Conductors in Cornwall

Delegates and singersDelegates and singers

I spent yesterday down in Saltash, near Plymouth, running a workshop for choral directors from the area. It was organised and hosted by Brunel Harmony, who also provided singers for the directors to be coached working with, and involved 19 current, assistants and aspiring directors from 10 local choirs and choruses, with levels of experience ranging from decades in the job to complete novices.

It can be quite difficult for people living in the country’s peripheries to get up to training events, which are - not surprisingly - usually held in more central regions. So it makes a lot of sense to import workshops instead of travelling out to them, not just logistically and economically, but also in terms of the opportunities for networking. However exciting it is to meet conductors from across the country, it is more useful, on a day-to-day basis, to get to know your neighbours.

Quantum Coaching

Same sofa, same hippo, different quartetSame sofa, same hippo, different quartetSunday afternoon brought a new quartet, Quantum, around for some coaching. They’re new as a quartet, but have a considerable amount of barbershop experience between them, and, oddly enough, the only one I didn’t already know happens to live just round the corner from me. So that was handy for them.

For any quartet in their early days - no matter how much prior experience they have between them - one of the primary tasks is building the ensemble. All their previous quartets will have developed musicianship and vocal control and performance skills which will come in useful for this task, but the actual crafting of their new sound and modes of delivery is still from scratch. So, we started straight in on duetting as the primary tool for all the singers to learn about each other’s voices.

More on Choral Values...

It’s probably not a surprise to hear that I’m still thinking about this question of a choir’s values. If you’ve hung out with me at all in this blog over the years, you’ll recognise that it has that pleasing combination of being something wide-ranging and abstract to theorise about, but which is also intensely practical. Exactly the kind of thing that gets me all lit up and interested.

Anyway, having noticed how a clear sense of your choir’s values is most urgently needed at the moments of crisis, I have been thinking about things we can do during the ebb-and-flow of choral life to build a secure and shared set of values so we have it ready and in good order when we really need it. Moments of crisis draw bring the values to the surface, but they’re really not the best time to start working out what we believe in.

The three main areas I have been thinking about are:

Choral Values...

valuesWhen I was mulling over Digger McDougal’s four pillars of motivation the other day, I said I’d come back and have another think about values at a later date. Of the four pillars, it strikes me as the one that is most fundamental, but by the same token, the one most likely to be implicit rather than actively reflected upon.

So I got to thinking: how does a choir develop its values? And how do you identify the values your own choir holds?

At a BABS Directors College some years back, Chris Davidson introduced an exercise by which to identify your personal values. Ask three people, not necessarily people you are close to, but with whom you are reasonably well acquainted, to say in three words how they would describe you to someone who didn’t know you. The things that they all say are the values you currently live by.

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