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Church choir rehearsal etiquette

Dear Colleagues,

How would you deal with having church choir members address the accompanist in the middle of a rehearsal, asking him or her to play a note or line, rather than addressing me, the director, with his/her question? When I worked as an accompanist myself, I would always direct the choir member to address the director, and would not play unless the director asked me to; and I have had accompanists who have done the same for me, but in my current position, the organist just goes ahead and plays. I would like to nip this in the bud without unnecessarily "troubling the waters" and have thought of including this point (that questions during rehearsal ought to be addressed to the director, not to the accompanist) in a list of "rehearsal etiquette guidelines." Your comments would be helpful.

Dawn Sonntag


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--
on February 2, 2004 7:20am
Dawn:

The choristers should always address the director if they have a problem with
something, not the accompanist. The accompansit should of course play the
line, or the part, or the interval or whatever is troublesome, but not until
after being asked by the director.

I know that once in a while I will play a note or an interval or something
quickly if I hear a mistake somewhere that the director has not caught. Both
the director and the choristers seem to appreciate that kind of subtle
assistance during a rehearsal.

As you said, you need to nip this in the bud.

All the best

Bob Grandy / Accompanist
Oriana Singers of Northumberland

Director of Music
Wexford Heights United Church,
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada


--
on February 2, 2004 7:20am
Ah, yes! This happens to me all the time. It may be that the accompanist has been there twice as long as I or that he is 20 years my senior (at 56 I'm the second youngest in the group) but whatever. I usually will turn to the accompanist and say: "Yes, ______ would you please play _____" before he has a chance to say or play anything. Or, I'll address the choir member saying "We will get to that in just a minute but first I want you to _____________" I always smile understandingly.

George A. Hughes

--
on February 2, 2004 7:20am
In a message dated Sunday, February 1, 2004, at about 1:25 pm, Dawn Sonntag
writes:

accompanist in the middle of a rehearsal ... ... Your comments would be helpful.
>>

Dawn,

Huh? If I found myself in such a non-colleguial, hierarchically oriented,
excessively formal environment, I might be searching for a new church *and*
choir PDQ.

Is this an excessively large choir where pandemonium and disorder could break
out so easily? Are not the director, accompanist, and choir members regarding
each other as equals in enhancing the congregation's religious experience? Is
the accompanist uniformly working to set himself as a separate power center
in opposition to the director?

Etiquette is often a demand that "superiors" force on their "inferiors." If
some singers need to have their notes clarified and this necessitates such
unction, I'm afraid the choir is going to have more troubles than just attaining
harmony in their singing. I smell additional issues in the air.

HTH (Hope This Helps),
J. R. Norton
Just a singer (for over 20 years)
Denver, Colorado

"God has a dream ... that we will come together as the
members of one family. In this family, there no outsiders.
All, all, all are insiders." -- Bishop Desmond Tutu

--
on February 2, 2004 7:21am
There may be 2 reasons why folks approach the accompanist instead of you.
1. They don't want to bother you with their problems, and think that they can
take care of the matter themselves with the quick aid of the accompanist
without going through the "middle-man".
2. They have no respect for your musicianship when compared to your
accompanist.

In the first instance, you may want to ask the choir members to ask you about
things directly, but be careful what you ask for. You may find yourself
inundated with silly questions you've never noticed being asked before which the
accompanist has been handling all along behind the scenes, at coffee, walking to
cars, etc.

In the second instance, not to put too fine a point on it, they may be right
or wrong to have no respect for your musicianship. I don't know you or where
you work, but in my experience as an outside musician, often more disrespect
than respect is warranted. Many choir directors, for one reason or another, come
to rehearsals unprepared to rehearse the amateur groups they lead. These
amateurs are people who need much more guidance than pros, and because of lack of
technique, become frustrated much faster. Advice in this circumstance is this:
Do good music at the proper level of difficulty for the choir (not throwaways
or "Jesus-pop" stuff), be EXTREMELY prepared, keep the rehearsal moving
quickly and efficiently with no unnecessary pauses for you to collect your
thoughts (make a "lesson plan" so you can move from one thing to another without
resorting to your memory). There shouldn't be a lot of time for the choir members
to say anything to the accompanist if good rehearsal procedure is followed.

Good luck
Steven L. Schaffner



--
on February 2, 2004 3:50pm
When I worked as an accompanist myself, I would always direct
> the choir member to address the director, and would not play unless the
> director asked me to; and I have had accompanists who have done the same
> for me, but in my current position, the organist just goes ahead and
> plays.

What is your working relationship like with your present accompanist? I
would take them aside, perhaps out for a coffee, and speak with them about
the issue and see how amenable they are to re-directing the question to
you. If not, then you have a bigger problem.

Richard Larraga

====Richard A.A. Larraga, MM, JD (http://www.richardlarraga.com)
Music Director, The Vox Consort, Boston, MA (http://www.voxconsort.org)
Director of Music, Holy Trinity United Methodist Church, Danvers, MA
Music Teacher, Brookwood School, Manchester, MA (http://www.brookwood.edu)

--
on February 2, 2004 3:51pm
Hi, Dawn,
I try to discourage the idea of just listening to a part on the piano.
That doesn't improve reading skills or musicianship. Also the
percussive/decaying sound of the piano does not encourage legato
singing. When a choir member asks to hear a part on the piano, I
respond in several ways: 1) sing along with the piano 2) sing along
with me (even in my falsetto sometimes) 3) omit the text and sing the
part on a neutral syllable. Listening is passive, singing is active and
active learning is better than passive learning. Once I explained this
to choir members and they realized I wasn't going to "play it for them"
they quit asking me or the accompanist. Now they say, "We need to work
on...or we need to sing measure..." and it is addressed to the director.

Good Luck.

Rusty Keesler

-----Original Message-----
From: ChoralTalk [mailto:CHORALTALK-L(a)indiana.edu] On Behalf Of Dawn
Sonntag
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 4:26 PM
To: CHORALTALK-L(a)LISTSERV.INDIANA.EDU
Subject: [CHORALTALK-L] Church choir rehearsal etiquette


Your comments would be helpful.

Dawn Sonntag


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--
on February 2, 2004 5:33pm
you're absolutely correct, the choir director must establish his or her
artistic authority in all respects. Obviously, interpretive discussions can
take place after rehearsal between accompanist and director.
.....Gray
----------
In article ,
choir-robot(a)mail.lluahsc.net (Choraltalk Gateway) wrote:


>Dear Colleagues,
>
>How would you deal with having church choir members address the accompanist
>in the middle of a rehearsal, asking him or her to play a note or line,
>rather than addressing me, the director, with his/her question? When I
>worked as an accompanist myself, I would always direct the choir member to
>address the director, and would not play unless the director asked me to;
>and I have had accompanists who have done the same for me, but in my
>current position, the organist just goes ahead and plays. I would like to
>nip this in the bud without unnecessarily "troubling the waters" and have
>thought of including this point (that questions during rehearsal ought to
>be addressed to the director, not to the accompanist) in a list of
>"rehearsal etiquette guidelines." Your comments would be helpful.
>
>Dawn Sonntag
>
>
>---------------------------------
>Do you Yahoo!?
>Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free web site building tool. Try it!

--
on February 2, 2004 5:34pm
On Mon, 2 Feb 2004 03:37:09 +0000 (UTC), choir-robot(a)mail.lluahsc.net
(Choraltalk Gateway) wrote:

>Dear Colleagues,
>
>How would you deal with having church choir members address the accompanist in the middle of a rehearsal, asking him or her to play a note or line, rather than addressing me, the director, with his/her question? When I worked as an accompanist myself, I would always direct the choir member to address the director, and would not play unless the director asked me to; and I have had accompanists who have done the same for me, but in my current position, the organist just goes ahead and plays. I would like to nip this in the bud without unnecessarily "troubling the waters" and have thought of including this point (that questions during rehearsal ought to be addressed to the director, not to the accompanist) in a list of "rehearsal etiquette guidelines." Your comments would be helpful.
>
>Dawn Sonntag
>
>
>---------------------------------
>Do you Yahoo!?
>Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free web site building tool. Try it!

I'm not sure of your relationship with everyone, but why not talk to
the organist/accompanist BEFORE you address the choir. I would come
from a point of rehearsal time management, not etiquette.

I had a wonderful accompanist at once church who had a great musical
ear. Sometimes when we were doing an a capella work she would notice a
section on a downward spiral and before I could even tell her to help
the section out for a bit, she would do it, and then when they were
back on track stop. I had NO problem with this but she never took
requests from the choir.

Best of luck.

--
on February 3, 2004 7:41am

Addressing J. R. Norton's comments:
>Is this an excessively large choir where pandemonium and disorder could break
>out so easily? Are not the director, accompanist, and choir members regarding
>each other as equals in enhancing the congregation's religious experience? Is
>the accompanist uniformly working to set himself as a separate power center
>in opposition to the director?
>
>Etiquette is often a demand that "superiors" force on their "inferiors." If
>some singers need to have their notes clarified and this necessitates such
>unction, I'm afraid the choir is going to have more troubles than just
>attaining harmony in their singing.

I'm working hard on equality and fairness issues across perceived
disparities of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and I'm very sensitive
to language that marginalizes and divides -- but to throw out all
differences in job-related function smacks of political correctness run
amok.

If you honestly think all are equal in enhancing the congregation's
religious experience, apply this simple test: If one of them were removed
by divine fiat just before a worship service began, what would happen?
There IS a difference in importance among director, accompanist and
individual choir members.

Certainly, etiquette has often been used among the elite as a signal of
one's belonging to the privileged class. But on the other side of the coin,
much of etiquette, too, is a commonly-agreed set of behavioral rules within
a group to promote its smooth functioning and ultimately, its well-being.

Furthermore, if the group, through some agreed-upon selection process has
decided to centralize the management of certain functions in the interest of
efficiency (i.e., hire a choir director), then they have, by that choice,
expressed their interest in running things efficiently and for the greatest
common good, rather than that of an individual member -- and asking one
person (director) to organize the rehearsal, then undermining the
organizational plan and structure by bypassing her/him in the discharge of
his/her duties, is to compromise the effectiveness of the structure. When
one person skips the director and goes straight to the accompanist, what is
the director doing? Presumably explaining some relevant point to the choir.
What is most of the choir doing -- what should ALL of the choir be doing?
Listening to this point so it needn't be later repeated -- greatest common
good. But then one person 1. is not paying attention to what's being said
by the director, and 2. creates a distraction for those who are by having
the accompanist play her/his notes. This IS a problem. I haven't heard
anyone suggest that the original poster would ignore the singer's need to
hear his/her note -- she simply wants to do things in the proper order.

I say: have a positive talk with your accompanist. He/she simply probably
doesn't realize that the current way of doing things is distracting and
inefficient. Simply: it's a matter of educating your choir and accompanist
about the benefits of doing things in a new way. If you frame it in such a
positive-for-all-of-us, not a Me-Director-You-Peon way, they'll probably
come cheerfully along, and even laugh when they forget and are gently
reminded about good rehearsal practice.

Best of luck!

Frank Wells


--
on February 3, 2004 7:44am

Personally, I'm just glad they show up for the rehearsal.
We're all in it together, and sometimes they know more
than I do about where they need help. I haven't lost
control of a rehearsal because of it. In a perfect world.
. . but we're dealing with volunteers here. I would rather
have the spirit than the perfect rehearsal manners.

Mary Alice Powell


--
on February 3, 2004 7:44am

Hi, all,

While I can understand, appreciate, and to a certain extent, agree with Mr.
Norton's concern about hierarchy in the choral structure rather than a group of
equals, I empathize with the original poster because there are areas in which
the conductor is musically superior to *some* of the choir members - and in
many choirs, most of the choir members.

The church choir I began directing this past fall is accustomed to directors
who spend the entire rehearsal period teaching merely the notes of the
anthems. In comes me, who takes time to have them stretch, relax, do breathing and
technical exercises, and teach them for a few minutes every week how to read
music. In addition, I teach them as we learn each anthem about vowels such as
how to handle diphthongs, about shaping the phrases, and other such "esoteric"
(to them) ideas...I had one choir member about ten years ago, who is a
seasoned musician but did not major in music in college (she teaches piano for pay
but sings and is very active musically in my old church in another state)
actually tell me that I must be way out in left field when I suggested that the
leading tone when approaching the tonic step of the scale should be sung at a
slightly higher tuning! She said, "I never heard anything like that." Because
she had never heard of it, I was wrong and should not ask the choir to adjust
their tuning this way.

I have received comments DURING THE REHEARSAL TIME and for all the choir
members to hear, that that all of the above activities are "a waste of time. We
waste so much time when we could be learning the music" (which to them means:
the notes). These are older people, many of them retired, who have little
patience for changes that they deem unnecessary and why change what, to them,
"ain't broke."

I resent when I hear these comments especially in the forum of the choir
rehearsal, and am myself having trouble knowing how to approach this problem.
Since I am new to the choir and fairly new to the church, I am feeling a need
especially to gain these people's trust and so I don't wish to offend. However,
I think that respect ought to work both ways.

I'd like to throw a question out to you all: if you were to develop a "choir
member's guide to choral etiquette," what advice would be in it? I'm very
intrigued by the idea of such a guide, and would like to know what you all might
suggest. Does anyone out there already offer this for their choir members?
(with suggestions such as "please do not talk while another vocal section is
rehearsing their part: rather, silently think your own notes as you hear them
sing, or quietly hum your notes)

Much of this could be addressed during the rehearsal - but when I receive
comments as blatant as the "this is a total waste of our time" one, and I know
that vocal warm-ups and learning to read music is GOOD for these people, I think
that to address such types of disrespectful comments in the context of the
rehearsal could lead to unpleasantness. I hate to pull rank and just say,
"Well, I'm the director and I'm trained in this specialized field and although I
understand that you're struggling with these activities, I ask you to respect my
position and also to trust me that this is going to help the choir in the
long run."

I'm not good at confrontation but perhaps this is a great time for me
to learn! But this type of problem could be so much more easily handled
through an "etiquette guide" where someone is not being put directly on the
spot...Letting the choir members know in a specific way what is expected or asked of
them seems to me to be a pro-active way of setting up expectations and
fostering a positive rehearsal dynamic. I am not "hierarchical" at all in my heart,
but I do believe that there is a line which ought not to be crossed because
then it becomes a lack of respect for me as a person and as their
leader/teacher. I view them as equals in humanity and often my superiors
spiritually, having lived many years with Christ and weathered so many life crises.
But I know that I am musically more knowledgeable than they are. I just don't know
how to escape this fact or to pretend it isn't so, even for the sake of avoiding
the appearance of "a hierarchy."

At any rate, please any of you who are interested to contribute, send me your
suggestions for a "choral member etiquette guide" and I'll compile them for
the list.

Thanks!

Cherwyn Ambuter


--
on February 3, 2004 7:54am

P.S. Hi...This is Cherwyn Ambuter, again...I would like to hasten to add, if
I may, that my relationship with the choir members is generally
wonderful...Many have been saying that I'm doing a tremendous job, and they blessed
me with
a very generous Christmas gift and they give me all sorts of hugs and praise
for the job I am doing, and they become concerned if I fall ill...They have
very appreciative of my willingness to work with them and the choir has grown by
50% in numbers of members since I came on board! So, I feel in general that
they are affirming of me and we are "adopting each other," if that makes any
sense.

It's just the occasional comment that I hear about technical, musical,
stretching, and sightsinging training activities being "a waste of time" that makes
me feel unrespected. There is so much more "out there" besides just learning
the notes, and my dream is to gently lead them along until they experience the
wonderment of all that can be. I believe in them and believe that they are
capable of moving, tiny step by tiny step, forward in their skills and comfort
level with reading music. In the meantime, my question to you all had to do
with how to deal with comments like these in rehearsal. This is not a class of
schoolchildren, where I can simply place a "0" in the gradebook and rule with
an iron rod in this way to gain their cooperation. Nor would I wish to do
this, if I had that type of authority, unless I had to to maintain order! That
would not be the type of relationship I would hope to have with a choir.

I've explained politely to them why stretches are helpful, how we sing with
the entire body (not with just lungs and mouth, as they believe) and we need to
be relaxed and warmed up in order to allow a nice, beautiful round tone to
emerge. I speak with enthusiasm and my best persuasion to "sell them" on it,
but it doesn't seem to be working. I don't really need their agreement, I
realize: I need only their cooperation, and sometimes the understanding comes with
the doing. And, I do have their cooperation, but not without the occasional
complaint.

They do love how they have been sounding lately on their anthems and are
taking pride in that, and the congregation seems to be going wild about it - and
I've been hoping this will help persuade them that the time spent is not
wasted...But even if they are never persuaded, what I would like is polite and
supportive behavior during rehearsal, even if they disagree with me.

It sounds as though this is a regular occurrence, but it has happened only
once in rehearsal - last week - since I came on board in September, but someone
came to me in private also and told me that several others think it's a waste
of time. I might just be oversensitive! But, my pastor is the strongest bass
in the choir (he holds the basses together and I'm not sure how we could
function as an SATB choir without him!), and he himself has taken to coming in to
rehearse with us at the moment we begin working on the anthems, not
participating with us in the warmup activities...even though his office is right
around
the corner and he stays there between prayer meeting and choir. This sends
the message to the choir that the relaxation and warmups are a waste of time in
his mind. I know I'm going to have to confront this at some point soon, but
again it refers to rehearsal etiquette.

I agree with the writer who decried a hierarchical structure, but at the same
time I guess I am coming around to the view that yes, there does need to be a
line which does imply hierarchy on some level - the director decides how
rehearsal time is spent, and the choir is to follow the director's leadership. It
works best this way. It's not that they are not our equals; but the very
format of having a director implies that the director is to lead, determine
direction, and implement vision. Otherwise, we can just form a chamber group of
people who work on an "equal" footing and have no agreed-upon leader. If my
choir elected to form their own chamber group, they could certainly just learn
the notes and not have warmups, and I would have a great load taken off my
shoulders, although I would miss leading the group! I can't with good conscience
just have them go "cold" (literally, here in the mountains filled with snow)
into singing the anthem repertoire.

P.S. I have a clinician who presents vocal technique clinics to church
choirs coming in to do a workshop for them, and she plans to reinforce with them
what I have been sharing. They are excited about this approaching enrichment
experience. Perhaps this will help!...But this doesn't remove the "etiquette"
issue of certain choir members feeling free to offer their opinions during
rehearsal on how we spend our time.

Many of them have been in the choir for 40 years or more (one, for 60
years!), and perhaps I am just bringing too many changes for them to handle all at
once. They never had to think about tone production or vowel unification before.


Cherwyn Ambuter


--
on February 3, 2004 7:57am
Dawn asked:

> How would you deal with having church choir members
> address the accompanist in the middle of a rehearsal,
> asking him or her to play a note or line, rather than
> addressing me, the director, with his/her question?

Personally, I'd encourage this if it is only occasionally.
Any chorister who is aware that there is a problem with a
note or a line (which I may or may not have been aware of)
will save me time and trouble trying to isolate problems.
For me, the only time it would become an issue is if is is
done in an intrusive manner, or if one person is doing it
excessively. Otherwise, since the accompanist is going to
have to play the note or line anyway, it is just more
efficient, and makes for a more efficient and effective use
of time resources to direct the request to the person best
equipped to solve it.

ns


--
on February 4, 2004 2:35am
Cherwyn,

I understand your feelings. It sounds as if our situations are remarkably
similar. I am having to deal with some of the same comments, frustrations
and feelings. You'll have to decide if his singing is a blessing or not.
In my case, my minister reads music and could sing in the choir, but won't.

I may have become cynical, but I feel it's almost a no-win situation. No
matter how one explains things, to those whose experience and knowledge are
limited, they don't know enough to know what they don't know. They see it
as just "singing" and something they cannot change, at least without a lot
of work (which they aren't willing to do, or often think is necessary at
church). Many people have an attitude that whatever sloppy effort they give
at church is good enough for God. That is horrible theology.

It is sad, but some people are just ignorant and lazy. It is our
responsibility to love them anyway, and do our best to try to find a way to
reach them if at all possible. This isn't always possible, unfortunately.
We will have some losses. For almost any endeavor, there will all be the
mumblers and grumblers. I think it is best to just ignore them, unless it
starts causing morale problems for the group, and then one must address them
one-on-one and ask for their support. I think some do it out of habit, and
don't even realize it. Others feel threatened and insecure, because they
are venturing into new territory. I think many, if not most, adults like to
settle into comfortable little patterns/niches (ruts) and stay there. They
don't like having to change or grow, but a basic fact of life that all need
to learn is that there is no such thing as maintaining the status quo. In
nature, things grow and evolve or they die. In singing, one is either
improving or getting worse.

Following are steps I would take (and/or have taken or are about to take
myself).

First, I would continue to pray for guidance about this, and for God to
change the pastor's and other choir member's hearts.

Second, stay positive as you can and keep doing what you're doing. It
sounds, by this post and your other posts on this board, that you are doing
your best to say and do the right things. Sometimes hearing someone else
say the same thing a different way helps, so perhaps your clinician will
help. If you have a tape recorder and can use it in rehearsals, use it to
show the group (and those individuals) how the work you're having them do is
paying dividends in the form of a more beautiful sound, and how that is
giving God a better, more heartfelt, beautiful gift.

Third (and hopefully it won't come to this) I would decide which is more
important, his singing in the choir, and possibly eventually totally
undermining your authority, or two, your having control of the situation and
eveyrone's cooperation, but possibly losing him as a choir member. It may
come down to one or the other. He may consciously or unconsciously be trying
to sabotage you. It wouldn't be the first time. Many ministers get very
jealous of their music directors when they enjoy a lot of success and get a
lot of accolades. Many of their egos simply cannot tolerate sharing the
limelight with another. In fairness to him, however, he may not realize
that he's doing this or the effect it could be having on others. What you
decide will show you what your next step must be. If you can live with it,
and it doesn't seem to have affected anyone else, great. He will just be
diminishing himself in others' eyes. If you can't, and/or it is affecting
others, then you must deal with it.

In that situation, I would try to find a joke or anecdote that relates to
this situation, but has a diffent subject matter/situation and share it with
your pastor. Share it with him in passing. Maybe he will take the subtle
hint. If that helps, great but if not, and you have a solid relationship
with him, you may need to speak with your pastor more directly. I would ask
him if something bothers him about the warm-ups and vocal work and try to
approach it from that angle. If he doesn't respond to that, I would try to
find a way to reinforce tell him that you need his cooperation and support
and that he is setting a bad example and undermining your authority and
leadership, and that eventually it will cause problems with the choir and
for you. Express it as much as possible in terms of your feelings (how his
comments and actions make you feel), and not in an accusatory or blaming
manner. I would try to find a gentle way to remind him that God has given
us a gift in musical talent/ability, but that it is an unfinished product,
and that it is your responsibility, as a faithful steward, to develop your
singers' gifts/potential to their fullest to glorify God in the best manner
possible, and that it is each singer's responsibility, in grateful
appreciation of God's graciousness, to do one's best to learn, stretch and
improve one's gift and then to use it in service to Him. Hopefully, those
will work.

At least in my situation, I have found that trying to find a gentle way to
remind folks like him that they dosn't know everything about singing and
that no matter how many choirs they have sung in, if they haven't
continually studied voice, and/or been trained as a choral director, then
they aren't qualified to state what is needed and what isn't, simply doesn't
work, and will only cause further alienation, frustration and
antagonization. They simply are incapable of hearing it, because their
minds are snapped shut. Old dogs can learn new tricks if they are open and
willing to work/learn, but many don't want to have to work that hard.
Unfortunately, that is a by-product of our culture today and the desire for
immediate gratification. Many don't know or don't care that great things
take great effort and time, they only want to skim the surface.

If he doesn't change and you can't live with it, as a last resort (because
it will probably anger him), I would also ask him to see it from the
opposite perspective. Ask him how he would like it if you groused during
worship or his staff meetings, complained that some things he did weren't
necessary, and constantly showed up late to avoid them. He wouldn't like it
at all. If he is going to be a respectful, professional colleague, then he
owes you the same respect. If he can't do that, then perhaps it is best he
drop out of the choir.

I'm at that point with my only tenor. He consistently shows up late for
rehearsals during the week. Half the time he doesn't show up at all.
Rarely does he let me know when he's not going to be here. On Sunday
mornings, he shows up at 5 minutes to 11:00. It's not fair to me or the
rest of the choir. He has more experience singing in choirs than anyone
else in the group other than me, and has a wonderful natural talent, but
needs the vowel work more than anyone. He's lazy, however, and just doesn't
think it important. I'm going to speak to my choir committee and ask them
for their thoughts. If I get their support, I've about decided that I will
get him to meet me for lunch and lovingly point out to him that his actions
are disrespectful, hurting the morale and efforts of the choir, aren't fair
to anyone (especially himself) and that I just can't live with the situation
any longer. I will make it clear to him that I hope he continues in the
choir, but should he choose to do so, the choir has decided that he "must"
be there on time, and let me know in advance when he will not be able to be
there so I can plan accordingly. I would reinforce this should he continue
in the choir by not letting him sing if he shows up late on Sunday morning.
If he drops out of the choir, so be it. We'll sing unison, two-part and SAB
music until other tenors can be found/recruited.

I don't know if any of this helps, but at least know that you're "heard,"
and that you're not alone. I'll keep you and your situation in my prayers.

Regards,

Craig D. Collins
Director of Music Ministries
Mt. Zion United Methodist Church
19600 Zion Street
Cornelius, NC 28031
(704) 892-8566
(704) 892-3143 FAX
ccollins(a)mtzionumc.net


--
on February 4, 2004 7:36am

I wasn't going to add to this thread, but here's some things I did to
overcome the same problems Cherwyn and others are talking about.....

1- make rehearsal tapes and encourage them to listen to them in their car
on the way to work or wherever. I even made a couple of simple cds for
those who wanted that instead.

2- when someone makes it obvious through their comments that they haven't
learned the notes make a point of reminding them of the tapes/cds. I always
reinforce the idea that there's a certain amount of preparation that must
be done if anything of a *musical* value will be accomplished in one hour,
when we have as many as six to ten pieces to rehearse.

3- Make a simple quarterly newsletter for the choir that's available on any
table where even congregational members can get one if they want. Include
every once in a while info about the values of diction, outside
preparation, etc. I mixed all that in with humorous music-related stories
or jokes to keep things light. After the first one went out I noticed an
immediate change in rehearsal etiquette.

4- make self-evaluation (in *written* form) part of what choir members
expect to happen. I always had them self-evaluate a several weeks before my
own job evaluation took place so I'd know where I might be weak and be able
to address the major points. I found a good time to do this was just after
a major musical event. They knew exactly whether they were prepared or not
for it and appeared to be more objective about their contributions.

These sorts of problems take time to handle, persistence, and usually more
than one approach.....

Cecil Rigby
rigrax(a)earthlink.net (personal)
www.harrockhall.com
crigby(a)harrockhall.com


--
on February 4, 2004 8:03am
Been lurking on this one for a while now, thought I'd throw in my nickel
(Canadian nickels being roughly equal to a couple American pennies).

I, from the chorister's point of view, would approach the situation
differently depending on the situation. If I knew that I were the only one
making the mistake, and saw the conductor working with another section, I
might certainly whisper over to the accompanist to subtley play a few notes.
If, however, I know that the entire section is missing something, I'll make
it a real question to the director, knowing that the section as a whole
needs work on the passage. Granted, this doesn't work in situations where
the director's working from the piano, or if the accompanist is more than a
few metres away.

On the broader subject of rehearsal etiquette, I find short (and obviously
quiet) conversation between section members quite helpful sometimes. In
many choirs, while the director can be working with another section, we in
the bass section might be checking over our breaths and carry-throughs,
silly little counting problems, etc, in an attempt to fix the problems so
they don't happen again, and the director doesn't have to take more time out
of the rehearsal. I realize that there are many choirs for which this
wouldn't work, but I wouldn't suggest that what they're doing comes from a
lack of respect for you as a musician and director. They may be trying to
save you the effort of having to fix things yourself. Granted, if it truly
does disturb the rehearsal as a whole, it can't continue.

Hierarchies work well because there can be many levels to them. If the CEO
of a major company was alerted to every single computer malfunction that
happened in his company, he'd never get any work done. Small problems can
certainly be (quickly and quietly) addressed by small groups, but the large
ones (whole sections missing phrases, etc.) certainly do need to be taken to
the top. JMB

James Baldwin
jamesmichaelbaldwin(a)rogers.com


--
on February 4, 2004 8:07am

Go to your favorite search engine (google, for example) and enter
"choircommandments". Add one sentence to #7 "All questions and comments should be
addressed to the choir director." Modify further as desired. Distribute copies to
your choir and the organist. This should help to solve your problem.

Clif Jacobs


--
on February 4, 2004 8:10am

Having been a member of a church choir, and currently being a member of a
collegiate choir, I have yet to really have to look at the etiquette situation from
the director's point of view, but I do have a pretty clear idea of what is good/bad
from a choir member's point of view. One big thing that is always important to
emphasize is that you don't want to waste anybody's time (least of all your own).
So many of the guidelines are going to be things to minimize wasted time. As long
as you keep reminding the choir members of this, they'll be much happier with you.

-Don't talk (to yourself or to others) while getting instructions from the
director, this allows instructions to only have to be given once, and cuts down on
the amount of "wasted time."

-Be open minded (this goes for choir member and director alike). Just because
you've never heard of something explained in a certain way doesn't mean it is
wrong. Give it a try and decide if it works for you or not. If not, you don't have
to use that method again, but you can at least say that you tried it out.

-If they complain about the stretching/relaxing being a waste of time, explain how
the vocal cords work. Make sure to explain the effect of stress and tension on the
muscles that control the cords. Remember, physical stretching usually means that
there is mental relaxation going on. Mental relaxation not only helps to reduce the
amount of stress present, but it also allows the mind to assimilate information
much more easily and rapidly.

-Always go for the teachable moments. A mini-lecture at the beginning of rehearsal
may not work with a volunteer choir. Vocalizing on various vowel sounds before
actually starting in on a piece will allow you as the director to model certain
vowels, and you can then refer back to that vowel shape during the course of
rehearsal if you come across that vowel in a piece you are working on. Also, don't
be afraid to stop in the middle of a piece and work a vowel, that way the choir can
learn it in context.

-Tape record several rehearsals/performances throughout a set period of time. If
you can get the choir to "humor you" for a period of time and do things your way,
when they can then listen to themselves over that period of time, they will be able
to tell for themselves if they sound better at the end than they did at the
beginning. They will then be more apt to trust you in the future. (Nobody really
wants to sound bad intentionally).

-Don't try to make all these changes at once, and ask for feedback from the choir.
If you can give them some sense of ownership in how they sound, they will take more
pride in working to achieve excellence. If you want to make a Choir Handbook
of "rules and guidelines" for the choir, hand out a draft copy of the handbook at
the end of the year, and ask for their input on things they'd like to see in there.

Those are some of the things that I've noticed and appreciate in a choral
rehearsal. If you have any questions for me about the things I listed, please don't
hesitate to email me at jlwestman(a)anderson.edu.

-Joel Westman


--
on February 4, 2004 2:45pm
Cherwyn, I don't have your email (I get this off usenet) so I'll
put the answer onto the newsgroup, and hope you'll get it.

1) The reflexive abhorrence of heirarchy, comfortable as it is to
modern minds, is not a useful approach to the making of music,
particularly in large groups. There were, ISTR, some attempts at
running orchestras without conductors, during the 1920's. They
were not successful.

More recent groups as disparate as the JATP Allstars and the
Police have run aground on the inability of members to establish a
leadership function.

There's a quote from the movie "Army of Darkness" that goes,
"Right..., Wrong..., Whatever. I'm the one with the gun." In a
choir, the director may or may not be superior to any given
chorister on any given point of musicality. Superior...
Inferior... Whatever... You're hired to make the decisions. That
includes, how loud, how long, how fast, and which of the six
errors that occurred is most critical to fix in the time you have.
It's your job to make the call.

I occasionally have an observation to make from the back row, on
musical matters, organizational matters, or the general absurdity
of the human condition. I have to decide whether it's worth
bringing everybody else's work to a sudden halt before I open my
mouth. With the onset of immense age, I come to realize that there
isn't much which is really worth saying.

2) I've mentioned before that most choirs would benefit from the
Madden Rules, as he explained them when he coached the Oakland
Raiders, which was at the time the rest home for the the socially
incapable head cases of the NFL:

1) Show up on time.
2) Pay attention.
3) Go like hell on Sunday.

Showing up on time includes being there early enough to get your
music sorted out, to get to your seat, and get your breath before
the rehearsal.

Paying attention includes being sober, straight, undistracted,
focussed on the music, and (as david56 pointed out) bringing a
pencil, to mark the music.

As for the chorister that couldn't believe you about tuning the
leading note: My dad used to say, "Stick with me, you'll see all
kinds of things you never heard of." Use your judgement if you
think that might help...

rm
on February 5, 2004 12:04am

"Choraltalk Gateway" wrote in message
news:1ed.18745620.2d4f4e93(a)aol.com...
> In a message dated Sunday, February 1, 2004, at about 1:25 pm, Dawn
Sonntag
> writes:
>
> > accompanist in the middle of a rehearsal ... ... Your comments
would be helpful.
> >>
>
> Huh? If I found myself in such a non-colleguial, hierarchically oriented,
> excessively formal environment, I might be searching for a new church
*and*
> choir PDQ.

Coming from the opposite direction:

I belong to a Jewish musical ensemble in which nearly everyone is extremely
outspoken about nearly everything. I think there are definite cultural
issues about the need to debate and, uh, "externally process" everything. In
particular, the women in our group, myself among them, tend to be what one
might call "strong personalities" feminists to the core, and not the
sit-down and shut-up types. What underscores to me that this is a cultural
norm is that the two quiet women in the group that come to mind are both not
Jews by birth and weren't raised like we were.

As we have grown as an ensemble, it has become apparent to us all how
greatly the need for sitting-down (or standing up, as commanded), and
shutting up really is. How important it is, no matter what we may feel about
Male Authority :-), to*listen* to our director, and follow his instruction.
It's not just a matter of being together as an ensemble, and sounding clean.
I think it is extremely important, on a spiritual level, to let go of
ego-mind, to be freed of a need to think, while making music, whether or not
that music is spiritually based. When you have a director, and you follow
that director, it is so much easier to do that letting go. Then you can just
sing no, rather, the music and the ensemble are one, because there is no
"you" to be doing the singing and the playing. As an ensemble, when you've
completely let go, you can be an ever-clearer channel for that which you are
attempting to express and communicate.

> Is this an excessively large choir where pandemonium and disorder could
break
> out so easily?

We have pandemonium regularly break out in practice with only 16 voices.
(hee-hee!)

> Are not the director, accompanist, and choir members regarding
> each other as equals in enhancing the congregation's religious experience?

No. Certain people are more talented than others in certain areas; they also
carry different responsibilities.

On a deeper level, there are real issues for us all to learn in the
processing of religious experience with regard to issues of equality, and
with regard to issues of yielding to Higher Authority. Those of us in a
Western tradition have a literature of a patriarchial male-identified God
regularly commanding us to do this or that. Yes, you can take it just on
face value, either on a He Commands/I Obey or He Commands/I Rebel level. If
one can get beyond the blind obedience or blind rebellion, I think there's
real juicy stuff here to work on regarding one's relationship with the
Divine.



Warm Regards,

Claire Petersky
Please replace earthlink for mouse-potato and .net for .com

Home of the meditative cyclist:
http://home.earthlink.net/~cpetersky/Welcome.htm

Our new CD comes out this month! See: http://www.tiferet.net

"To forgive is to set the prisoner free and then discover the prisoner was
you."
on February 5, 2004 12:04am
> I have received comments DURING THE REHEARSAL TIME ...
that all of the above activities are "a waste of time. We
> waste so much time when we could be learning the music"

Dear Cherwyn,
Even though I work with school choirs and not with church choirs, I get
protests too from certain 'impatient' singers. I guess we all do.
What I try to do in these cases (always adolescents !) is to propose a
compromise, for example: if we are doing solfegge or vocal exercises,
instead of just singing music, and some protest, I set a time allowance of a
very tollerable time span, maybe 5 minutes for vocal exercises, maybe 10'
for sight-singing short simple exericise, maybe 3 minutes for tuning ideas -
like keeping that leading tone high pitched, chordal exercises to tune
well -. With a time allowance, protests generally stop, because it would be
obviously unsupportive to everyone to disagree with a 5 minute study ! So
they stop and concede us 5 minutes. And as practice sessions go on, people
get into it, the protesters discover the value of such 'extra-musical'
studies, and forget to watch the clocks, or just 'give in'. This is my
experience. . do what you need to do in small doses, a few minutes..
Everyone may even just pick up your ideas, and you may not even need to
augment this preparatory part of your rehearsal.

Good luck .

Joan Yakkey
Via Cairoli, 78
50131 Florence, Italy
tel. 011 +39.055.576611
joyakkey(a)tin.it
http://www.geocities.com/jyakkey/JoanYakkeyideas.html
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