Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trust me – you know it makes sense

This is a revised version of a post which first appeared as In you I trust in March 2007

The idea of trust has come up quite a few times in my last few posts.

trust building

Trust that you will eventually learn the song; trust that, even if you’re slightly under-rehearsed, your musical director will guide you through the concert OK; trust in your co-leaders if you teach with others.

trust your choir leader

When you join a choir, you give a huge amount of control over to the choir leader. You sign up for their particular vision and approach to choral singing.

Gradually you get a sense (I hope!) that the choir leader knows what they’re doing. As you encounter tricky songs and difficult songs, but come through unscathed, you begin to trust your director more and more.

In an earlier post I introduced the idea that your director is rather like the leader of an expedition: they know how to map read, what to do if you get lost, and they have all the right equipment. But they don’t necessarily know where you’re going to end up. You have to trust that they will lead you somewhere interesting. (see What the job of choir leader involves: your MD may know the ‘how’ but not the ‘what’)

trust in the process

The concert is fast-approaching and you’re not 100% confident with some of the songs. You’re not sure which song comes next, where you enter, whether you’re doing the third verse or not, and plenty of other details seem very fuzzy. It all seems to be a mess and it looks like it’s going to go horribly wrong.

But you’ve been here before. Remember that you’ve done lots of successful concerts and they’ve all turned out OK. And if you think hard enough you’ll remember that you had exactly the same misgivings the last time you did a performance! Trust that it will turn out OK – it usually does.

The song is really, really tricky. You just don’t seem to be able to get it. The structure is complex and the lyrics are particularly difficult. Maybe you should just let this one go and not bother learning it.

But remember all those other songs when you’ve felt the same thing. And now they’re some of your favourites and you can sing them with no problems at all. Just trust that you need to go through some learning pains to get there, but you will eventually learn the song well.

This song is just awful! You really, really don’t know why your choir leader chose it. It’s a dirge and will never sound any good. The tenors keep messing their bit up and your part is really, really boring. The audience will hate it!

But think about all the songs in your repertoire. Did you like them all equally at first? Almost certainly not. And there’s just one song you don’t like (even though you love all the others), that’s not a bad percentage. Somebody else is bound to like it. Trust that your choir leader has taste and an overview of what songs will work for your choir.

trust your fellow singers

As I pointed out the other week, there do tend to be some control freaks in the world! There are also people who focus on the details (I’ll be writing about this next Sunday) without getting a good overall picture.

These people often worry about the other people singing the same part as them. They notice if someone gets a note wrong, or forgets to sing a passage quietly. They begin to notice the other singers (and parts) more and more and stop focusing on their own singing and learning. This makes them quite tense and means that they can end up focusing on the wrong thing and not pay attention to the conductor.

You need to trust your fellow singers. They are all in the same boat as you and are all as competent as you, it’s just that they may learn and develop at different rates. You can’t control them individually, so stop trying, trust they will do their best, relax and enjoy your own singing!

trust (and believe in) yourself

I’ve had people come up to me who are convinced they are the worst singer in the world. They feel under-confident, insecure and insignificant (although feeling that you are the worst ever singer is rather arrogant and self-centred!).

These singers are often convinced that they shouldn’t be in the choir. They are obviously spoiling the overall sound and making it difficult for the other singers who are much, much better than them. Actually, it’s probably best if they leave the choir altogether – after all, nobody will notice that they’re not there.

But what if every singer thought this? There would be no choir at all!

You need to believe that every other singer is the same as you. They all have their doubts and difficulties, you’re not the only one. Trust that you will do your best (like everyone else), that you are as important as every other singer, and believe that you can deliver the goods.

do you have to earn trust?

Some people find it difficult to trust until someone has really proved themselves in all sorts of situations. Even then, they might not trust them 100% (ah, yes, those control freaks again!).

But instead, what if you trusted people on sight and gave them the benefit of the doubt?

What if, when you first join a choir, you assume that the director knows what they’re doing. Trust them totally from the off and see what happens. Similarly, trust your fellow singers even if they’re strangers. After all, you’re doing your best, so why not assume they are too?

I often say to my choir that they should behave as if they know what they’re doing and the rest will follow. Behave as if you know the song well and you will surprise yourself by how much you DO know AND you will look confident.

Behave as if you are relaxed and enjoying yourself and you will soon find that it all feels like so much fun.

Behave as if everyone else is 100% trustworthy and you will find that they seem to rise to your expectations and prove themselves worthy.

having an off week

What prompted my original post In you I trust was that I had a bad choir session. These happen when I’m not feeling very well, or I’m distracted, or it’s just one of those things, like the weather. Or when you have a ‘difficult’ rehearsal, nothing seems to go right, and the choir seem to have collectively forgotten everything they ever knew.

You can either panic, throw the towel in, or trust that it’s all going to work out OK.

All we can do is trust that we have done our preparation, both collectively (I have taught the songs well and we have rehearsed them sufficiently) and individually (choir members have done their homework, learnt their words and know their part). That is all we can do: prepare well. We then need to trust in the process and try to relax and enjoy the performance.

This same notion of trust comes in when people don’t think they can ‘sing’. If I behave as if everyone can sing and the song we are learning is not difficult, then it’s as if am giving permission for people to be their best. It is handing over responsibility to the individual, giving them space fully to be themselves, trusting that they can do it. And the results are usually marvellous!

Trusting people doesn’t mean becoming complacent and not trying. You do have to do the work and make sure you prepare well. It doesn’t matter how many times we have performed well, I still need to make sure that we work hard to make the concert the best it can be (maybe even better than last time!). Otherwise we will just rest on our laurels and the whole thing may be a disaster.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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