“There is no harm in repeating a good thing.” Plato
Last week, I wrote about recently getting emails concerning three problems I know I have addressed before in this Blog. I wrote about one of those re-occurring problems—tardiness. This week, we will tackle the other two.
Like the tardiness issues from last week, if you haven’t yet had a problem with absences in your choir, you will. My advice holds true here as well; decide what you would do in a situation, create a policy and then be consistent. Your choir needs to understand what your absence policy is and understand it very clearly. There are plenty of exceptions and you need to decide how you will handle those as well.
Absences from rehearsals should be one part of your absence policy. Grades with absences as part of a grading rubrics are often a slippery slope except for one thing; the concert. If one of your singers fails to show up for a concert, you could be within your rights to give them a lower grade. There are plenty of good reasons for NOT showing up for a concert such as illness or a death in the family. Forgetting about the concert or forgetting to tell a parent they need a ride to the concert is NOT a good reason. If you have a chorus contract, with a parent’s signature in addition to a student’s signature, make sure your concert absence requirements are stated clearly. And consider sending out emails and/or texts to parents to remind them as concert time approaches.
College and University organizations will have their own requirements. My undergrad conducting professor, who also conducted all the major choral organizations, had us sing in assigned quartets (or quintets, depending on the repertoire) a week before every concert. He didn’t care how many rehearsals you came to; he only cared if you knew the music. He would take one complete rehearsal to go through a section of a work we were singing to check–so you better not be absent for that rehearsal!
With church choirs, every Sunday could be considered a concert. There will be times you have a full complement of singers and there are times you will not. Lynn’s* choir doesn’t sing on Christmas Eve because most of her singers are with family and it got to be too hard to have a full choir. She does her big Advent/Christmas music every year on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Everyone in her congregation, including the clergy, is happy. I used to have a choir absence sign-up sheet for the whole choir year so I knew when Betty-the-Alto* would be back from Florida and planned my Lenten Cantata accordingly.
Community choruses have singers paying for the privilege of singing in a concert. Should they be penalized for not attending rehearsals? If they miss a concert, should they not be welcomed back? Only you and your board can make those sorts of decisions. But your other singers may have opinions. If they attend every rehearsal, should those who do not get to sing?
I hate gossip. Hate, hate, HATE GOSSIP! And yet, we are all surrounded by gossip, every day. Look at your Twitter feed or Facebook or the magazines in the rack by your grocery store check-out—so much gossip. It IS fun to read about celebrities or people in the news or British Royalty but we can assume most of it is not true.
Earlier this year I wrote about being contacted by people who cannot believe their colleagues nerve or chutzpah or whatever you want to call it. Back-stabbing, undermining and talking smack about others; these are the toads of our profession. What to do when you are confounded by hearing you are being gossiped about? How do you handle it when your singers are being lured away? Why is another choral person questioning your education and ability and program and your choir? I told them there are no easy solutions, other than to take the high road. And I promised eventually they’ll be vindicated because I believe in Karma. The advice to my current correspondents is the same.
I do believe in Karma. I do believe in doing right, not talking smack about others and trying to take the high road. But it is tough. I recently learned one of the chief gossips about my own choral organization bumbled their recent concert. I know this for a fact. While, I suppose, I could take a certain pleasure in their bumbling, I can’t repeat it and behave in a Choral Ethical manner. Perhaps it IS Karma or perhaps it is not. I just know I can’t gossip, even about those who gossip about me. If nothing else, I know I behaved ethically; that counts for something.