“Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.” Mark Twain
“The concert is going to be awful; why can’t singers come to rehearsal?” “The board expects perfection, and then hires a sub-par accompanist.” “Concert attendance will be down tomorrow, we’re expecting snow.” Have you ever felt like you needed an excuse for your concert’s outcome? Three ChoralNetters have.
When Shanna* emailed me it was early December and she was worried about the quality of her community chorus’s holiday concert. She was frustrated, she was furious; she was, well, she wasn’t sure what she was. It made no sense to have wave after wave of her singers called in sick rehearsal after rehearsal.
It was her community chorus’s custom to excuse anyone from rehearsal who called or emailed BEFORE rehearsal. And it’s a good rule. Last fall the absence situation seemed worse than in years past and Shanna had doubts about their concert. But her email to me, after explaining her situation, made no sense. She didn’t want advice about how to pull off the concert (Should she cut pieces? Should she ask the singers who attended the least amount of rehearsals to NOT sing?) but wanted to know what she should say at the concert to excuse their performance.
I suggested she not say anything; nothing, nada, zilch. It could turn out fine and there is no reason to call attention to the quality of their performance BEFORE they performed. Shanna was skeptical but would try to follow my advice. I heard from her last week. Guess what? The concert was fine. Shanna thinks everyone pulled together because most were under rehearsed so they really paid attention. She has ideas about how to prevent this from happening in the future and is relived it worked out this time.
Gabriel* is in a new position this year. He came in with the understanding his community chorus is the crème de la crème of choral organizations in their area. In fact, the board members who interviewed him made sure he knew they are the premier group. All staff members, from the executive director to the music librarian, emphasized this fact when he came in to the office the first time. It so happens, he chose a concert of unaccompanied winter holiday pieces, secular and sacred, for his first concert and is happy he did so. The staff accompanist is not so great and Gab doesn’t understand why he is still with them.
Their concert was good but Gab wonders if he should confront the board. About what, I asked. About their high expectations despite a crummy accompanist, he responded. I asked if he has the ability to fire the accompanist and doesn’t know. It seems the person is a hold-over from the prior music director. I think he should speak with the accompanist first, perhaps help him or make sure he knows what to practice for each rehearsal. And if things don’t improve, then go to the board. If they insist this person stay, they only have themselves to blame if the quality does not remain high.
Winter concerts are difficult in certain parts of the country. We here in the Midwest usually don’t cancel concerts, there are exceptions of course, but we do note a dip in concert attendance the day of a snow storm and live with it. No one can really predict the weather, other than if it’s winter, there could be snow.
DeeDee* got a scolding from her principal after winter break. Their winter concert had a lower number than usual of attendees due to a snow storm. He reprimanded her for not cancelling the concert when the storm was predicted. They live in an area of the country where yearly heavy snow storms are a fact of life. If they canceled every concert when snow was predicted, they would never have a winter concert. What should she do next time? I suppose cancel the concert if snow is predicted concert day—and her principal can take the heat from parents wanting to know why.