A Summer Suggestion...
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    My first year as a choir director, someone asked a question during a rehearsal sometime in May.

    “Are we going to take the summer off?”

    I was about two syllables into responding with “I wasn’t really planning to,” when I noticed the combination of hope and exhaustion on the faces of my choir members.

    “What if we kept singing through the summer, but didn’t rehearse on Wednesdays? We’ll just come an hour before the service and work on things. Easy things, things we’ve done before. How does that sound?”

    And so it was that my choir landed on what apparently (unbeknownst to me) is a typical schedule throughout church-music-land: no rehearsals after Trinity Sunday until about the first week of September. But we’re still providing music for 2+ months.

    It seems the pattern of having your choir continue to sing, working on things before Mass and programming literature they’ve done before, is pretty common, and that the other common pattern is going from a full choir to just a small schola or a single cantor. Along with this is typically a simplification of the music overall, favoring smaller choral works and (often) more congregational music.

    Among the problems with this for a music director is that there isn’t a lot of opportunity to learn music ahead of time for the summer months when they come. We’re all too busy on Lent and then Holy Week and then Eastertide and then Ascension and then Pentecost and then Trinity Sunday and then Corpus Christi. Throw in a handful of Confirmation services, Baccalaureate Masses, and other end-of-school-year festivities, and its easy to get to the Summer without any decent “general” choral music in repertoire.

    And yet, as the summer months roll in, and the thermometer and weekly attendance move in opposite directions, we choir directors struggle to maintain a balance between our desire to offer our best and the reality of the summer lull.

    So here’s a suggestion…
    Chant the Propers.

    Read the rest of this article at the Chant Cafe.
  • '...when I noticed the combination of hope and exhaustion on the faces...'

    This should be one's guide as to whether or not to have a summer recess: the faces of one's choir members. If they seem to need a recess, by all means grant them one. This will pay off with added commitment during the 'choir season'. On the other hand, I have been priviledged with some choirs who would not have entertained the thought of having a summer recess. Such groups are exemplary and are a boon to their choirmasters and parishes. Most, though, probably expect a summer recess and should be granted one. Adam's system of Sunday morning rehearsals of easy stuff is worthy of emulation. This may be the best way to accomodate people who vanish for their vacations and such through the summer. Perhaps getting them to sign up for what Sundays they will be present would enable one to plan reasonably well what to do and when. By all means, read their faces.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 358
    In my parish, I give my singers July and August off from rehearsal. I cover the masses myself and the singers are welcome to join me if they wish, but they are not required to. What is interesting is that the majority of the singers continue to sing their regular masses, and as usual, they often sing two or three masses per weekend. I think that they just enjoy singing together and its fun to watch them serve. I also use the summer time to seed new parts of the ordinary that I intend to use once September rolls around. Since my singers work very hard, they deserve the time off, and I can use that time to try to do a better job during the next "choir season". It is also when I do the majority of the recruitment for the next year.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen francis
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,960
    I hold rehearsals once a month after mid June. At those rehearsals we practice all the psalms and propers we will be singing until our next rehearsal. I used to try having summer rehearsals more often, but hardly anyone showed up. With once a month, most attend.