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Magic Choral Trick #126 The Instructionally Overloaded Singer

Ok Directors – this one’s for you.

As a singer who’s sung in choirs all my life I’m going to remind you of something that we all know, but tend to regularly forget.

When you stop a song to give the singers instructions it’s a good idea to limit the number of requests to approximately one. If the choir members are to do justice to whatever improvement you want, they need to think about only that, and not be desperately trying to remember what your other two points were.

Keep in mind that at any given moment a singer’s head may already be filled with:

– technique stuff (‘I just can’t seem to sing that high note freely’)

– other physical things (‘Wow – I hope we get to sit down soon – my feet are really hurting’, or ‘Why does she insist on wearing perfume when she knows how it affects me’)

– other mental tasks that are unrelated to choir rehearsal (‘How am I going to get hold of a plumber by the time the new sink arrives?’)

If your choir is fresh and it’s still early in the evening, you can keep going back over the spot until you’ve incorporated all the improvements. But if it’s late I generally ask several singers to remember one point each and ask them to remind me about these after rehearsal.

I used to have to write these down, but today in the era of the iphone and the blackberry, a choir member will just send me an email immediately – which is there when I get home, and when I’m planning the next week’s rehearsal.

One more thing about when you stop your group to say something. You may be tempted to deliver long musicological treatises, or diatribes about ‘trying harder’. Please, please, please refrain. Be really specific and move on. All they want to do is sing.

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