Last week I was encouraging the world to develop the capacity to start singing at any point in the music, not just the obvious section boundaries, and promised some practical hints on how to work on this. So, here they are.
The first port of call is the music itself. Part of the director’s preparation for introducing new repertoire needs to be to identify potential start points, and to categorise them as more or less obvious or challenging. The three musical dimensions that most affect this classification are harmony, rhythm and phrase structure. (Arguably the third is a product of the other two, but it is a useful analytical dimension in its own right.)
The obvious section boundaries will usually see these three working together. It’s easy to come in at the start of the verse because all musical elements are signalling the sense of ‘beginning-ness’. It’s harder to pick up from the second phrase because, whilst the phrase structure might signal it as a new beginning, it will likely have moved away from home harmonically. It’s harder still to pick up mid-phrase because both are in flux, though easier if the parts are rhythmically unified than if they are staggered.
So, the four qualities that the singers will want to hang their hats on as they develop this skill are: