Sectional rehearsals used to be the way each part learned the right notes. It was always a pleasant, rather social break during the regular rehearsal. You bashed a few notes, chatted, laughed a bit, then all trooped back into the main rehearsal hall to rejoin the other parts.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I love a good laugh and a chat with friends – but sectional rehearsals can be a much more powerful tool for excellence now than was possible in those mistily romantic olden days.
First class learning sound files have eliminated the need for any and all note bashing. With the advent of inexpensive, but top quality recording devices and email, every person in the chorus can know every note before the song is rehearsed for the first time.
Perhaps some directors love note bashing – and all I can say is Bless them – but it’s been the bane of my entire directing life. I am so grateful that technology now handles this aspect for me, and we can get on with the business of making music.
When right notes are a given, we can begin to eliminate ‘noise’ by working tuning, balance, blend, dynamic expression, vocal placement, synchronization, target vowels, diphthongs….
Sectionals are now about unit sound. Although the chorus needs to be blended across all parts, a four part chorus needs to sound like just four voices – not 45. The small personal idiosyncrasies can be heard and cleaned up much more easily in a sectional than when all parts are singing. As exciting as it is to have the rich sound of the full chorus all around, there is also something very pure and thrilling about a stunning unison sound.
When all four parts bring these stunning unison sounds back to the main rehearsal, the result is a magical, clean, ringing experience.