I live in the countryside in France and direct a choir of 25 singers. We generally give our concerts in old churches, as there are no purpose built concert halls in our area. Until now we have generally had good experiences with the acoustics in stone churches. This weekend, however, we gave two concerts with completely different results. This first was in a church we know, and the choir sang exceptionally well and very on pitch. The second concert, with the same group and the same repertoire, was in a smaller church, whose ceiling had several arches and vaults. We struggled to find a placement where the choir could sing well, finding the best situation to be close to the altar under a large vault. We also tried various arrangements of the choir finally settling on our usual placement of voices. Even so the choir had enormous difficulty to sing on pitch and often didn’t; the soloists seemed to run out of breath; the singers couldn’t find energy; in short I might have been directing a totally different choir. Of course, with the addition of an audience the acoustics had changed again.
Here is my question: I would like to do a summer course where I could learn more about acoustics in various buildings, especially churches, and how to work with them. I had visited this particular church in advance, but for my own voice, the acoustics seemed to be adequate. Obviously I misjudged them. Is such a course available anywhere?
I’m sure that there must be a course out there somewhere. I don’t know of any off hand. But often I find I learn a lot just through trial and error. You heard, for example, the effect an arched ceiling has on the sound. You are now prepared to anticipate this if you should ever sing in a similar venue.