I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had singers say to me “I won’t be there for ‘x’, but you don’t really need me – there’ll be lots of (whatever part they sing) there.”
Which is not quite the same communication as: “I won’t be there for ‘x’ because I have an important family function; I have to work; I’m sick;” or even “I really can’t handle mall, or lengthy standing gigs”. These sorts of reasons are nothing to worry about.
For each singer who assures me that they won’t be missed, it’s left up to me to interpret what’s really being said. There are a couple of possibilities.
1. There’s something else I want to do, but I feel a bit guilty about letting the chorus down (and would like your blessing on my absence.)
2. I’m letting you know that I won’t be there, even though I really don’t think you’ll notice – because I’m only one of many, and my contribution doesn’t matter.
This second one really concerns me.
This person hasn’t yet understood that as far as choirs go – the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.
This person doesn’t realize that if everyone who doesn’t consider themselves a musical leader stayed away, there’d be only a handful of singers left in any choir. So it would no longer be a choir – just a quartet or quintet.
This person is also telling me that they’re not working on their singing at home. Chorus members who are actively engaged in becoming better singers know that their presence, and therefore their absence, makes a difference. The people around them notice the difference, which affects the work ethic, the pride and the desire for unanimity within the group. One of the truly magical things about choirs is that if every single singer does the same thing at the same time, the effect is spectacular. The whole point of singing in a chorus is that everyone wants to create something that would be impossible alone. So every single voice is vitally important.
For example, at my men’s Barbershop chorus rehearsal this evening they were sustaining a final chord that was just fine. I then asked them to sing me that last chord again – but this time with a relaxed tongue, and with a raised soft palate. When every last man did this, the result was an amazingly expanded sound, with lots of resonance, and sounding as if there were twice as many guys singing. The larger the group, the more spectacular the difference when all the singers are perfectly in synch.
Every once in a while I need to remind my singers just how valuable each one of them is – and to let them know that when they’re not there, they are absolutely missed.