When musical notation gets in the way
Date: October 9, 2013
I conduct an unauditioned choral society in England. It consists mainly of older people; some members can read music very well, while others can barely do so. Our repertoire is broad and demanding, from Beatles arrangements to Bach's Mass in B Minor (which we're rehearsing at the moment). I suppose this is old hat to many of you, but I find myself in a permanent quandry, and was wondering what advice there might be - if any is indeed possible.
The quandry is that we want to continue with repertoire that challenges the choir musically and that they enjoy. However, this means complex notation, which to those who can't read music very well (or at all) is like a monolingual English speaker trying to read Mandarin. Choir members in this position have to go through a process of visual translation before they can produce the vocal sounds represented by those notational symbols. I can see two ways out of this impasse.
What do people think?