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Chris Rowbury comes out against perfection:

Which is why I don’t like singers or choirs or music which is just so, so perfect. The blend is perfect, the rendition is perfect, the enunciation is perfect, the costumes are perfect. I may as well stay at home and read the score and imagine the music in my head.

If you ever go to one of those kinds of concerts you will tend to find the audiences on tenterhooks, unable to relax. As soon as the singers walk on stage you know what you’re in for and you start to worry for them. Perfection is impossible, of course, but you will them to succeed. You’re on the edge of your seat hoping against hope that there won’t be a bum note or a missed cue. Then you applaud wildly (and over-enthusiastically) at the end, because it’s all over and you can relax.

Then there are those concerts where the musical director puts you at ease with a bit of light-hearted chit chat, where the singers are obviously relaxed and enjoying themselves, when a wrong starting note is given and the world doesn’t end. At the first laugh or mistake you can feel the audience relax and sigh and settle in for an evening of entertainment without having to worry. We’re all human, and we’re all in this together. They’re on our side!

Sounds right to me. I always tell my choir: the audience will forgive you if you sing a wrong note (they might not even notice), but they'll never forgive a dull performance.


on April 27, 2011 5:28am
And then there are those concerts that are alive with energy, where singers never know what direction the conductor is going until that moment.   Tempos change.   Dynamics change.   And if you bring in the JAZZ spirit, singers improvise on some songs, adding harmonies, adding counterpoint and texture, adding appropriate words.   The music becomes even more alive.   Then you bring in the FOLK spirit and the audience is singing along and the audience is on their feet dancing and cheering.   And the music becomes even more alive.
And the choral blend is like the blend of organisms in a forest.  Is it a perfect matched sound?   No.   It's a gorgeous rich living sound made up of diverse creative souls seeking harmony, singing as an act of compassion.
Nick Page
on May 2, 2011 3:02am
Hear, hear Nick.
on April 27, 2011 7:04am
From where I sit, there are three general rehearsal/performance paradigms:
  1. Singers are predominantly focused on the sound of the music; their goal is to produce the most beautiful/powerful/poignant sound as well as possible. These choirs tend to stand relatively still unless choralographed, and their tension (and collective focus) emanates into the audience.
  2. Singers are focused on singing exceptionally well, but also connecting that singing to the shared humanity within the song and themselves. They are relaxed, enjoying themselves, and wrong starting notes are no big deal. What makes this choir a joy to watch is not human imperfection (wrong notes, missed cues, tuning issues) but their human connection to self, music, and audience. They are moving; joyfully and powerfully engaged.
  3. Singers whose primary goal is the joy of singing rather than the joy of singing well. They move, they're having a great time collectively and individually. However, their choice comes with its attendant wrong notes and missed harmonies. For them that's no big deal, and shows their shared humanity to which the audience connects. But to me it detracts.

Personally, I find the first and third paradigms tough to sit through, though I prefer the third to the first. My ideal is the second paradigm ... I get the potent human connection but I also don't get distracted by wrong notes and other shorted technical elements pulling negative focus.

All my best,


on May 3, 2011 5:59pm
Love your point of view. it is stressfull to sing in a choir in which you can not make a mistake.  Thank God, I'm only human.