Choral Caffeine: The Conductor's Role
Date: March 12, 2014
Conducting. It’s nothing more than down-left-right-up, telling singers which notes they missed, and preening on stage, right?
Wrong. Oh, so very wrong. When done correctly, the successful choral conductor melds musicianship, leadership, artistry, and a special intangible something that inspires singers to follow their conductor into the heart of musical and poetic vulnerably. In his article, “Reflections on the Conductors Role” (North Central Melisma, Fall 2006), Joseph Flummerfelt, shares a few thoughts on the conductor’s art:
I believe conducting is much more about connection and far less about controlling. To be sure, we strongly influence and, in a certain sense, control the dynamic and energetic properties of the musical line. We clearly set the tempo and determine the timing between sections and movements, etc.
Choral artistry can only emerge when an intimate depth of communication exists between conductor and singer. At the core of any human interconnection is a constant balancing of the conductor as actor and reactor. The actor speaks his or her truth without fear of reaction of others. The reactor openly receives what is coming back from others without the fear of being hurt.
The conductor as actor projects a quality of command coming from a deep well of healthy self-assurance. By being fully grounded, as well as having completely internalized the score,
we are able to get beyond the fearful manipulative constraints of the ego and thus project to our singers a quality of assurance, couched in humility, which enables the singers to trust our musical decisions.
This grounding thus allows us to be vulnerable, to be open, to listen deeply, and in a very real sense, to be informed by what is coming from the singers.
(For additional articles on a dazzling array of choral topics, visit ChorTeach.)