“Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has been maintaining a sense of humor.” Stephen Hawking
Since the middle of March, or there abouts, it’s been a strange time for all of us. Most of us have planned for some pretty outrageous situations before but never for this situation, never for a Pandemic. We weren’t prepared because something like this has never happened to us, or to anyone we know. We’ve gotten into some sort of rhythm but still have no idea what we are doing.
In summer in normal times, right about now I would be doing research and practicing for my upcoming rehearsal and concert cycle. There is huge doubt we’ll be rehearsing or performing in any sort of traditional sense, so I am NOT practicing or doing research and feel lost. So, I decided to do some Pandemic Professional Development. I’m reading, watching online lectures and streaming concerts. I’m reviewing notes I’ve taken from various conferences and material from those courses. Books I’ve read in the past, part of my own library, has been calming and comforting and I read only the sections and chapters I want to because I’m the one in charge.
Today I’ll share some of the books I’ve been reading. One of my favorites is “In Quest of Answers: Interviews with American Choral Conductors,” Editor and Interviewer, Carole Glenn. It’s such a wonderful glimpse into the minds of some the best choral conductors of the 20th century. Pick a subject, and Weston Noble, Robert Shaw, Dale Warland or Margaret Hillis will have an answer for you!
In that vein, I have also been rereading “Up Front! Becoming the Complete Choral Conductor,” edited by Guy B. Webb. This is a collection of essays from some of the top choral conductors in the USA. Published in 1993, many of the essays speak to me RIGHT NOW and chillingly so.
Another collection of essays is “Wisdom, Wit, and Will: Women Choral Conductors on Their Art,” compiled and edited by Joan Catoni Conlon. I’ve loved this book since the first time I cracked it open. I’ve been trying to read something from one or two of the contributors every week, taking time to digest each as I go.
My Go-To for getting inspired is “The Robert Shaw Reader,” edited by Robert Blocker. Several of my own professors and conductors I have sung with, sang with Shaw. When I read about count singing, I am reminded how he was the ancestor of us all and can’t help but be inspired!
I’ve enjoyed and have USED “Collaboration in the Ensemble Arts: Working and Playing Well with Others,” by ACDA’s own Tim Sharp, since the first time I read it. Conducting a chamber choir, this is the meat-and-potatoes of what must be done within smaller ensembles, more so, I think, than larger ones. I collaborate with other types of arts organizations, both performing and visual arts, and have tried to take Tim’s words to heart when working with them. Thanks, Tim for writing this!
I was to sing with my alumni chorus this past spring and had decided, as I did last year, to reread “The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness,” by Gerald Klickstein on my train commute. I enjoyed doing so last year and thought it would be calming and help me to gather my thoughts and focus on the upcoming rehearsal. Reviewing and thinking about some of the author’s points in greater detail have helped me maintain a bit of sanity in the past few months. None of what he writes about is that new to someone like you or me but saying it and spelling things out quite clearly have been somewhat of a balm in these troubled times.
A few years ago, one of my singers gave me “Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others,” by Stacy Horn. I won’t lie; right now, it’s been hard to get through. Stacy writes about the JOY of singing in her community chorus, The Choral Society of Grace Church in Manhattan. Each chapter is titled with a piece, the date the organization sang it and various slice-of-life stuff and musings happening in rehearsal and out. All I can think of as I read is “God, I MISS REHEARSALS,” dry my tears and try to finish a chapter. I hope you and your chorus are doing okay in the mess we find ourselves in, Stacy–I love your book.
In March, at the beginning of our state’s shelter-in-place order, I downloaded the novel, “All Together Now,” by Gill Hornby on my Kindle. I thought it would be fun to read about the comradery of a community chorus (it takes place in the UK) until I could get back with my own choir. The usual “musical healing” takes place but here again, I didn’t think reading about someone else’s chorus, or experiences singing in a chorus, would affect me as much as it does. It’s fun and poignant and makes me miss my singing life even more.
I hope you are doing some professional development type things too. Next week, I’ll blog about some lectures and courses I’m watching online.
Until next week, be well and be safe!
I am taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Please join me there this morning!