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Magic Choral Trick #167 Sergeant at Arms

Yet another reason to love Barbershop organizations.

Barbershop choruses have a Sergeant at Arms, which means the director never has to be the bad guy – and break up all those happy little side conversations.

I guess the first thing that has to happen when instituting this position in a choir, is that everyone has to agree that they’re there to sing, and that they’re willing to give one of the choir members the authority to remind them of this.

I’ve been asked by many directors what I do about all the chatter.

First of all, I guess I’m grateful that the choir members like each other enough to want to have conversations.

I schedule my rehearsals really tightly with as few non singing milliseconds as possible. Walking from the risers to the chairs is always an issue – but by then I’ve usually worked them so hard that I don’t mind them having a little unofficial break.

Perhaps surprisingly, the position of the music folders while the choir is singing makes a big difference to the chattering problem. If the choir members hold the folders up flat – so that they’re looking at me over this flat surface, they can see what I’m trying to communicate with my flailing arms. If all the faces are aimed at the floor, I’m going to have to stop the singing, and tell them in words what it is that I want changed. And that’s when we hear from those who feel compelled to let us all in on their mental processes.

Having an imminent performance is a good reason for me to get excited about creating great sound and a thrilling presentation. When I’m excited about the sound and the emotion, the choir is excited – and much more inclined to listen to me if we have to pause for a moment.

As I think I’ve said before, having a repertoire of Magic Tricks, which I can call out and incorporate into the rehearsal, means less chat from me, and more interest for them. I hope it gives them something more fascinating to focus on than their neighbour’s recent spate of digestive issues.

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