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How Hard is This Piece?

Had a concert last night, so this post is going up late. (it went well, thanks for asking).
My semi-pro choir rehearses for two weeks prior to a concert and then takes a 3-5 week break before we come back together for the next cycle. As we went through this cycle of rehearsals and performance, I realized once again that sometimes I just have no idea how a choir is going to respond to a piece. I guess I'm's not that I have no idea, but every cycle there are one or two pieces that either I thought were going to be really hard, and turned out to be mostly correct on the first run through, or something I thought was going to be a gimme turns out ot take so much more time than I thought.
I've tried to unpack this and get better at predicting, but it seems there are always one or two pieces that surprise. There are so many factors that go into the difficulty level of a piece that surprises are inevitable, I guess. And I have gotten better. The longer I have been with this group, the better I've become. Also, we went through a full reaudition a few years back that significantly changed the composition of the choir, and so in many ways, even though this is my seventh year with the choir, it's more like this is only my third year with the group. 
I'm not going to go into a deep discussion of all the different factors relating to determining difficulty (I'll save that for my book). We know them mostly, and I gotta get the kids to ballet. But if you are like me and occasionally over or under estimate how hard a piece will be for your choir, just know you are not alone.
on February 22, 2014 4:39pm
The thing about this ChoralBlog posting that caught my eye (other than you getting your kids off to ballet....and as an old, real former ballerina, I kinda LOVE that!) was your describing your choir as "semi-pro."  I also conduct what I refer to as a "semi-professional" chamber choir, which means to me--most of my singers have degrees in music or make their living in music somehow (church choir directors, grade and high school music teachers and even someone who works for GIA music publishing!) or who are serious avocationists.  They sing with me two times a calender year to sing in a good choir. And, like you, I am surprised what happens with the difficulty level for them of some works and it's usually, one sometimes two pieces that surprise me.  Most times, I guess correctly as to what will be difficult and what will not be for them but sometimes........I think it's because of the "semi-pro" aspect.  With a professional choir, you know what will need more/less rehearsal.  With students, you should know. But with this kind of group.......not so much!