Looking Back at Progress
  • TCJ
    Posts: 966
    Nearly a decade ago, I was interviewing the members of one choir and ascertaining their musical capability. I was not the director of this particular choir, but as the MD, I did need to get a feel for what we had. My assessments varied from horrible to pretty good. A few of those singers I had in my notes as "incapable of matching a pitch."

    A few years ago I took over that choir and some of those members were still in it and still had the same abilities. Fast forward to now, and those who were unable to match a pitch generally can now (and if they have difficulty solo, they can do it in a group) and we are just getting started on singing in harmony.

    Sometimes week-to-week it seems like a lot of time is being wasted, that we never get anywhere, but looking at the big picture, all the effort is well worth it. What's more, the choir members are very happy to see their own progress and be able to achieve more.

    Can't wait for the next ten years!

    Anything you want to share about your choirs?
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,932
    Our schola, which is the group with which I sing (as opposed to the new choir consecrated to polyphony and similar pieces) has been around for a long time. People come and go, of course, and it took a long time to mostly sing chant as the TLM wasn't weekly until 2016 (I believe) and the full propers, which only happened after the Plague. Our new core is pretty small, and we're limited in the number of people who can join us, because of our situation, but we punch above our weight; the longtime leader is committed to doing full tracts, for example. If we shorten any this year, it'll be because of reasons not fully under anyone's control, but we're always aiming to do them all in full, including this Sunday, on Palm Sunday, and on Good Friday.

    We sometimes do Latin metrical hymns and have long done English recessional hymns — which we now do in parts with the men of the new choir, now that we have a DM.

    We've improved year by year, so it feels like we have smaller increments of improvement now, but when we're good, we're really good if I dare brag a little. Shoot, I'm a better sight-reader of chant than I was a year ago. I can conduct thanks to the chironomy class offered through the CISM, which is great — even non-Solesmes singers can benefit immensely from it (and I've seen committed semiologists conduct in a way that Mocquereau would recognize!). Weekly Vespers (during the school year) means that we're better at singing Vespers, and rehearsals for any big feasts are much smoother, and they're almost oily-smooth when it's an office that we'd done when Vespers were only monthly, of which the fifth anniversary, to the Sunday, is this upcoming September 15.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,719
    I had three volunteers join my (very recently) former choir, and one of them, in particular, went from not reading any music, to now being my strongest Alto and the anchor of the section—singing stronger than a decade-seasoned Alto. There were never any breakthrough moments; it was just little bits of progress being made over the course of time, and suddenly, five years later, that amounting to a ton of progress. I consider her a great blessing not only because she has become one of my best friends, but because she taught me that totally untrained volunteers can contribute a lot to a choir if they are willing to put in the effort and are given the right guidance. That's a lesson I will carry with me my whole career.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,932
    Yes. I’m a firm believer in that. Nothing against pros as a sort of anchor and source of reliability if all else fails, but I will always have a real love for a volunteer choir doing good, excellent even, things.

    My pro tip — heh — is to avoid choral terms and to ask for what you want and to demonstrate it; for example, head, chest, and mixed voice are mostly meaningless, as terms, but if you say stuff about where I’ll feel a sound, yeah, you’re gonna get me interested and invested. Use the terms if you want, of course, and I speak only from my own experiences. But surprisingly, the need to be an effective demonstrator isn’t obvious, though I grant that it is an art as much as anything.