How far ahead do you plan your (choral) music?

  • just wondering how other people organize this.

    My own schedules are typically put together every 8 wks or so, but I only send them out to the singers a week ahead.
    Thanked by 1Kathy
  • I plan a whole liturgical season ahead.
    Advent, Christmas, Epiphanytide, Lent, Eastertide, Pentecost-Trinity, etc.
    The exceptions are the Sundays after Trinity -
    that's Ordinary Time for non-Ordinariate folk -
    these I generally do in two- or three-month segments.

    I always plan roughly 1/3 repeated from last year, 1/3 old from years more than one year ago, and 1/3 new. This way the repertory is constantly expanding and a solid body of well-known repertory is always available.
  • I start by building a matrix of each section of music... Chant / Polyphony / Hymns - which are on a specific 3-4 year rotation. The idea is that it provides a frame-work for developing the music schedule for a given season. The cycles are intended to move the choir through a system of ever-expanding repertoire while addressing maintenance on existing pieces and providing some seasons where pieces are not used to ensure there is some newness even with existing repertoire.

    This matrix is what I call the cycle schedule. It lists all pieces in the comprehensive repertoire with columns for each year in the cycle. For most of the schedule, I also identify target goals of expected use. For example, with new repertoire of some difficulty, I might identify a target of 4-6 x used in a season. In other cases, perhaps 2-4 x used. As much as possible, I try to avoid single usage of pieces unless absolutely necessary.

    The cycle schedule is just a general tool that I can use to develop individual seasons. Although I revisit it each year, largely it is simply subject to minor tweaks unless I'm overhauling the repertoire completely.

    The first step for a given season is to build the season schedule. That is the projection of Sundays and Feasts that I'm expecting to be on the schedule.

    Next, I build my music schedule, which defines the type of Propers (Short, Medium, Long), the Ordinaries, the lustrals, the motets, etc.. During this time, I'm assessing how many times I'm using each piece to verify I'm meeting the targets of the cycle schedule.

    My goal is to have the music schedule in place by end of March time-frame. That allows me to make needed adjustments after I build the practice schedule.

    The practice schedule blocks out expected amounts of time that I'll need to spend in choir practice either learning new repertoire or maintaining existing repertoire. I have a rough projection for the entire season, and then I work with a more detailed version which is constantly being updated.

    The practice schedule often helps me to see that I may have issues with the music schedule. Perhaps I was too ambitious in scheduling; perhaps I have too many new pieces occurring within a short time frame. Where I see issues in the general practice schedule, I tweak the music schedule until I feel pretty confident about both. This is typically in the May time-frame.

    I submit the season schedule to the pastor for review. Sometimes there are additional Masses that need to be added or some feasts that won't happen this season... but the adjustments to the music / practice schedules are fairly light at that point.

    Personally, I find it is difficult to really plan long-term goals without looking out a full season or more in advance. Usually, I'm working on a major project in the preceding season... and without seeing how practices will work, it is hard to envision being successful with them. The year we did Christmas Matins, the practices started in April. I presented my plan for Tenebrae 2019 this past June to the group taking part. Some aspects of planning for the Sacred Music Retreat started 16 months in advance.

    As a school teacher, the lesson plans are supposed to cover the entire year before the school-year starts. There's a lot of overlap between teaching school and directing a choir (at least IMHO).
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,499
    It depends... our choir has just started learning Missa O Quam gloriosum, Victoria, We plan to sing this with the Credo in Advent. They will also be learning the Gloria and if the summer practices go well we may sing the complete Mass before Advent. We will also be singing Bryd's 3 part Mass, and Hassler's Missa Dixit Maria, In September and October, but the choir already know these Masses as we have sung them once already this year, including the Credos!
    Other music is chosen at choir rehearsal (Thursday), or for chant Hymns sung as motets at rehearsal just before Mass.

    This is E.F. so much of the music (Propers) is already chosen for us, and we follow a cycle of chant Ordinaries changing with the Temporal cycle.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,036
    Plan? What is this "plan" of which you speak? We lurch from disaster to disaster.

    Sometimes it seems that way, but my planning is usually for the next couple of months. When I get too far in advance someone throws a wrench in things and I have to do it over again. Don't like that.
  • CharlesW - thanks for the smile. I'm sure you folks do fine!

    Tomjaw - we are EF also - for the O Quam Gloriosum, we purposely learned the Gloria but not the Credo, so the people would have opportunity to sing. In the Kyriales, they sing few of the Glorias, but they do sing Credos. Probably will do the same for other polyphonic Masses.
    Thanked by 3Kathy CHGiffen CharlesW
  • I am learning a lot from you folks (as usual). Anyone else ?
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,559
    The chapel I sing at now is planning their Christmas music already, and probably will start Easter as soon as St. Nick has dropped off his presents. I think they're a little anxious on Christmas but I have to remember that they were learning Palestrina's Missa Brevis last year so that was probably justified.

    I try to plan at least six months in advance, especially for the big stuff - feasts, new polyphony, that sort of thing. I've mentioned before that I have a rather complex system for planning - I label the feasts in their proper order, using A,B,C, and D. Each of these designates a particular type of mass or motet we're going to use for that feast. It's on a four-year-cycle so it repeats.

    For example - in 2017, feast A [Corpus Christi] would have a familiar chant mass [VIII or IV] feast B [Trinity] would have a less familiar chant mass [V or XII] feast C [Sacred Heart] would have a chant mass with ad libitum replacements, and feast D [Peter and Paul] would have straight up polyphony. Then the next feast would be designated A and the cycle repeats. In 2018, everyone designation is 'bumped up' - A becomes polyphony, B becomes familiar chant, C becomes new chant, and D becomes chant with ad libitum. etc. through this year and the next two years. (It makes sense in my head.)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,861
    As far as rehearsing goes my rule of thumb is to have (at least) 3 Offertories in the pipeline at any one time. During Lent I try to work backwards- Easter, Vigil, Friday… -so that Palm/Passion is freshest in memory when we hit Holy Week.

    Here's an example the tentative plan I keep for myself and periodically share with the choir:

    July 22 OT 16 ps. 23 Magdalen Palestrina: In diebus illis+ [Victoria: Vadam;Drop*]
    July 29 OT 17 loaves Gounod: Ave verum[Saint-Saëns: Panis angelicus*]
    Aug. 5 OT 18 sitientes [Our Lady of Snows] Mendelssohn: O come to the waters+ [Monteverdi: Venite]
    Thursday before Assumption: 7:30-9 rehearsals resume
    Aug. 12 OT 19 living bread Byrd: Ave verum*
    Wednesday Aug. 15 Assumption (6 for 6:30)
    Josquin: Ave Maria** or Compère: Reine du ciel
    Aug. 16 1518 Loyset Compère commemoration
    Aug. 19 OT 20 except ye eat Tallis: Verily, verily I say unto you+
    Aug. 26 OT 21 to whom shall we go? Mozart: Ave verum*
    Sept. 2 OT 22 cleanliness within Mendelssohn: Richte mich**
    Saturday Sept 8 Nativity BVM ? (sunset 7:28)
    Sept. 9 OT 23 the mute [Blue Sunday?] Viadana: Exsultate justi** [Cardoso: Erat Jesus]
    Sept. 16 OT 24 Peter’s confession Palestrina: Tu es Petrus**
    Sept. 23 OT 25 the last first Bruckner: Christus factus est**
    Sept. 30 OT 26 better a millstone Lassus: Super flumina*
    [Thursday Oct 4 St Francis]
    Oct. 7 OT 27 woman Parry comm. Parry: My soul, there is a country*
    [Isaac: In salutari tuo]
    Oct. 14 OT 28 Dedicatio Bruckner: Locus iste*
    Oct. 21 OT 29 service [Lassus: Meditabor] Monteverdi: Christe, adoremus te**
    Oct. 28 OT 30 Bartimaeus Vulpius: Jesus sprach zu dem Blinden+
    Thursday Nov. 1 All Saints (6 for 7:00) Victoria: O quam gloriosum*
    Nov. 4 OT 31 2 commandments Purcell: I will love thee+
    Nov. 11 OT 32 widow’s mite Brahms: Ach arme Welt**
    Nov. 18 OT 33 coming in clouds [La Rue Nov 20] [La Rue:] Mozart: Confutatis (Requiem)
    Thursday Nov. 22 Thanksgiving/Cecilia Guerrero: Dum aurora+ [Greene:**Te decet hymnus (Orlando di Lasso)]
    Nov. 25 Chr. Rex Pilate Berlioz: Querens me (Requiem)
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,606
    All music from September-Corpus Christi is planned during the Summer. Sometime during the Easter season the Summer is planned. And the cycle continues.
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 124
    I have begun using Google Docs to both plan and get the information out to the choirs and cantors.

    I have a tab for each choir as well as a tab for "past music" which I copy and paste so I can reference for future planning. I also use the space next to each mass to assign cantors. It has cut down greatly on the constant questions.

    I am able to use the same sheets to plan. I simply highlight a border to delineate where I am still working and where the planned masses end. My goal is to have the entire Christmas season planned by the time our choir begins. Currently, I only have to All Saints Day planned. I need to get moving. . .

    For nearly 10 years I used spiral notebooks (I'm oldschool), but I've had to adjust with this large parish. It has really helped me keep things organized. I especially like that I can access it from home, my phone, or my desktop at work.

  • Since I've started helping at my local parish after retiring from the Cathedral, I started with 3 month plans to get a feel for things there, and am now working 6 months out. I would hope to get back to planning the choir year as a whole like matthewj mentioned, which is what I did at the Cathedral.