“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost
As we begin the New Year, we begin another Choral Ethics series. I do not know how many will be in this particular series because there seems to be an abundance of Choral Ethics issues lately. I thought through a number of these ‘special circumstance’ Choral Ethics problems over the holidays and will be sharing my thoughts with you during January and perhaps beyond. These are issues I never imagined to be problems but certainly can be, given the right circumstance.
If you read one of my December Blogs, “Crabbiness,” you might remember Marta’s* problems leading up to her middle school chorus’s holiday performance at her local mall or my own complaints about a volunteer situation. Both of us were crabby because of the lack of follow-through by others and we had to pick up the slack during an already packed holiday season. Several ChoralNetters shared their own situations in response. Then I got to thinking, what if WE are the ones not following through, the ones not keeping our promises to our singers and organizations? Is this a Choral Ethics issue? And sure enough, there was a story from a ChoralNetter about this very thing.
George-Anne* is not a choral director, but a choral singer in a community choral organization in the southwestern United States. She’s been a member of their board of directors, off and on for about 15 years, as well as a singer, and an occasional section leader. David* has been the chorus’s music director for five years and George-Anne was on the search committee which hired him. A real “find,” David interviewed well and had the experience and education to back it up. He had also just been hired to be the new choral director at their local community college as well as the choir master/organist at a very wealthy church in the area. All three positions are demanding but at the first rehearsal with the chorus, he assured everyone he was organized and could handle it. Not so much, according to George-Anne.
There are things David is supposed to be doing, such as getting the concert program and personnel lists to the printer in a timely fashion which never seems to get done until someone else does them. He was supposed to contact a friend of his for a summer choral workshop and never did. He was supposed to meet with members of the board to organize their “every-other-year tour” and hasn’t, twice, so the chorus has never done a tour with him, yet he complains about it. There is always a very wonderful reason for him to not to follow through but it’s getting irritating to those who cover for him because they don’t want these things to fall through the cracks.
The section leaders have a retreat with the music director at the beginning of every concert cycle as has been tradition since the chorus was formed 40 years ago. The difficult parts of whatever large work are sung through and any portion David might think will give the group as a whole trouble are broken down. This retreat is usually a Saturday morning from 9 am to Noon and the music director and section leaders look forward to it. In the five years (and fifteen retreats—three a year, one before each concert cycle) since David became music director, he has been prepared for the section leaders’ retreat exactly twice. He has forgotten about the retreat once, leaving them waiting in the lobby of the college where they have rehearsals for an hour. He has stumbled through the rest of the retreats, not seeming to know (or care about) the music. David is supposed to schedule sectionals once a concert cycle. He “forgets” or asks one of the section leaders to schedule sectionals and then tells them to “work on what they think needs work” rather than telling them what he wants accomplished.
David promises things but rarely delivers and George-Anne and others in the chorus are getting tired. The thing they are most tired of is…..his attitude.