Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fighting habit and complacency

The end of another year and often a time to reflect on the year which has just passed. For me though, I always seem to end up looking ahead to the coming year and thinking about new goals and challenges for both me and the choirs.

It’s still holiday time at the moment and I am resisting the temptation to knuckle down and begin planning next term’s programme (or am I just procrastinating?!!). I try not to think of myself as just a song factory and try very hard to build in some kind of training and development from week to week whether it be vocal technique, rhythm work, or simply more challenging harmonies. It’s nice for choir members to look back and see how far they’ve come over the years. To this end I need to remember to regularly feedback to the choir how much they’ve improved. Often it suddenly occurs to me in the middle of a session that a year or so ago they had great difficulty with a particular exercise or song and now they are finding it easy.

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about habit and complacency, which is why I always try to do something new and different at the start of each term. For example, in the past I’ve tried different seating configurations, changing them from week to week. Last term I dispensed with seats altogether (which upset some people!). We also did quite a lot of movement and “dancing” to help with awareness of rhythm and to put some life into bodies whilst singing. This was well outside some people’s comfort zones, but I hope that people have enough trust in me by now to realise that it will ultimately be beneficial.

Complacency (“the last gig went really well, so the next one should be a doddle”), habit (“but I always sit in that seat and can only sing if the altos are on my left side”), familiarity (“that’s the way we’ve always done this song”), expectation (“in concerts the altos will stand next to the tenors”), safety and comfort (“I like being in the midst of the bass section as it helps me stick to my part”), and so on … are — I believe — the enemies of learning, development and improvement. They can lead to a loss of vitality in concerts, blandness and lack of energy in performance, and an unwillingness to try anything new.

So watch out people, a new term is starting soon and who knows what’s in store??!!

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Chris Rowbury


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