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Magic Choral Trick #223 Directors and Mockery

Directors – if you’re frustrated with the apparent lack of attention, concentration, commitment or technical ability of your singers – I get it. We’ve all been there at some time.

We all want to have productive and exhilarating rehearsals and can get truly frustrated when things don’t seem to be going that way. Assisting directors to get out of these pickles is one of the reasons that I write this blog.

When this frustration kicks in and is allowed free rein many nasty things can happen.

Of these, mockery is perhaps the most demeaning to singers. We’ve all seen it.

It’s one thing to demonstrate the right, then the wrong way of doing something, but quite another to do it in a mocking ‘nyah nyah’ tone of voice. When a director is losing it, demonstrating the wrong way to sing something is usually hugely exaggerated, again with a school yard ‘nyah nyah’ facial expression.

Sometimes the distinction between right and wrong has to have a little exaggeration in order for everyone to understand – but we need to lose the attitude.

Over my 50 year association with choirs, the most common things I’ve seen mocked by directors are:

– Tone Quality (fixable with coaching on proper vocal production)

– Singers who can’t seem to get the right notes (fixable with top quality learning sound files)

– Scooping (fixable when singers record themselves on the risers and become aware of the problem)

– Vibrato that has devolved to a wobble (fixable with vocal technique practice. The mocking demonstration of this one is particularly ugly, because it is generally aimed at only one singer)

– The singers’ attitude (especially with teenaged choirs – which granted, can on occasion make you want to gnaw off your own arm! However, this too is fixable with well planned, fast paced rehearsals, and with songs that the singers actually want to sing.)

The difference for Directors is mostly in the facial expression, the tone of voice and the degree to which they can keep emotion – the knee jerk, lashing out kind – under control.

When I was a young director I was often annoyed, frustrated and a bit huffy. I had yet to learn just how much I didn’t know. I certainly didn’t know 223 Magic Choral Tricks. Many, many lessons in humility later, I know enough that I almost never experience feelings of annoyance and frustration during rehearsals.

Much more fun for me, and for the singers that I’m privileged to call my friends.

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