The Choir Rehearsal

With no endeavor to cover every detail of the rehearsal, it will still be profitable to discuss some of the things that should claim the director's attention.

By H. A. MILLER, Instructor, Southern Junior College

With no endeavor to cover every detail of the rehearsal, it will still be profitable to discuss some of the things that should claim the director's attention. Efficiency, secured in the minimum of time, should be the goal of every director. Someone should be appointed as choir librarian who can arrive in sufficient time to have the music placed on the chairs. It should also be his responsibility to collect and arrange the music after rehearsal or ren­dition. A good librarian can be of great help.

Begin at the hour agreed upon. It is an im­position to those who come promptly to have to remain beyond closing time in order to get in a full hour. A kindly word privately spoken to the individuals who habitually come late will do much to minimize this annoying habit.

Always begin with prayer. Ask God to bless the period, to give you keen insight and deep musical feeling, to send angels to sing with you, to build up the weakness and make the organization more efficient, and to impress the proper interpretation of the songs upon your own hearts as well as upon the hearts of those who listen. Then your songs of prayer and praise will reach the "holy dwelling place" of God, "even unto heaven." 2 Chron. 30:27.

The director should have about three an­thems to present at each practice. It is difficult to hold. the interest if a whole period is spent on one selection. The time may be divided in this way: First take up a new anthem, using about fifteen minutes; then pick up the one that was newly tried the week before, spending about twenty minutes on it; round out the re­mainder of the hour on 'music which by this time has passed through the first two stages.

This will give each selection three weeks' practice. These short practice periods are much to be preferred to a long, tiresome drill, and they give opportunity for the members to practice their parts at home during the week.

Just how the drill upon new material should be conducted depends considerably upon the ability of the choir. It is unwise to have all four parts sing the words and music at pre­scribed tempo at first sight. Errors are easily made, but difficult to correct. Extreme care­fulness should be used during the learning period. With the average choir, new music should be hummed through by soprano and alto, then by tenor and bass. Drill the parts separately, if necessary. Find logical stopping places, eight or sixteen measures apart. When this is correctly done, let the four parts hum together. Words should not be used until the humming method proves satisfactory. Under this plan there should be steady improvement as each moment passes. Short sections with several repetitions should bring good results.

Music may be briefly reviewed by humming all parts together, when it is taken up again the second week. Now the finer points may be drilled. Good diction, perfect step in word formation, dynamics, climaxes, fluctuation of tone intensity and tone succession, logical tempo, etc., should now be emphasized. Be­ware of mechanical perfection. There is a perfection of music that goes beyond mere exactness, regular recurring beats, and time precision. Art hates a straight line, and so does music. Mathematical accuracy is not sufficient. Just as the heart sometimes beats faster, sometimes slower, so music fluctuates with the rise and fall of emotional feeling. The strictly classical style is less emotional than other types of music, and therefore it adheres more closely to mathematical precision in the recurring beats.

In most choir selections, the perfect repeti­tion of notes of a given value will be uninter­esting, dry, and meaningless. Nor should lib­erty of interpretation be abused. There is an artistic standard that cannot be explained in print, which a conductor must feel before he tries to lead his choir into it. This can best be gained by piano study, or by choir expe­rience under a good conductor. After all, there is more than one way of singing a given choir selection correctly, but all paths must lead to the same goal of beauty and truth. Inasmuch as a composer is guided to his har­monic adaptation through the thought in the words, the interpreter, too, goes deepest who thinks first of the words. Here lies a secret in prying into the composer's intentions.

A third rehearsal of a particular song should include a review of points already drilled, with a view to attaining natural and easy expres­sion. Step back some distance from your singers, listen to the balance of the parts, and try to detect through your ear what the artist seeks through his reducing glass. This device is used by an artist to get a distant view of his work at close range. Stand where you can test your tone quality and balance of parts as a whole.

It is well for you to study the selections carefully before presenting them for practice. Take the copies of music to be introduced, and mark the places for breath, particularly the questionable ones. Add other marks of ex­pression desired. This will take time, but it will be worthwhile. A dictionary will be needed to find the correct pronunciation of words the sounds of which you may never have questioned until you found them in song. The exaggeration of words which becomes necessary in songs will frequently magnify a simple word to the point where you will won­der how to pronounce it. If these spots of diction are carefully checked beforehand, the choir will have evidence that they are getting something at each practice. As nearly as pos­sible try to make the choir period a period of class study. Tell the members as many things as you can about the music under your study. This will build up interest and yield better choir work for the future.

Train your singers from the beginning to hold their music at a sufficient height so as to be able to see the director by a lift of the eye. Nodding heads back and forth from director to music is to be warned against. Insist upon getting the choir's eye, particularly at "en­trances" and "cutoffs." These are two places where group singing may show raggedness. It takes an alert singer, one who watches both director and music, to make a first-class choir member. Oneness, perfect unity, is a powerful asset to any organization. Seek agreement and harmony of action in all choir activity, without attracting attention to behavior. Carelessness will make your choir offering weak, and a strict, formal action will produce stiffness. A fine balance of naturalness is effective and much to be desired.

Rising together as one at the conductor's signal, every singer's eyes on either the music or the conductor, paying strict attention to business, standing quietly in good posture, with an absence of facial contortions—these are of sufficient importance to be constantly checked. Nothing that reaches out, consciously or un­consciously, to distract the attention of those who listen should be permitted, because music, to be properly enjoyed, demands the entire at­tention. If you expect a congregation to listen wholeheartedly, you must give a whole-souled interpretation.

If the choir members have their attention called to the beauties of music and the appeal of the truth-filled poetry, they will soon see things by themselves that will arouse their latent powers of musical appreciation, and produce rich and meaningful choir offerings.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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By H. A. MILLER, Instructor, Southern Junior College

April 1939

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