Why a Bad Rehearsal Isn’t Always Bad News

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Do you ever have one of those evening where nothing seems to go right? Things that everyone sang with ease the week before sound like they’re sight-reading it upside down; when you gesture to start them singing, they just look at you as if you’ve done something strange and inexplicable; the vocal support sags and the tonal centre strays south.

We can sometimes identify the cause of difficult rehearsals.

It may be that a particular combination of our more confident singers is absent, leaving others to infuse each other with the doubt that usually gets held at bay. It may be that the weather is against us: humidity or an airless room dulls the wits. It may just be that too many of our singers have had difficult days outside rehearsal so they’re sharing their stress rather than leaving it behind to start singing.

Progress on days like this is inevitably going to be slower than on days when everything just slots into place. But there’s a cheery flipside to this: progress on days like this ends up being much more secure and robust than the easy gains on the easy days.

When things don’t go right, that forces us to pay more attention to how to do what we’re aiming for. We have to think more diagnostically, and listen more carefully to what the choir is struggling with. We have identify more precisely what the obstacles are and give clearer, more specific instructions about what to do to overcome them. We have to become both more analytical and more inventive in our rehearsal methods.

The result is a significant net gain in technical control. Because things didn’t go right automatically, everyone has had to develop a higher degree of conscious command over what they’re doing – and this is something they can access again as needed in the future. Rather than doing things by intuition or instinct, they can do them at will.

The key to making a difficult rehearsal work for you is thus patience. Assume that nobody is being deliberately tentative or confused (people generally prefer to be confident and certain if they possibly can be), and refrain from getting frustrated with their difficulties. You just need to get stuck into the practical problem solving of helping them master the things they are finding difficult, and celebrating it when they do.

And it’s easier to celebrate when you remember that these achievements are going to be the long-lasting ones. Have you ever noticed how the rehearsal following a difficult one goes unexpectedly well?

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