The May 2015 issue of Choral Journal contains an article from Hilary Apfelstadt titled “Taking Our Rehearsal Temperature.” Choral conductors and music educators always seem to be looking for more articles on rehearsal. In this article, the author provides a rubric for learning music with notation, although these tips can apply generally to any type of choral learning experience. An excerpt of the article follows. You can read the rest in the Rehearsal Break column of the May 2015 issue of Choral Journal here! (Click “Search Archives” and choose May 2015)
Note: this article originally appeared in the Canadian Music Educator, issue 55 (1), 2013.
- Effective rehearsals are organized around a “whole to part to whole” structure. Does your rehearsal follow this model?
The first “whole” comprises an overview of the music. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. For example, one might play a recording of the music to introduce the piece or, if the ensemble’s skill level allows, have the group sight-read the piece on a neutral syllable or with the words. One of my university teachers always had us sing new short pieces on “loo” while he played the parts on the piano in order that we would have a sense of the music’s shape and structure.
While one could quibble about the fact that we were not really sight-reading but rather following along with the piano, it was a strategy that always resulted in our having a sense of the whole piece. (Later I came to regard this approach as “spoon feeding” because it did not make us independent of the piano or make us accountable for our own rhythm and pitch but understood that it was one approach to getting a sense of an entire short piece.)
The “part” comprises the detailed work that leads from accuracy (getting the rhythm and pitch correct, along with other musical details) to artistry (conveying the expressive intent of the music). Here we use teaching strategies developed according to our analysis of the music. For example, if the composition has repeated dotted rhythms, we might present those initially in the warmups and then help the singers find them in the music as they listen or as they scan it visually.
If the music is based on a minor scale, we might sing that scale prior to the detailed rehearsal to get the tonality established and give singers a chance to tune their ears and voices to that minor mode. The final “whole” is putting back together all of the parts into a cohesive unit that is artistic and expressive. It might take one rehearsal or many rehearsals to accomplish this, but each rehearsal should offer some sense of whole. Perhaps it is only the A section that is really accurate by the end of the allotted time, but before leaving that piece to go to something else, we can have the singers perform it as best they can to experience a sense of musical closure for the moment.
In planning for a rehearsal in this whole-part-whole paradigm, the teacher needs to do several things: analyze the music, discern its teachable elements, develop appropriate teaching strategies, implement them, and finally, evaluate them.
Read the rest of this article in the May 2015 issue of Choral Journal here! (Click “Search Archives” and choose May 2015)
Note: you must be an ACDA member to read the Choral Journal. If you are not already a member of ACDA, join today! Associate members can join for only $45 a year and receive access to the Choral Journal online and other ACDA benefits.