Sunday, May 23, 2010

The pleasures of being a choral director

Last week I wrote about the pleasures of being a choir member.

Conductor 2

Choir conductor Marjukka Riihimäki by Kanttila

This week I want to write about the pleasures to be had from the front of the choir.

a finely tuned instrument

The other week I was asked back to WorldSong, the first choir I started, to run a couple of sessions whilst their new director is on sabbatical. Apart from being a bit weird (it’s three years since I last worked with them), it reminded me of what a great bunch of singers they are and how far they’ve come over the years.

At the end of the session they sang a couple of ‘oldies’ which I conducted. It was a joy! Like driving a finely tuned sports car – smooth, responsive, easy to control, luxurious, handles well.

When you’ve rehearsed a song with a choir plenty of times and it’s really under the singers’ belts, conducting a choir is like playing a large, complicated instrument. They don’t need to worry about the words or the tune, they just watch attentively and you can guide them with amazing subtlety and really play the song in the moment.

it’s all in the mix

The front of the choir is the only place where you can really hear all the harmonies working together. Yes, it’s possible to get a sense by listening to a recording of the choir, but nothing comes close to being there in the moment.

As a choral director, not only can you control this awesome blend of sounds, but you can also position yourself in different places to experience the different ways in which the harmonies work.

the pleasures of being a choir leader

In no particular order (and I’m sure I’ve left some out) here are the pleasures I get from leading a choir:

  • choosing repertoire
    I get to spend hours researching and listening to great music and then I can choose my favourites to present to the choir
  • teaching (and learning) songs/ harmonies
    By teaching the songs I get to learn (on the fly) all the different parts and go much deeper into a song than I normally would
  • developing voices
    I get to help people develop their singing voices and see individuals improve week on week
  • conducting
    I’ve mentioned this one already, but I actually get paid to ‘play’ my favourite ‘instrument’!
  • refining performances
    Rehearsals can sometimes be a drag, but most of the time it’s wonderful to be able to tease out the best performance of a song possible
  • selecting songs for concerts
    I get to plan the ideal concert – the one that I’d want to go and hear!
  • working an audience
    It didn’t use to be a pleasure at first, but I now love being in front of an audience at a concert working the crowd, trying to make them laugh, and telling them all about the songs and the choir
  • seeing pleasure on singers’ faces
    When a song is up and running there is nothing greater than seeing a sea of happy faces having fun singing
  • hearing the harmonies
    Being at the front of the choir is a privilege as it’s the only place that you really get to hear the harmonies work together
  • making friends
    And the icing on the cake (if you’re lucky) – you get to make friends with some lovely people!

and you?

Have I tempted you to become a choral director??!! And if you are one already, what are your particular pleasures? Have I left anything out? Do drop by and leave a comment.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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