Helping Red Rock Harmonise

Red Rock HarmonyLast weekend took me down to Teignmouth in Devon to work with Red Rock Harmony as they prepare for their first outing to the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers Convention in the autumn. The chorus is about five years old, but has only recently got to a point in their development when they felt like taking the leap into contest on a national stage. Some of their number have experienced this with other choruses, but many will be new in.

I arrived at the point where their convention songs were memorised reasonably confidently, but still needed bringing into focus in places. The chorus were pretty consistently singing the right notes, but not always with a full grasp of why those particular notes were there, so the chords weren’t always locking into true.

On Self Care and Social Responsibility

I have a coaching report in hand to share from last weekend, but am interrupting usual service, on this day of the UK’s referendum on EU membership, to reflect on coping strategies in times of anger and anxiety. In recent weeks, both mainstream and social media seem to have been full of things that make me sad or worried or outraged or all three, to the point that it sometimes feels like I’m living in a work of dystopian speculative fiction. I can’t be doing with the emotional pain.

It is sensible in such circumstances to step back. Don’t keep reading the things that make you angry; turn away from the outrageous headlines; stop feeding the anxiety.

Yet, this approach to self care feels like a counsel of despair: turning away from the world, because the world is a bad place to be. Disengagement feels like giving up. It is also - I note because my empathy is still functioning after a fashion - a response available only to those of us privileged enough to lead safe lives.

Factors to Consider in Programming a Concert

Results of our discusion...Results of our discusion...

This is one of those posts that started out as notes for a particular group of people, but which I then realised will be useful beyond that cohort. In this case, it started out as a summary of a discussion amongst participants on the Association of British Choral Directors’ Initial Course in Newcastle. They had all prepared programmes for a short choral concert, annotated with the reasons for their choices. The discussion analysed the range of factors different people had taken into account

Musical Content

Everyone, unsurprisingly, commented on the musical character of the pieces - style, character, soundworld, - the things that an audience will experience directly. The discussion centred around the different ways people had grouped pieces together using these considerations. Some people themed by links between composers, others by common genre, others by common ideas in the texts.

On Voice-Testing New Choir Members

I had an email query recently that gave me one of those ‘this is not going to be the only person who wants to know this’ moments. So I thought I’d share my answer here, and also expand it a bit beyond the specifics of my correspondent’s particular circumstance for more general use.

The question was this:

We have a prospective new member coming to rehearsal tomorrow. If you can spare a minute, what would you suggest for voice testing for her range?

I can’t find anything on google or perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place

Now I am sure that if you did think of the right search terms, you would find quite a lot of stuff on this - at least there is quite a lot in the books on choral conducting aimed at students in training to lead choral programmes in US schools. If I wanted to find online resources I’d probably start with ChoralNet and work out from there.

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