Last week we talked about how to manage varying levels of our singers' musical abilities. Now here is the dilemma. You want to do a piece of music that everyone loves BUT when you start it, everyone seems to be having difficulty. So do we just forget it and hope we get different singers in the future to do this piece or are there strategies for succeeding at what may seem to be beyond us. My husband likes to say, "There isn't anything I can't do. It's just that the impossible takes longer." I couldn't agree more.
1. Everyone has to feel successful. I have mentioned before that I do use recordings sometimes to familiarize the choir with the sound of the piece. You Tube is a great resource for getting a good rendition of the piece in the arrangement you are attempting. You don't want to play it so many times that they take on the style of the recorded choir, but just enough to be able to follow their parts in the written music. Once that finished sound is in their heads, it really doesn't feel as hard.
2. Start backwards. Have the basses read over their part and EVERYONE sing. They are doing sight reading but don't know it so don't tell them. Then tenors, altos and lastly sopranos. Please truly just read over the part. This is not the time to get technical although you don't want flagrant mistakes made like note lengths or phrases broken unnecessarily.
3. Go back and mark phrases and other details.
4. Sing again backwards obeying the markings from before. Please don't belabour any of these steps. Keep it moving.
5. Start putting the parts together non-traditionally. Have the altos and tenors sing together. Then the basses and sopranos. Then tenors and basses or altos and basses. Mix it up. It heightens the reading but also tunes the ears to other parts.
6. Sing and enjoy. Make certain to catch them doing something right. Point out the great phrases and perfect breathing. Then, mark a trouble area and go over it ONCE or TWICE.
7. Leave it to simmer and pull it out next practice.
Have you tried any of these ideas? What is your key to learning a challenging piece of music? Leave us a comment. We would love to learn from you.