Sunday, April 04, 2010

I’m a control freak and that’s exactly how I like it!

Some people lead their choir or singing workshop with another person. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t really work for me.


Control freak by .m for matthijs

I like to be in full control and I think I do a better job of it as a consequence.

two heads good?

Don’t get me wrong, I can and have worked with other people. I used to regularly lead theatre workshops with a good friend of mine and it was wonderful. We’d come up with a rough plan for the workshop, who would be leading which bit, and then we’d just riff off each other and go where the action took us.

But the whole nature of a theatre workshop is that you work in the moment with what is happening with the group. You can end up going off to really interesting, unexpected places. You can bounce ideas off each other and come up with ideas on the fly because the end product is not important.

four heads bad!

But singing is an entirely different kettle of fish.

I’ve team taught songs with one leader on each of the four voice parts. Before the workshop we agree on how to break up the song and which order to teach the parts in. Then we just teach the part we’re responsible for whilst the other parts wait their turn.

The trouble with this is that there is no scope to respond in the moment. If it turns out that one part is having a particular difficulty, or you realise as you’re teaching that one section of the song is much harder than you realised, there’s not much you can do as you have to stick to the plan.

I can’t see any particular advantages in having one person leading each part. The only plus is that a person can lead one of the harmonies quietly in the background while you’re focusing on teaching your part. But in large choirs there are already people who do that: section leaders.

I did it my way

When I’m teaching a song on my own, I have complete freedom to change the way I’m teaching as I go along. I plan how to ‘chunk’ the song in advance and which order I’m going to teach the parts in, but I can also respond in the moment if things don’t go to plan.

I might find that one phrase is more difficult than I thought, so I can teach it to all the parts and try different combinations singing together.

I might realise that I’ve split the song into chunks that are too large, so I’ll change that as I go.

I might have planned to teach in one order, but suddenly realise that it makes more sense to bring the voices in in a different order.

I might find that people waiting are getting a little bored, so I find a way to bring them in sooner than I’d planned.

Nobody can plan everything in advance. There needs to be a lot of leeway to be able to change things as you go. If you’re on your own, this is easy.

If there are two of you who work very, very well together, then it might just be possible.

But if there are four of you, I’m not sure that it can be done. And if things do change and all four leaders don’t pick up on that, or disagree in some way, then it doesn’t look good in front of those you’re teaching!

and your way is ... ?

Of course, many large choirs have several leaders and it works very well. I’m the first to admit that I don’t have much experience of team working in this way. Do you have good reasons why more than one leader is better? Or maybe you have stories of how it didn’t work out. Do leave a comment and share your experiences.

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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