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Director on stage

Have you ever seen a choir sing without the Director being on stage with them, when there is no orchestra, of course, just accompanist? I can't imagine it, but my chorus wanted me in the pit last season and it didn't work well, they turned the lights down, as well, couldn't see the music, the singers couldn't see me. What is your experence?
on April 29, 2014 3:08am
Sure - it's a question of level of chamber music ability in the choir. My former conductor used to say it was his job to make himself redundant. Should work with a cappella too if somebody starts them off (conductor or somebody in the choir).
Also my girls' conductor routinely accompanies his choirs himself. No problems there but the singers of course have to get used to it. The lights, well that's another kettle of fish altogether, might work if everyone knows the music by heart.
all best from up north
on April 29, 2014 6:45am
I direct a children's choir and whenever the choir sings with choreography, I leave center stage.  I either move to the wings or sit down in front of the choir.  The children had to get used to looking at the audience instead of watching me but they perform with much more freedom and exhuberance on these pieces if I'm out of the picture.  Of course they have the music memorized.  Some pieces, on the other hand, are more complicated and benefit from some guidance for nuance, entrances, cut offs, tempo changes and/or dynamic changes.  Those don't work as well without my help.  Of course we practice without a conductor if I intend to perform without a conductor once the music is well learned.
Pennsylvania Youth Chorale
on April 30, 2014 1:15pm
Hildigunnur and Eileen make good points, and I have been in similar situations.  But what I picture, based on your description, is artistically hazardous.
[As Eileen describes - especially with children, I try to stand to the side.  They are smaller, we as adults cover them up somewhat, and their parents want so badly to see them/film them.  But it does require an angle that works with sight-lines, and good familiarity with the music.  Often the accompaniment serves to partially lead.]
However, it seems that if a group (any age) is large, it is necessary for them to have a director in front for unity - rhythmic, dynamic, etc.
In madrigal-type groups, and other small ensembles that sing predictable rhythms, I think it is fine for the group to stand in a modified "J" shape, and the conductor to use a small hand-beat, just above the waist, as s/he sings.
However, it sounds like the main difficulty in your situation is the pit, and the [dimmed] lights.  I have sung where conductors were in the pit, and regardless of where the 2nd and 3rd rows were placed, seeing the conductor was difficult.   On one occasion there were so many on stage (not a great idea) that those of us in the back row could only see the top of the 4th beat - we had to surmise the rest - even though 'Maestro" was using a lighted baton!
It sounds to me that some of your singers have put romantic aura above precision.    I would schedule a meeting and discuss this.  Ask them why they suggested moving you.  Did it have to do with choreography, or colors worn?  Are your conducting-gestures a bit large/dramatic, and they felt this is distracting? (Personally, I feel that a conductor"s moves are an attractive part of the concert!)
Ask your older members, or those who wear glasses/bifocals, how this affected them.  I have seen many vision-challeged have difficulty even when the light is good and the conductor is near. ( I am beginning to experience minor changes in my own vision; I memorize more now.) 
  Try to address their concerns without returning to the pit.   Then, with kindly-but-firm tone, explain that the music issues this causes are lowering the level of excellence of the group.  That negatively affects their reputation as a choir, and yours as a conductor.  You are the conductor!  You are needed for several reasons; they have to see you, and you them.   If they wish to sing by themselves on stage, and all the members are firm on that, then they need to re-write your job description as a teacher-planner-vocal coach, and you would simply attend the concert, or sing with them.
It is so easy for people in a group - particularly if they are creative - [ I am creative, so I understand this], when an idea arises,  to think, "Oh, it will work!"  because they wish it to.  But sometimes it just does not, and the final decision is yours.
Best Wishes!
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