When I became a director in the Men’s Barbershop Harmony Society I was introduced to the VLQ. Very Large Quartet. And there is even a competition category for these groups – for 6 to 13 singers.
We all know that singing in quartets is a fantastic way to develop as an ensemble singer, but not everyone has the nerves, or the expertise to make it an enjoyable experience.
VLQs give singers a chance to stretch a bit without being overwhelmed. Hearts beat a little faster when they’re singing in front of the chorus – so they’re rehearsing feeling some nerves, but singing well anyway. And they tend to take more overall care about every aspect of their performance that they do when they’re just another individual buried in the chorus.
If everyone can get an opportunity to sing regularly in this sort of smaller subset, it has the potential to have the singers make a habit of this level of thoughtful awareness. When this begins to happen, the difference it makes to the chorus as a whole is astonishing.
It doesn’t have to take up much time in a rehearsal.
I usually just call out the number of singers needed in each part, and the volunteers come down off the risers and get into formation. (I should rehearse this aspect of the exercise with both my Barbershop Choruses – because this is the part that can take the longest)
Forming up takes a maximum of 3 minutes. Most songs take about 3 minutes to sing. Zooming back up onto the risers takes less than 30 seconds.
That’s 6 and a half minutes really really well spent. (And we could probably shave a good two minutes off that if people know exactly where to stand when they come down off the risers.)
I’m reminding myself to do this more often.