Monday, November 14, 2011
I just got home from rehearsal…and I wish I could shake my annoyance. Granted, I had a horrible day – one thing after another went wrong, or broke, or spilled, or was late, or wrong, or – and there was too much SIWOTI floating around to do anyone good – and I was hoping that the rehearsal would be a time of refreshment and renewal. But I came home annoyed instead of uplifted.
The music is good. The director is the best. I was in good voice tonight and was musically prepared.
The person sitting in front of me never marks her scores as we all are required to do. She. Never. Marks. Her. Scores. I don’t think she has ever marked her scores in the three or four years that she has been in this ensemble. It’s unfair, of course, since supposedly we are all subject to having our scores checked by the section leaders (a policy that I endorse), but I don’t even care about fairness. What matters is this: She makes tons of mistakes because she has not marked in the phrasing, breaths, early cuts, and other important information that the rest of us have marked in. Then she asks her neighbor for the information, but she happens to sit next to a clueless person, who doesn’t always feed her the right information, so sometimes the errors are compounded instead of corrected. And the constant talking drives me nuts and makes it hard for me to hear what's being said at the podium.
The person behind me never shuts up. When she’s not singing, she’s talking. She. Never. Shuts. Up. She has a joke, a comment, a complaint, about everything. She never shuts up!! She doesn’t even whisper – she talks. Her constant stream of consciousness, which resumes as soon as we stop singing, makes it a real challenge for me to hear the director’s instructions. And then, when we are about to start singing again, she doesn’t know where we are, or what to do, because she has been talking the whole time! And so she asks her neighbor, and there is a whole whispered conversation right behind me. This happens oh, ten or fifteen times during every rehearsal. And she taps her foot on my chair.
In fact, this is the chattiest choir I’ve been in for a long time. There’s a constant buzz of voices whenever we stop singing. It is disrespectful to the director, to the music, to each other.
Then there’s the group of singers who sit in the two rows behind me. They seem to be in the ensemble for the purpose of competing to see who among them can sing the loudest and with the brassiest sound. They never sing really quietly; at most, they will shut it down to mezzo-piano. Perhaps they get away with it because they are in the back row. Maybe they just can’t sing quietly. I don’t know. But they get into this sort of vortex with each other, especially in loud passages. In this case, it can really be overwhelming; one of them has a particularly penetrating voice, and pretty soon they are all wailing away like so many Valkyries. (That’s not really fair; I love Die Götterdämmerung and don't mean to malign the Valkyries.)
And once ― just once! ― it would be so nice if everyone returned from break on time.
And did I mention the coughing? Why is it that whenever we stop singing, twenty or thirty people start to cough, cough, cough??? Actually, there’s a simple answer for that; they are singing improperly (too loudly, too harshly) and causing all sorts of vocal strain. The vocal cords excrete mucous to protect themselves from trauma; the singer coughs off the annoying mucous (more trauma!) or clears the throat (more trauma!) which just makes the problem worse. Some singers were actually holding their throats after we sang a particularly robust passage this evening – it should never hurt to sing. If it hurts to sing, you’re doing it wrong. Get some help from a voice teacher! And please, stop coughing. Just stop.
OK. That feels better.
If you find yourself annoyed after having read this, then perhaps you're one of the guilty ones. Sorry to annoy you. [/snark]
Here are some tips to make the next rehearsal a little easier for everyone:
1. Follow the instructions from the director. First and foremost, MARK YOUR SCORES. It's not too late. Please. I am ready to rat on you.
2. Be quiet during rehearsal. Just be quiet. Do not talk. Do. Not. Talk. Sing when you're asked to sing; sit quietly the rest of the time. You might learn something.
3. Take responsibility for yourself. Pay attention. At the very least, know where the director is working so you are ready when he calls on your section to sing.
4. Learn to sing properly so that you do not cough for three hours.
5. Come back from break on time. A ten-minute break does not mean that you leave the break room when ten minutes have passed. It means that when ten minutes have passed, you are back in your seat and ready to sing.
This is, after all, an adult choir.
Perhaps that was a long rant, perhaps disproportional to the topic.
A choir is made up of individuals, but must have a common understanding and a common purpose. When we choose to join a choir, we essentially agree to stop being individuals during those few hours of rehearsal and performance. And that means that we agree to adhere to the standards, customs, and rules that enable us to be a truly unified choir. (I've written about this subject at length on Quodlibet; check the "Chorister" and "Rehearsing" subject tags to the right.) Although if you're the sort of person who is reading the rantings of a confessed/obsessed chorister, then none of this information will be new to you.
More of my essays on the life of a chorister, and more about choral rehearsals and choral music, may be found here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Chorister