about those Choral Works of Mercy
  • Note: I am not asking this because of anything that happened over Christmas - all went very well. :-)

    An earlier thread introduced the (sound, but also hilarious) 'choral works of mercy'. The one that I'd like to revisit is:

    (Forgive offences willingly) When reviewing last week's performance, only speak favorably

    I'm all for positive attitude and encouragement, and maybe no one here ever has a less than stellar week, but should that ever happen, what's your recommended approach?
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • I'd be interested in the thread you mention - I did a search, but didn't see anything for "choral works of mercy".

    Personally, I believe the axiom "Virtus in medium est" as well as "Honesty is the best policy."

    As a performer, I've found it helpful when the director addresses mistakes in rehearsal and even after a performance - a) it is easier to correct something when you know it needs improvement; b) it's easier to know that a compliment is genuine if the director is also honest when it isn't good.

    On the other hand, I think it is important to avoid belaboring the issue, especially after the fact. One can simply say - such and such didn't go very well... here's an adjustment we will make in the future. In an analysis, I think it can be important to especially take ownership of things that I might have done that caused or compounded an issue. Might be I wasn't very clear in my directing, might be I should have ensured everyone was ready, etc.. That helps the group to see that it isn't about apportioning blame - it is about always striving to offer our very best.

    Sometimes the adjustment can be painful. In a previous group several years ago, the ladies struggled with one of the Credos (I'm thinking either II or V). We were doing it over 6-8 weeks consecutively. After the 3rd week where the ladies struggled (including two practices where I reviewed their part with them), the adjustment was to have the ladies sing the entire Credo for a few weeks. They weren't particularly happy with that solution, but it wasn't anything other than getting them to see the entire picture of how all the phrasing fit together. It might have inspired some to practice on their own as the improvement was very rapid, and later in the year they had no problems with it at all. When the men were not stepping up for Propers, I assigned all the Propers through Lent as men-only Propers, with corresponding shift in rehearsal. It really jump-started the men as having a much more contributory role - and also developed one them into the lead cantor and more importantly a key leader within the group.

    As long as it isn't mean-spirited, I find that most choir members respond well to hearing the truth.
  • Maybe it was "musical works of mercy". It started here, and then other people added more

    (Feed the hungry) To arrange Holy Communion for the choir;
    (Give drink) To provide water during rehearsals
    (Clothe the naked) To perform the propers;
    (Harbor the stranger) To welcome the TLM chant schola on Sunday afternoon;
    (Visit the sick) To maintain the organ;
    (Ransom the captive) To welcome refugees from outside the parish;
    (Bury the dead) To dispose of the junk music.

    (Instruct the ignorant) Teach beginners music notation;
    (Counsel the doubtful) Speak with redundancy, so that distracted people can get
    the info when you repeat it;
    (Admonish sinners) Give the choir specific instructions about cutoffs & breaths;
    (Bear wrongs patiently) Be glad for crying babies, since they all come with young
    (Forgive offences willingly) When reviewing last week's performance, only speak
    (Comfort the afflicted) Reform the bad music from past years slowly;
    (Pray for the living & dead) Mean it when you sing it.
  • my favorite in that thread was >> Bear your director's wrongs patiently!

    And so my singers do. Amen, Alleluia.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • There is a school of thought that any correction of mistakes or aberrances by the director is "unprofessional", that the singers should take full responsibility for their own actions and wrongdoing.

    I do not believe in this. I believe a guiding force is beneficial or even necessary; after all, it's the director's job to direct and not merely to, to quote Hector Berlioz, "put down his baton, smiling, after ruining another masterpiece." If achieving proper musicality and discipline requires treading uncomfortable ground and possibly intruding on a few egos, so be it.

    But I also believe that the focus should be on the musicality, not the personalities or the power dynamics. The singers should be made to understand that whatever constructive criticism is given is not directed at them as musicians or human beings, but at the product of their work. This is not always an easy distinction to make, and I do not believe it has always been made in the past, particularly with community choirs. This also means that the director should not assume he or she is above reproach merely because of his or her position. That role is equally important and carries even more responsibility; it is not merely a soapbox to look down on the choir from.