sections, the Choreographer, a Chairperson, and me. And while my input has a great deal of weight, ultimately it is this entire group of people that decides on new repertoire, and discusses any new musical directions that the chorus would like to explore.

One of the Music Team’s most valuable functions is to keep me aware of how the rest of the chorus is feeling about particular songs. They hear the rumblings before I ever do – which means that anything which might be troubling the members a little can be dealt with before it ever becomes a problem.

The fact that our decisions are made by the entire group means that even when things go horribly wrong, it’s not my burden to bear alone. I don’t have to play the role of inflexible Autocrat.

And the Music Team keeps me planning ahead. The chairperson for my Women’s chorus emails me every Thursday to remind me to send out the schedule for the following Tuesday. Life happens, and without this weekly prodding I’ve been know to forget all about it till the night before.

The team also:

Schedules and plans special events – like the programming for shows
Decides on what Coaches to invite to work with us
Contacts, then arranges for travel and accommodation for Coaches
Checks out, and makes suggestions about my weekly rehearsal schedules before I email them to the chorus
Is always on the lookout for new repertoire that would suit us

And very important to me is the fact that they are a sounding board for any new ideas I may have. They are also thoughtful, sympathetic listeners when there are chorus related issues with which I might be struggling. They keep me aware and awake.

Magic Choral Trick #177 The Chordasm

I realize that this sounds a little riske – but please hear me out.

I went to a lecture last week given by a friend of mine, pediatric neurologist Dr Wendy Stewart, who had just been to a conference in California on Music and the Brain.

She spoke about many fascinating studies that were discussed – but this one will come as no surprise to Barbershoppers.

There was a great deal of discussion about the ‘frisson’ – or the full body goosebumps that happen as we are affected by some particularly moving, or exceptional aspect of the music we’re listening to.

Here’s the cool thing. Apparently the part of the brain that’s activated during such moments is the same part of the brain that gets activated during sex. So when you are having a physical reaction to a ringing chord, that’s the part of your brain that’s rejoicing.

In Barbershop, we’ve known this for years. In fact, when I started directing my women’s chorus nearly 20 years ago, when someone was reporting having this sort of frisson, they would call it a Chordasm. So glad science is finally catching up.

Thought you’d like to know.

Magic Choral Trick #176 Clench the Teeth and Perk Up the Tempo

Well – not exactly Clenching. More like keeping the teeth together – touching lightly.

This technique seems to be working to help pick up the tempo of a song my women’s chorus already knows really well. And as we know – when a song gets locked into body memory, it takes some effort to change things.

We’re trying to shift from thinking of the song in 4 at metronome marking 160, to singing it in 2 at 96. Potential here for it to be a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

However, we found last night that if we really limited the amount of lip and mouth movement (by keeping the teeth closed), singing it under the breath AND using the metronome, there’s real hope.

Everyone understands the importance of limited tongue, jaw and lip movement in synchronizing an uptempo piece, but giving the body just the one instruction – in this case, keeping the teeth lightly closed – seems to work better than constantly having to make judgement calls about exactly how much mouth movement is ok.

I promised the chorus that as soon as the synchronization at this new tempo is clean, I’d let them open their mouths again (But not too much).

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