- This topic has 6 voices and 6 replies.
- September 22, 2016 at 12:15 pm #522167
I need you advise.
I’m a conductoir of a large amateur french choir of 90 singers. We are preparing Michael Haydn’ s Requiem in C for the end of march. This Requiem lasts 40 minutes only. In order to complete 1 hour of music, I proposed Mozart’s gorgeous Missa Brevis KV194. Until now, everything looks beautiful.
The problem is: We don’t have the time to prepare both, at least with the “large” choir. Their learning speed is slow (it’s an aging choir) and all the rehearsal time unitl march will be used entirely by the Requiem.
I suggested to form a “coro piccolo” of 20 of the choir’s best members to prepare the KV194. They would be expected to work on their own and we’d only meet 4 or 5 times, outside regular rehearsals, to work on the performance and nuances.
As the news broke out, jealousies exploded. The rest of the singers (who have no self-consciousness of their actual capabilities) feel they’re beeing “arbitrarily outed” by me and the Board won’t let me have my way arguiing that the “moral health” of the choir is more important. After all, it’s a social activity, the music being the excuse.
What are your thoughts on this? Should I impose and assert my authority or should I give in and resign myself to being just a “social event entertainer”? I feel that if I let them have their way, the’ll know they can play games with me and I’ll lose all authority.
The truth is I don’t have any other musical solution to complete 20 minutes of music.
Thank you very much for your kind replies!
CarlosSeptember 23, 2016 at 9:59 am #522220Don R. CampbellParticipant
One alternate could be to have auditions for solos, duets, trios, or quartets that would open the concert. To go with the Requiem, you would need to stipulate that the music be complementary. I don’t think show tunes or cabaret music would be appropriate. You could have the audition be open to all and maybe allow others to vote by ballot or give written comments.
Don CampbellSeptember 23, 2016 at 10:00 am #522224Andrea GoodmanParticipant
Have been in this exact situation. I can look at it at hindsight and tell you what our outcome was. We had the smaller choir, everyone who wasn’t in it resented it and I am not sure they ever got over it. I am no longer in that job and I think that was the start of trouble with the board of directors. Ironically the choir as a whole improved tremendously from the experience as those better singers felt their talents acknowledged, really loved moving along quickly in rehearsal and they stopped singing too loudly in their section when they got back to the full choir. I don’t think the rest of the choir realized how much the large group improved from the experience.
One thing to realize is it not a “you versus them” thing where you need to assert authority. If the mission of your choir is to be inclusive of everyone (as my old choir was), then you should abide by the “rules” set by the board. You won’t lose authority and they aren’t playing games here, they are concerned with the perception of favoritism of haves over have nots.
If I had to do it over again I wouldn’t have used a small group. My lesson here was I needed a better smaller chamber choir for more artistic growth. I eventually founded my own.
As for filling the 20 minutes, consider using your organ or orchestra in a solo or instrumental work, or even inviting a soloist in for a 10 minute work. You can also do an audience hymn sing depending on the program.
My two cents….September 23, 2016 at 11:50 am #522227
Thank you Don, thank you Andrea, your comments are very appreciated!September 23, 2016 at 10:18 pm #522247Stephen Winn KlyceParticipant
Sept. 23, 2016
Dear Maestro Carlos:
I enjoyed reading your presentation of attempting a “coro piccolo” to perform the
IV 194; I’m not sure I’m familiar with this; such a low Koechel number means it is “early” Mozart, probably in his teens. Doesn’t mean the notes are any easier than – say – the C min. Mass, but I’m thinking that there ought to be a way to solve this.
You’ve entered the treacherous field of “choosing up sides” — or forming opposing groups. That is a definite negative way to go.
Hopefully you can
I do see the board’s notion that choosing an elite group will stir up bad feelings in “some of the more sensitive, if not very skilled singers” that make up the bulk of the chorus evidently.
For what it’s worth, some thoughts:
1. If the KV 194 has a solo quartet, or trio, those portions ought to be a great help to get through the piece. Not sure if such soloists come from within, or are brought in from professionals outside the chorus; Perhaps if they can be enticed into singing discreetly with the large chorus, that may help execute some or most of the choral sections.
2. Would having sectionals help? No doubt you’ve considered this.
3. Along the same line, could your better singers be utilized as supporting-training cadre in the Mozart by diving the larger chorus into 2 or 3 smaller groups, with a few of the reading singers strategically placed in each of the smaller “chamber” groups.
4. Would a different Mozart or other acceptable composer make it feasible to include all of the members? I’m thinking of the Vesperae de Solenne with the lovely soprano coloratura solo and the pleasant treble sections.
5. I presume you will have an orchestral group for the second “filler” piece, and do you think this will be a challenge and a boost to the total chorus to buckle down and get this piece mastered.
6. I heard the Jos. Haydn Te Deum in C about 50 years ago and still recall its stunning and thrilling sound. It is (I think) about 15 min. long. Not sure what solo work there is in it, but I recall there is a good deal of homophonic writing, and of course there is orchestral accompaniment. That way you would have a double Haydn set of pieces.
(Perhaps you’ve advertised the selections and don’t feel you can change and I do understand that.)
7. Although not a smart idea at this point, in the future a small expert chorus NOT made up of the large chorus or related to that group could be added in sort of a joint concert. Expenses and the same feeling of being left out might still persist.
8. One of your responders 46 years ago+ ssaid that his solution was forming his own separate more advanced singing group after running into a problem such as your. Maybe that’s in the future for you also.
Good luck; don’t feel you are being downtrodden or diminished in stature just because you could not sell your idea. Many of us know that amateur choruses consider morale first, and quality of performance only secondarily.
You might pray about it. I think something very suitable will reveal itself if all parties keep a positive attitude, feel wanted and appreciated, and you enjoy whatever good and worthwhile results you and the group can produce.
Stephen W Klyce
Dagsboro DE, USASeptember 24, 2016 at 8:41 am #522264Cherwyn AmbuterParticipant
Several alternate solutions:
1) Are you engaging an orchestra for the accompaniment of the Haydn? If so, have the orchestra prepare separately a symphony complementary to the Requiem to fill the extra time within the concert.
2) If hiring an organist, have the organist play some solo pieces (such as a sonata?) with a terrific trumpet/clarinet/violin/whatever player.
3) Is there a local church choir that can handle classical pieces well? If so, you might consider inviting them to come sing some classical sacred selections that they already know as a “guest choir” in the program. Or, an excellent high school “select” choir – although if you’re in France, I think that the schools don’t have choral programs. if I recall, so this option may not be available? A bonus is that if you can involve a local choir, their loved ones will come and be a part of your audience in order to support them! And you may thus begin to grow your audience for future concerts!
4) A university choir might come and sing to fill the extra time. Perhaps you could find out what university choirs in France tend to be touring choirs, and you might engage them to come to where you are as part of a tour that they’re doing. (Although it is quite possible that the tours for the year are already set up, but worth a try.)
5) American choirs like to tour in Europe. Could you send out a post here on ChoralNet inviting choirs from other parts of the world who are planning a tour to France in the spring to consider singing on your program? Perhaps there is even an excellent children’s choir or boy choir which your audience would enjoy hearing, an entrancing sound all its own.
6) Do you have a local opera company? Perhaps you might invite their chorus to come and sing several opera choruses to fill in the extra time.September 24, 2016 at 10:56 am #522273Tricia BellParticipant
You’ve already had lots of terrific suggestions, but I’d like to offer a reply from the perspective of a singer in a community choir. I think it possible that many of your singers DO value the quality of performance as much as the social aspect of your group. I’ve watched the morale, recruitment, & retention in my own choir rise dramatically when a new director began to challenge us to higher standards. I think It’s possible for your singers to perceive and appreciate the benefits of forming a chamber group to the whole choir, especially if you outline those benefits to them. If you do decide to use a smaller chamber group, it’s important that you open auditions to the whole choir rather than simply selecting people you already know have the skill. That can go a long way toward mitigating resentment, as people are more likely to feel the positions were earned fair & square. However, the subject may already have become too fraught for you to try to push the idea forward this year; very likely you’d be better off employing one of the many other excellent suggestions given on this forum. For the long run, it would be very interesting to open up a conversation with the board & with the choir about their priorities. Where does excellence fall In the hierarchy of goals? Are people comfortable & happy with the current level of performance? How is recruitment ? Are you losing better singers because they are frustrated or bored? If using a chamber group doesn’t suit the choir’s goals & vision for itself, might they be interested in other ways of improving everyone’s skill (workshops, sight reading training , vocal coaching…)?
TriciaAugust 26, 2019 at 6:25 am #597903
First of all, THANK YOU for your terrific responses!
It’s been a long time since I connected to this site.
Here’s an update:
French choirs are a reflection of their kind of socialist society.
They favor not equality of opportunity but equality of outcome. And they force it donw your throat.
I submitted my proposal of forming a “coro piccolo” to a general vote, where board members vigorously opposed my idea in fiery speeches.
When it was my turn to speak, I said, “vote as the board suggests”… and – typically french – they acted opposite as ordered and I won the vote. You know, they are “revolutionaries” and they react to autority, they oppose it by instinct even if it means doom.
They never recovered from this and, similar to Andrea Goodman above, the board plotted for months and even years against in hypocrite silence and fake smiles until they fired me. It was a big relief but I lost my salary.
These french choirs and their socialist structure are so tiresome (the board functions as a labor union), they even got me to not want to do music anymore.
I ended up forming my own choir, where things are done my way, except that I’m not making any money out of it yet. I think I will publish an ad as Cherwyn Ambuter suggested, I might even open an invitation to american formations to participate in my Verdi’s REQUIEM in may 2020.
So much for the update, and again, it was refreshing and comforting to read you, american people, who have such a different vision of choral singing.
With my berst regards, hoping to meet you one day.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.