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Who cares which hand I carry my folder in? (and other silliness)

As a choral singer, I've often envied members of orchestras, in that they can just wander onto the stage whenever they feel like it, start warming up, do crossword puzzles, etc., until it's time to tune and then start a concert.
Choristers, OTOH, must march into the performance space, almost in lock step, all carefully holding their music folders in the "proper hand." We have to step onto and off of the risers in a prescribed manner and heaven help anyone who doesn't precisely execute these maneuvers. For those of you who saw the movie "Sister Act 2," you might recall the sychronized entrance of one of the competing choirs (conducted by William D. Hall), which I found to be a charicature of this phenomenon.
Does anyone else think that we "choral folks" are just a little "uptight" about concert etiquette?
Replies (15): Threaded | Chronological
on March 31, 2009 8:16pm
I couldn't agree more. And the same goes for the insistence on exact costume matching. The orchestra will have any which kind of clothing, as long as it's black, while the choirs are carefully measuring their hems to make sure they're a uniform distance from the ground.
I've tried a couple of times to start my choir seated onstage, just like the orchestra, but whereas the players have something to do (futz with their instruments, practice difficult passages, etc.) the singers feel uncomfortable just sitting there, and it would look bad if they were all tweeting on their iPhones.
on April 5, 2009 3:57pm
 Whenever this subject comes up, I am reminded of the difference between the Harvard Band at football games and everyone else's band. Whereas the other bands marched in lockstep from formation to formation, the Harvard band blew a whistle and then everyone scrambled to the new formation. I have actually tried this, complete with whistle, at one or two of my choral concerts and the audience loved it.
on April 12, 2009 9:23pm
We are. But the easiest solution is just to keep your folder between you and the audience. Doesn't matter what side you come from, etc.
End of story.
on April 15, 2009 8:37pm
Good to have a simple rule and stick to it. I have the same policy as you ... except I always ask my choirs to put the folder AWAY from the audience.
on September 20, 2009 8:03pm
Yeah, but Ian likes the audience to see his folders... :)
on April 15, 2009 10:12am
I don't know about "up tight" but as a former dancer--classically trained in ballet to boot--I do care about how things look.  I can't help it!  It cuts down on the busy-ness of walking in and people (the audience) can focus on--I don't know--the music, instead of the raggedy looking choir.  It doesn't take that much time to at least come to some agreement as to what hand the folder is in, etc.
Am so, so glad to be here in the new forum!  Missed you guys for the few days we waited for this to be up.
on April 15, 2009 4:42pm
Yes!  We no longer march in lockstep!  (Jubilate in Salt Lake City).  We enter from the back and make a point to say hello to people in the audience and shake hands while we wander up front.  Also, regarding dress, we now allow the women to wear a black dress they are comfortable in (is the earth shaking yet)?!  I think this is all easier with a small group, however.
on April 16, 2009 5:47am
Have you ever tried to get on risers through the middle? It's a logistical nightmare. Filing on in single file makes it smoother and more proffessional looking. Also, I agree that it's mainly an issue because we often enter at the start of the performance. It's comparable to the conductor and soloists entering once the orchestra is seated. They shouldn't all come in from every which way, the all come down the same aisle, stop and bow, then take their places. The choir entering is the same way. Single file is the fastest, least cumbersome, and most proffessional way to do this. Perhaps if the chorus took their places before the start of the concert, and then simply stood up, we could do away with all this.
on May 10, 2009 9:14pm
We sometimes do the less formal approach, one concert last year the singers came in one by one, didn't stand in choral formation, then the conductor came onstage and we just started.  I quite liked this.  But I agree with James Riddick, it would depend on your programme.
on May 13, 2009 5:38am
I think we live in an increasingly visual world, and it's made me pay more attention to these kinds of details than I used to.  Because choirs stand, near each other, uniformity in dress (or lack thereof) shows up more than an orchestra that is seated, behind stands, more space between them.  For the orchestra, entering the stage and taking their places can be done in a way that is less visually exposed than it is for choirs taking their place on risers.  We're just more in the spotlight, visually speaking, and that's why I think the rules should be a little different.
on September 17, 2009 3:46am
 It is important how a choir looks: but my choir, the Reading Phoenix (UK), doesn't do the big works, we're more of a competition choir. For our public performances (average of 1 a month...) we sing a wide range of material - and we always enter walking through the audience singing as we go, making sure to make lots of eye contact with the audience. We take up several formations along the way until we eventually arrive on the risers. This helps the audience to relax and not be intimidated by a large bunch of people in front of them suddenly singing: and we finish the concert by walking through the audience, again singing a song of farewell which finishes with the words 'Good Night'. Each member of the choir directs this at a single member of the audience (not the same one, of course!), and this always raises big smiles and chuckles and sends the audience away feeling that they've been given a personal concert.
All this is helped a great deal by the fact that we sing everything off-copy, so no problem with folders!
on September 17, 2009 10:34am
I've been wondering lately if we've become to "relaxed" as a society.
There was a time when taking food/drink into a hall or sanctuary was there are posted signs that spell out "no food or drink in sanctuary/auditorium."  We have to remind people in the program and verbally tell them before concerts and church services to "turn off all electronic devices" and yet still, inevebiatly, we hear the chirp of some phone.  There's even a church near where I live where the pastor from the platform makes fun of people who "dress up" to go to church.  I was even invited to a semi-formal event where some people took semi-formal to mean they wore shoes instead of sandles with their shorts and tee-shirt.
So I do believe that we "have" to be uptight about such things.  Because if we weren't who knows what kind of "non-professional" behavior the choir memebers would come up with.  If we didn't, what kind of dresses can we expect the younger choir memebers to wear that have been raised on Britney Spears and such where showing more skin just makes for a good performance.  Or guys who have never worn long pants and have no idea how to tie a tie.  I mean how would you feel if a bunch of scantly clad girls and guys wearing baggy shorts (with their boxers showing) tee-shrirts and ball caps meandered on stage and began to perform Motzart's Requim.  It wouldn't be taken fact I would feel like they were making a mockery of the work.
I remember once in high school when we went to a competition the remark one of the adjucitators made.  He knew we were a good choir by the way we "walked on stage."  His assumption was that if we were disciplined enough to actually rehearse walking on the risers to make it look good we would be just as disciplined if not more in our music.
I agree with James Riddik above when he said "I DO believe that any ensemble must understand that the performance begins from the moment that the audience first sees you and ends at the last momment of perception."  A performance is not just about the music.  What we sing is important...but HOW we present what we sing is just as important.
on September 18, 2009 7:38am
While visual details such as appropriately respectful and uniform dress, uniform comportment when entering the platform and while on the platform and uniform carrying of scores are all comforting to see, none of them indicate anything about the musical quality of a performance.  There does not seem to me to be any correlation between physical discipline that can be seen and musical punctiliousness.
However, the inability to spell or to use correct grammar in writing (or the unwillingness to pay careful attention to them) does make me wonder about a musician's ability, skill and scrupulousness in bringing written notes and markings to life in sound, since both involve care with regard to written language.  Quite frankly, were I on a selection committee to choose conducting candidates, I would be prone to reject any applications that exhibited such evidence of illiteracy.
But maybe I'm to "fussy."
Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor, The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra
Principal Conductor, Baguio Cathedral International Music Festival (Philippines)
on September 19, 2009 12:38pm
Thank you for making my point even clearer. You make a short comment about what was written and then go on to make a slightly longer point about the manner in which it was presented. Even going so far as to claim that poor grammar indicates a lack of professionalism that affects the musical ability of a musician (in your example an applying conductor).

In reality the only thing proper grammar proves is that someone has taken the time to present well what he or she was presenting. Even if that means having someone else edit what was written before it was presented. An applying conductor could have atrocious grammar, but because he or she took care to have someone else edit the application you would never know that the conductor has poor grammar and you would not question the conductor's "ability, skill and scrupulousness in bringing written notes and markings to life in sound" based solely on their grammar (you may have other legitimate concerns but grammar would not be the basis for any of them).

While there may be no direct correlation between the visual details and the musical quality of the performance, the visual details are an important part of the performance.

So my point of how we present is just as important as what we present is still valid. Whether it is non-uniformity in the choir or poor grammar in a written document, anything that the choir (or author) does to distract the listener (or reader) takes away from the presentation as a whole.


P.S. You were correct that I did not take the time I should have to craft my initial response. In reading it again I see that my grammar was very poor and the way I tried to make my point was inadequate at best. I must apologize for the lack of respect I showed to the reader and the language.

on September 20, 2009 7:34pm
  I can not help but agree with Joshua here.  I would think if you are going to be one to criticize about the attention to ones detail in something as small as their grammar, you would want to be just as (if not more) particular about the appearance of the ensemble performing.  No in the end the suit, robe, or britney spears attire has no affect on the students physically it does have a psychological affect on the enesmble. 
There is a reason why the army dresses everyone in the same clothing.  No one person is more important than the other (not including the colenel/choral director).  They are a team they represent a unified ensemble based product.  Same goes for a choir - no one voice is more important than the other.  All voices are dependent on the unification of a section - you are a choral director you know this.  If one singer is allowed to wear armani whilst another is only able to afford goodwill (not that there is anything wrong with good will but you get my point) the group will be affected with regards to their confidence, which will translate negatively in many aspects of the concert.
As far as walking on in a unified manner - I find it funny the negative spin people are putting on it as if it is this abolutely attrocious event to take three minutes to walk on stage with confidence as an ensemble.  In my opinion society has gotten lazy and we need to preserve what dignity, poise and work ethic we have left.  I believe a choir walking on stage is like a pair of nicely polished shoes and a clean suit in an interview.  The way you look determines instantly how much credibility you have, regardless of your rhetoric in the interview itself. 
David W.
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