Following a fantastic weekend at our local music festival for my and Victoria’s Total Voice choirs, I thought this week would be a great chance to reflect on how it feels when everything comes together for a successful performance and to remind ourselves of why we do it all in the first place.
As you may know from my recent articles, the run-up to the festival, and in fact to any performance, requires lots of work not only from the choir leader but also from your members. There’s so much to get ready: repertoire, lyric learning (or the ability to get your head out of your score), performance skills (smiling, looking out to the audience) and getting the balance, dynamic and tuning all spot-on. I’m sure this list rings a bell with most of you and at times things can get a bit tense, particularly if important elements are still lacking right up to the event.
For us, this performance couldn’t have gone better, even the few areas where strange lyrics were tripping us up came right. Nervous soloists came into their own with confident performances and the overall sound was lively and confident. One of the nicest things for me was that some of my longer-standing members said to me afterwards that they had been able to put their nerves aside for the first time and thoroughly enjoy the performance.
As choir leaders we all have our coping strategies for the nerves of leading a big performance. There is a great deal of adrenalin involved and lots of energy required. Personally, I find my strength and confidence by helping to calm those nervous performers around me as well as the benefit of experience which has made me more sure of myself as a leader. I always remain positive to my choir even if I am feeling nervous inside about a piece or just the event as a whole. I think this is crucial for any leader. If you show your fears to your singers they may start to doubt you, themselves and the ability of the choir to do a good job.
I think it’s also worth remembering that little bit of magic that comes with live performance. Singers are able to elevate themselves and do their absolute best. Everything has energy when an audience is before you, everyone works as a team, raises their game and says ‘listen to this we’re amazing’.
When you run a choir, a performance is predominantly about the singers, but it’s also a reflection of you, your musical choices and ability. All these things matter deeply and there is nothing like the success of a performance to make you feel proud, successful, confident and on top of the world. So I guess the moral of the story is next time you feel frustrated with yourself or your choir in the run-up to a performance, remind yourself that you feel this way because it matters, and that you have the ability to get everything ready and prepared. It’s absolutely worth it when you experience the finished result.