This is a lesson that I have been doomed to learn over and over.
While the flashiness of a difficult song or arrangement may be a director’s idea of fun, we always seem to have to learn and relearn that unless it is within the reasonable grasp of every chorus member, it will never be the stunning show stopper that everyone was hoping for.
For several years after I started directing my men’s chorus I chose competition repertoire that was too difficult, and we stayed fairly low in the rankings.
Then last year, I decided to go back to basic Barbershop and they won the division contest for the first time in 48 years.
Sticking with the KISS principle served us well again this year, and we came away with a 2nd place – just one point behind the winning chorus.
As an audience member, I would much rather listen to a group singing a simple song exquisitely, than squirm through an only adequate performance of something more difficult.
I’ve been diligent about applying this to my church choir’s repertoire choices too. Although they are relatively new to A Cappella singing, their performance in an all A Cappella concert in June fit right in with the other choruses who always sing without accompaniment. The trick was to have arrangements whose notes could be learned very quickly, so that there was lots of time to get to the real music making.
As directors and singers we need to remember the wow factor of beautiful chords and deliciously musical phrasing. All of that is possible when our singers are not vocally or technically out of their depth.