“There is a harmony in autumn, and a
luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it
could not be, as if it had not been!” Percy Bysshe Shelley
I love autumn. The golden slant of the sunshine, the rich, beautiful colors of the trees, the crisp and warm days, combined with the crisp and cool nights are a few of the reasons for my love of autumn. I have been known to go out of my way to crunch leaves beneath my feet simply because I love the sound. I am an October Baby, so that’s also part of my preference for the season. But what I really love is beginning a new concert cycle every fall!
I get excited by the repertoire I’ve lovingly chosen and have been studying for about eighteen months. It is thrilling to finally hear my singers sing something I’ve only imagined them singing. I enjoy beginning pieces which are new and interesting, working with wonderful people. Our fall concerts tend to be sacred music, so beginning our concert year with works of a more spiritual nature sets the tone for the rest of our concert year. As well, auditions every summer bring new singers; it is always fun to bring new blood into the mix of the core group.
Amber* also enjoys the autumn for many of the reasons I do. Her community chorus has auditions the first few days after Labor Day in September, and rehearsals begin the following week. She likens her view of autumn and the beginning of the choral year to New Year in January; she even makes New Choral Year Resolutions! Amber contacted me to share some of her choral resolutions for this year, Fall 2019 to Spring 2020. There are only three, but they are important.
Amber resolved to practice more regularly and to purposefully block out time every day to at least look at a tricky spot or conduct through several pieces for her community chorus. She tells me she always practices before rehearsals begin but in the last few years, has not practiced as much as rehearsals continue through the concert season. After about a month of rehearsals, she told me yesterday she really has noticed a difference in herself and the chorus. With a busy week last week, she was only able to practice about fifteen minutes each day. While not as much as usual, she still felt she needed to do what she could even if it seemed minimal.
She also resolved to say something nice every rehearsal; this was trickier than you’d think. Amber was trained by “old school” conductors who never said anything nice. She has tried to abandon this practice but old habits die hard. Her usual way was not to say anything good or bad, and often it was confusing to her choruses. If something needed to be fixed, she would work to fix it but not say anything when the correct notes became habit. This fall, she has complimented the chorus’s work ethic or tells them it’s almost there until it is corrected. When they do finally get something difficult, she tells them they did a good job or will compliment a section on figuring out a difficult passage. Amber has noticed the chorus seems to get things quicker than in the past with this change in tactics.
Amber’s third resolution is simple; she says “thank-you” to those she should thank. She does so immediately instead of “later” at a more perfect time, when the chance of forgetting is greater. Amber always had great plans to thank people, plans involving flowers and gifts and handmade cards. Most of the time, she got too busy to follow through and, as a result, folks she was really grateful to never get a proper “thank-you.” This summer, she bought several boxes of music themed “thank-you” notes. She put one box in her conducting bag along with several pens so she could write a note immediately. She also is keeping a running list of those she has already thanked. She could send a thank-you email or text but believes it better to write a physically tangible note of thanks. She feels better about her “thank-yous” and I assured her she is doing the right thing.
Autumn is a new beginning for many of us in the Choral World. Cheer’s to all of us for a wonderful beginning of the choral year!