Monthly Archives: July 2013

Magic Choral Trick #263 Mental Energy

Sat in on A Cappella Showcase’s coaching session with Joe Cerutti (another of the Barbershop Harmony Society’s titans) last week.

He asked the singers to keep monitoring their mental energy and performing levels as they rehearsed – at the beginnings and endings of whatever section they were working.

He’d start them off – then stop them and ask them to evaluate their intensity/energy level, on a scale of 1 to 10. Usually there were some singers that realized that they were singing with their minds only half involved, at about a level 5 or 6. Once everyone was able to report that they’d been singing and performing at a 9 or 10, the difference was dramatic.

I should mention here that energy and intensity are not the same as volume. He kept asking them to notice the energy level especially in the quiet phrases.

There is a culture in most choirs and choruses of going through the motions until it really counts – during the performance, or if you’re lucky, during the dress rehearsal.

Doing constant Energy checks transforms rehearsals into more alive, exciting events – worth doing for their own sakes, and not just because of some future public performance.

Also, it means that performing at the highest level becomes habit, and not something that has to be added at the last moment.

Magic Choral Trick #262 Always ‘On’

Last week at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s international convention, I had the amazing opportunity to sit in on 5 hours of Ambassadors of Harmony rehearsals!

120 men on the risers, all ages, and all intensely focused from the start of the half hour warm up to the very end of the 2 hour rehearsal.

One terrific trick that they use consistently is that when fewer than all 4 of the parts are singing, everyone is still performing – miming the singing of the song. Jim Henry reminded them (probably for the benefit of those of us watching) that the mind can’t tell the difference between a real and an imagined experience – so the mind thinks that you’ve been singing. This gives the parts that are not presently working with the director an opportunity to rehearse all the correct technical thoughts and the emotions for the song without being distracted by what they’re hearing from themselves and the singers around them.

And from an energy point of view this makes sense. Doing a lot of stopping and starting in a rehearsal is exhausting. If the mind and body are Always ‘On’ – there’s no rebooting.

I remember that when I used to clean houses for a living the second two hours of a four hour cleaning gig were always much easier if I didn’t stop for a break. Just the thought of revving the body up to the necessary fervour level for cleaning used to wipe me out.

(Yes – my choruses do get a break in the middle of their 2.5 hour rehearsals – but I make sure to schedule most of the really intense work for the first half.)

And just in case you’ve never seen or heard Ambassadors of Harmony – here are their two contest songs from last year, when they won the championship…

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