The temperature seems now to have settled above freezing point. With it came a pretty dense fog. Someone sucked the colours out the landscape.
My main – and only – professional event of the day was the rehearsal of Kampin Laulu, a chamber choir 30-odd singers. We are working on a program of contemporary American music (Welcome to the US). The main attraction is a new piece by Eric Banks. We will be giving his This Delicate Universe, a suite of five movements to texts by the Greek poet Cavafy, its European premiere. It is well-stuctured, demanding music for double choir and broad in scope (the duration is about half an hour).
I had an interesting discussion with one of our vice conductors after the rehearsal. We talked about the balance of working on details versus singing longer passages through. He confessed he would not have had the nerve to let people sing through when there clearly still were problems with intonation and staying in tempo. It was very perceptive because this is something I have been working on: forcing myself to let the choir sing longer passages, even when it is not perfect.
What is the reasoning behind this? I have gradually learned to trust that the singers teach themselves when singing through, as long as the base work has been done. The are limits to this, and this is the most difficult part of the method: you have to know when to step in and fix things that will not fix themselves. It is much easier for the conductor to jump in than loosen the reigns, but I have found that you can often get the same result in a shorter time if you do loosen them. Sometimes I really need to force myself not to get caught up in details and small problems and concentrate on the whole. Especially in the last phase of the rehearsal process. It is worth remembering that the choir will have to sing the pieces through in concert and they need to have sufficient run-throughs before the concert.
At the same time you do not want the singers to feel that you are demanding too much and not helping out sufficiently. To feel stretched is fine, to feel abandoned is not. Ideally, the method says to the singers that they are worth trusting and that it will all be good. I am not at all that certain that this happened today, but I reckon I will be a lot wiser in the next rehearsal. Live and learn, say I.