Regional competition time again last weekend for my women’s chorus! And anyone with any doubts about the value of competing with your group should get themselves to a Barbershop competition.
This weekend, the huge amount of work that every chorus had done this year was obvious. Everyone is singing better and providing audiences with higher and higher quality entertainment.
However, in order to have the highest possible scores for our chorus, we needed to clear the way for all of our preparation to shine through. This meant making sure that every singer’s attention was on the performance itself – not on her hair, her costume, the previous chorus’ performance (which could be heard a little through the door to the stage) or some unrelated conversation they were having with another singer.
What has worked really well for us for the last couple of competitions is to remain absolutely silent – on the bus on the way to the venue, and backstage. The silence is not just for its own sake – it’s so that each of us can run the entire contest ‘package’ in our heads. It’s a chance to visit every aspect of the performance that we want to remember – and to do it perfectly, before we set foot on the stage.
Just to be clear, I mentioned to the chorus that having very quiet, whispered conversations during this ‘focus’ time was not the same as actually doing the exercise. Now granted, I was doing the exercise myself, but I think that this year, we had 100% compliance from all 43 women.
So by the time we got onto the risers, each one of us had visualized the entire performance twice – once while we were on the bus, and once backstage.
This was much to the chagrin of the bus driver, who even though I’d warned him that we were going to be absolutely silent (and not to take it personally) was expecting us to sing him a song or two.
Which brings me to a point about sacrificing the quality of your performance so as not to seem rude to a person who won’t be out there in front of the audience.
In the days when I was performing as a soloist, I’d quite often be forced into pre curtain chatter by concert organizers, or casual observers. These were always well meaning souls, so I didn’t want to disappoint them by being rude (and telling them to stop talking and just go away!). But now that I think about these times, I realize that my desire to be polite actually sabotaged the quality of many of my performances.
Most of us need the time and the silence to collect ourselves and to focus every possible ounce of strength, brainpower and emotion on what we’re about to do.
Performing is not casual. And anything less than everything we’ve got short changes our audience.
p.s. Yes, my chorus won the competition – for only the second time in 43 years.