“Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well.” Aretha Franklin
Just as things are getting back to “normal-ish,” things REALLY are getting back to “NORMAL-ISH!” Two ChoralNetters share current stories with me about Divas.
I was raised by the Queen of the Night so nothing gets to me, diva-wise. My late Mom was a coloratura soprano and could be a real Diva when she wanted to be, usually with a very good reason for her behavior. My voice teacher, again, can be a Diva but I always understand why she does what she does. These ladies used their Diva-ness judicially, when and where it could do the most good for their cause. I respect Divas and try not to be one myself. It’s not that hard to not be demanding about silly things and save it for things that are actually important. Then there are Divas who use their talent, looks and charm to demand what they want, no matter what or who’s rights it impinges upon. The rest of us can either acquiesce or ignore. My advice is, IF POSSIBLE, to ignore.
Dante* told me about a concert he conducted in late winter in combination with another performing arts group. The day before the concert, the dress rehearsal was at the venue for both groups. Each of the ensembles had a certain amount of time with a gap of 30 minutes between each separate rehearsal to reset the stage. Everything was going very well with his chorus until about 20 minutes before their portion of the rehearsal was to end. At that point, a woman came stamping into the auditorium, yelling. She stomped up to the stage, poked her finger repeatedly at Dante, and DEMANDED to know who he was and who THOSE PEOPLE (his chorus) were and what they were still doing on stage.
He told her who they all were and calmly (he told me he TRIED to be calm because he didn’t know who she was) explained they had 20 more minutes left of their scheduled rehearsal. She explained she was the HARPIST for the next group and demanded they leave immediately so she could tune her harp in peace before her rehearsal. He told her “No.” She really started to get riled up, but Dante remained calm as he could be while she swore and promised vengeance. They completed their rehearsal while she was yapping. The director of the next group came in while she was still yelling and observed what was happening.
As Dante was gathering his things, the other director came up to apologize for the harpist’s behavior but explained that “she is so good, he always puts up with her nonsense.” Dante can’t imagine putting up with someone yelling as they walked into someone else’s rehearsal. In fact, he’s having second thoughts about working with that group again. A good number of his chorus members came up to him at their rehearsal after that performance and said how proud they were of him and how he handled it.
Beatrice has had enough of the two big Divas in her church choir. One wants a solo, the other demands she NOT give that person a solo because they’re not good enough to have a solo, but SHE is. All of these requests are done in the privacy of the choir room and made with “the best interests of the choir” at the heart of them. Back and forth and back and forth, they go ‘round and ‘round with how good THEY are and how AWFUL the other person is. Things were bad before COVID restrictions and are twice as bad now that many have been lifted.
It changed and got a bit worse just as this Lent began, with an actual sort of threat made by both ladies. One told her she would be stepping down from the choir after Easter unless she got a solo of some sort during Holy Week and the other made a similar threat of taking a “choir sabbatical” until September because she doesn’t seem to be appreciated. What to do?
Beatrice asked me for some advice, and I gave her some ideas. I told her if she gives into their threats, they will feel they can continue to do so but if somehow, she lets them know she’s in control, it will be better. I suggested she pick two solos which could be appropriate for either Diva, one for Palm Sunday and one for Easter Sunday, and let them pick which one they each want TOGETHER with the understanding each will get ONE SOLO and ONE SOLO ONLY. Before Pentecost, set up a solo schedule for the coming summer and let EVERYONE in the whole choir choose their date. If the Divas want a solo, they each get one and one only for the whole summer. If there are any dates left, announce to the congregation the dates that are open for anyone in the congregation who would like to sing or play an instrument. And I told Beatrice to make sure the Divas know she will no longer be listening to their smack talking–there’s no reason for it!