We all know that most of our work as choir leaders is done outside the rehearsal room. Whether you’re a conductor or conductor/manager, you probably have a ‘to do’ list as long as your arm.
One of the tasks you may find yourself neglecting is score study. With all the demands of daily life, it can be a challenge to find the time to really knuckle down and get a thorough knowledge of the music.
It’s fairly obvious that the score preparation we do will help our choirs in rehearsal and performance, but I believe that it’s also vital to build our confidence and effectiveness as conductors. Here’s how:
It gives us a deeper understanding of the music
Music is so much more than dots on a page. Score study helps us to put a piece into a historical and compositional context. Even a small amount of research into the circumstances in which music was composed can augment our rehearsal planning and help us to communicate the essence of a piece to our choirs.
It allows us to feel prepared and in control
As with so many things in life, the more preparation we do, the more confident we feel. Having a reliable, methodical approach to score preparation is a huge step towards creating effective, enjoyable rehearsals.
It helps us to empathise with our choirs because we know how it feels to sing all the parts
An important part of score preparation is understanding the individual vocal parts. We encourage choir leaders to sing each part (even if that means transposing it). Sometimes, it’s only by singing a part that we can reveal possible challenges, for example tricky breaths, intervals or vowel sounds.
It allows you to anticipate problems before they arise and answer questions with authority
Your score study can allow you to address potential problems before they arise in rehearsals. Perhaps you notice a difficult entry note for one part and find a cue in the accompaniment that they can listen out for. Perhaps you find a long phrase that needs staggered breathing so as not to interrupt the line. Perhaps you spot a melody in a lower part that is likely to be drowned out by an upper part if you’re not careful with your dynamics.
Identifying potential pitfalls and having answers and remedies to hand is a huge boost to our confidence as choir leaders. This approach also helps us to run our rehearsals smoothly because it reduces the time we spend making decisions on the spot, which can interrupt our train of thought and lose the choir’s attention.
If you already have a system for score study that you use consistently, you can feel very pleased with yourself. If you don’t, I hope I’ve convinced you to spend a bit more time on this fascinating and rewarding area of work.