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Church Choir First Major Work (Forrest Te Deum)

In March I'm planning on doing Dan Forrest's recently published Te Deum with my church choir. They've never attempted to sing a work of this length (nor have I conducted one). Any advice on performing a major work for the first time, performing one with a church choir, performing this specific work, or dealing with an orchestra would be great. I'm going to have around 25 singers, almost all are good readers. Not sure yet what size orchestra I'll be able to afford.
on October 11, 2013 11:04am
I read this book in the first edition about 20 years ago. It has some great details and insights about specific pieces and how to make the best use of your time when a choral conductor steps in front of an orchestra for the first time.
Don't under-estimate the time it will take a choir to sing a major work. Starting rehearsals now is not out of the question. 
on October 12, 2013 5:31am
As Craig S makes the point of saying, you cannot rehearse the choir too much in this case. As far as the performing a major work, get a sound in your head and the words you want to use to get that sound across to your singers and orchestra. You don't say anything about orchestra you plan to use, but get to know some of their technical terms... Up bow/down bow, various articulations, etc. With your church choir situation and all the firsts taking place, be sure to compliment even the smallest achievements. You want them going into the performance feeling confident and that they can do this, not worried that they'll fall apart. Of course we all know that restarting a piece is not the end of the world, but they might! Good luck and I hope you'll keep us informed as how rehearsals progress and how the performance goes!
on October 13, 2013 7:12am
some suggestions.....
1. make sure YOU know the music thoroughly, and know what sound/balance you want to hear
2. rehearse the choir to the point that they do not need cues from you for every little thing -  you must be conducting the combined ensembles, not just the choir
3. make sure your rehearsal/performance space is set and ready 30 minutes before start time  (professional instrumentalists will arrive early to get set up and to get accustomed to the accoustics)          chairs and music stands in place,   good lighting,   heating/a.c.,   enough room for the instruments to do their work  (cellos need space to bow, etc.)
4. conduct from full score  (not the choral score)......."practice your concert conducting"  using the full score AT LEAST the last two choral rehearsals before getting with the instruments  (visualize where the instruments will be placed, practice your instrumental cues in those choral rehearsals)
5. be clear with your musical instructions    (exact dynamic level,  quality of sound, etc.)     *you don't have to tell a profssional instrumentalist how to play, just tell them what sound you want  ("connected notes,"    short notes,   crescendo-dim,  majestic sound,   heavy quality, etc. )
*** make sure the instrumental parts are MARKED with your musical/phrasing/dynamic/articulation expectation
6.  Start on time and end on time.            (if your rehearsal is long, ask the players at what point they expect a break;  usually union musicians expect 2 1/2 hour rehearsal with 15 minute break in middle)
7.  have the checks for the players on their stands at the start of the performance/service
8. as with any ensemble (choral, instrumental, large, small)   BE CLEAR WITH YOUR GESTURES    (clean pattern,   eye contact with performers,  "score in the head, not head in the score" )
Have fun yourself.   Instrumentalists want to please the conductor.    If the conductor knows what he/she wants and expects musically, the players will do all they can to make it happen.
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