Summer time for Canadian choirs is down time. We travel, we go to the cottage and we host lots of family and friends. We do all the outdoor things that we can’t do for about 9 months of the year – and we give hardly a thought to the finer points of chorus singing.
But now as August looms, I start to think about those first few rehearsals and the kind of approach we’ll need to take to get back to the level we were at when we broke for the summer.
Every year I try to figure out more efficient ways to bypass the ‘phoning it in’ mindset of the first couple of rehearsals.
It’s not just that voices have been on vacation – what really gets in the way of great singing is that people’s minds have been dialled down, zoned out and not exercised. I know this, because when I get a break from my job of keeping people’s brains awake, my own gets pretty lazy.
So what’s going to speed the process up? What’s going to make those first rehearsals fun and productive?
Unison singing, unit sound
Evaluating mental energy levels.
Unison singing reawakens the awareness of tuning, vowel and diphthong matching, balance and blend. And it feels good.
It also gets around the seasonal start up problem of absenteeism. There’s always at least one harmony part that’s under represented. The usual big, lush sound doesn’t work quite the way you all remember it, and this can be a bit discouraging.
Singing in unison, and really working the unit sound is never, ever a waste of time.
Evaluating your own mental energy level (or lack of mental energy) is interesting when you’re giving it a number.
No mental energy is zero, and maximum is ten.
If we ask everyone to give a number to the energy level with which they’ve just sung (before they started thinking about this) they usually give it about a 4 or 5. From there, we can just encourage ourselves to keep bumping it up a notch.
The sound is so noticeably different that we all start to have more fun, and once again we begin to warm up to the concept of excellence.