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The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice . . .

The good folks in ACDA’s Eastern Division lead off the 2014 conference season this week with their gathering in Baltimore.  All told, the seven divisional conferences that take place in the next few weeks will provide well over ten thousand choral musicians with unparalleled opportunities for performance, study, growth, and fellowship.
 
It may seem incomprehensible, but cumulatively the 221 choirs invited to perform will have invested multiple MILLIONS of dollars to travel to the conference just to sing for us. (Our association doesn’t give choirs a single nickel toward their conference performance.)  Perhaps even more impressive are the untold hours of preparation that they will have devoted to the process.
 
With that in mind, one might think that every single colleague in attendance would show a little respect for the performers and celebrate their accomplishment.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
 
During a concert in the beautiful Meyerson Symphony Hall at last spring’s conference in Dallas, two people sitting behind this writer nattered negatively and continually during the performance. “When MY choir sang this piece we did it better.” “Her sopranos are so shrill.” “Oh my gawd, look at her shoes.”  It was, in a word, maddening.
 
We’re supposed to be professionals, we’re sitting at the big kid’s table.  Let’s all try to act accordingly when we are on the other side of the podium at our professional conference.  Or as my dear ol’ Dad said, “if you can’t say something nice . . . .”
on February 4, 2014 3:57am
Not a whole lot different in a whole lot of circumstances.  During such events, if you have the chutzpah, you might turn to them and say, "Well, I came to hear the choir; not commentary" - and then turn back.  At the very least, even if they think the group is horrible, they have a couple of options:  shut up and stay and, if they must, suffer in silence; leave at the first proper opportunity (during applause, preferably AND professionally); or see if they can't actually find something positive about the group (maybe the fourth alto from the end has a nice pair of shoes they would just DIE for).  This sort of bitchiness is all too prevalent, and folks have to be reminded that this is a "team" event - and even if it's not their "team," not done the way THEY would do it - they can keep their comments to themselves during the performance.  If afterward they want to vent, well, that right hasn't been suspended YET from the Constitution - but the right of reply hasn't either.
 
Chantez bien!
 
Ron
Applauded by an audience of 4
on February 4, 2014 7:41am
Thank you, Scott, for this commentary.  It certainly needs to be taken seriously by every one of us.  Best of luck to all performers!!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 4, 2014 11:53am
Amen.
Now, we teachers/directors, students, parents, chaperones, officers, ushers,  ...and especially soloists ! ... have it from Mr. Dorsey himself.  We can print this out and post it.  We can email it to  parents.  (And I must admit to being a teensy bit too whispery during some events; thankfully my husband reminded me.)
We can print it on our own hearts. ;) ...because that where it can originate.  We have to care, n'est-ce pas?  It is our job, no matter what.
Thanks for the bravery!
-Lucy
on February 4, 2014 7:50pm
Hi Scott,
 
I've been writing a book on something I call *choral ethics*........and this falls into a category I am loosely calling "respect for our fellow conductors."  Too often, I hear snarky comments from choral conductors about other conductors....we seem to just be WAITING for someone else to make a mistake and then gleefully tell everyone we know about it.  This event you are relating here is especially disgusting to me since it HAPPENED DURING A PERFORMANCE!  I don't care how bad you think a performance is.......slap a smile on your face, grit your teeth and be quiet. Talk about it at lunch the next day or after the performance but not where someone could hear you!
 
My own children--one of whom is a member here at ChoralNet  and a concert pianist---were coached to behave in concerts/worship services from a very young age (2 or 3 years).  That meant (and forgive my tone here) keeping their own yaps SHUT when someone else is performing! Those folks were not as well behaved as some of the kids attending the conference I bet.
 
I would have said something, Scott, because there is nothing that irks me more. Guess I am not very nice or patient when it comes to stuff like this!
 
Marie
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 7, 2014 5:16am
It takes a great deal of courage to place a choir on stage in front of an audience of professional choral conductors.  It is those kind of critical comments that keep many directors from giving that opportunity to their students.  Unfortunately it is the students that are missing out on one of the most rewarding experiences they will have.
 
Thank you for your message.  Hopefully it will remind us all to be proud of all groups that give their effort, expense and time to perform at a conference.
Leah