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.