I often wish that I could have a really terrific coach with me at every rehearsal – pointing out to me the things I haven’t noticed, and give me tips on how to run tighter and progressively more productive rehearsals.
However, the truth is that most of us have had enough coaching to be able to lift ourselves to the next level, whether we’re directing or singing. We just lose focus. We forget that this is actually important to us.
As singers, we know that daily technical practising, going through our music at home and getting into better physical condition are three basic things that would create some next level magic.
As directors we know that more specific schedule planning that anticipates the work that our group will need, more musical and emotional analysis of the music, and a thoughtful daily review of our directing and rehearsal technique would make each rehearsal even more exciting for everyone.
And many of us do at least some of this.
But the question is the same as it is for all those other areas of our lives that matter.
Am I doing absolutely everything I can to create loving relationships?
Am I giving my body everything it needs for radiant health?
Am I as kind and generous as it’s possible to be?
When I was singing professionally there were performances that went gloriously well, and there were some that were barely adequate. But what every single performance had in common was that I can honestly say that I always brought everything I had to it – what I had in the moment. There were just some days when that wasn’t much when compared to my other performances. The truth though was generally that if I’d prepared more, or taken care of my health beforehand, it would have gone much better.
In my years of bringing up four kids there were days when my Mom skills were second to none. Then there were days when my parenting skills went on vacation – and my poor kids and I all ended the day feeling fed up, sad, annoyed or anxious. But I always felt that whatever had happened, I’d given it everything I had.
But was that always the truth?
I Can Do Better
This phrase is like a reset button for determination.
Even though we may have given whatever it is we’re doing 100% of our effort – there’s always something more that we could easily be doing to improve the outcome.
The phrase “I can do better” is a trigger for our subconscious mind to come up with the next small step. A step that’s small enough not to overwhelm us, but big enough to make a real difference in the outcome.
For chorus singers – a small step like a cleaner target vowel, or singing with mental energy right to the end of a phrase, or lifting the pitch on a slightly saggy note, or listening more.
As a solo performer having a tough vocal day, I could have increased my emotional interaction with my audience.
As a mom I could have just hugged each kid more on those bad days.
As a director I’m thinking of adding “I can do better” as a call and response every once in a while – especially when they already know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it, but have just lost some focus.
1. Use technology. Record yourself – then listen to the recording and assess what you could be doing better. Like our speaking voices, our singing never sounds the way we think it does – so we don’t know what we’re working with until we hear ourselves recorded. Please try not to be discouraged – almost nobody likes what they hear initially when they first record themselves. Work regularly with your Korg Chromatic Tuner https://betterchoirs.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/magic-choral-trick-21-the-korg-chromatic-tuner/ and www.metronomeonline.com Care about improving your ability to sing in tune, and in time.
2. Do some vocal technique, even 5 – 10 minutes every day. Legato exercises on one clean target vowel at a time https://betterchoirs.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/magic-choral-trick-5-target-vowels/ Something simple, like half scales, up and down:
C D E F G F E D C, then D flat E flat F G flat A flat G flat F E flat D flat, then D E F# G A G F# E D…
Also – recognize that your body is your instrument, and treat it well.
3. When you’re given learning tools – learning sound files, or choreography notes or video – use them.
4. When you have a concern or complaint, mention it only to someone who can do something about it. Dissent about even relatively minor things can infect a chorus quickly, even fatally, if complaints are passed around from one willing ear to the next – with no intent to follow up and fix the problem. It takes courage to actually take steps to shift this mindset – and to take an issue directly to the person assigned to handling that facet of chorus life. Practise your bravery (Thanks to my sister Maeve for this phrase, which she invented to encourage her sons)
5. Give more of yourself than is expected, and your chorus experience will be richer than you expected.