Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Best practices when conducting the choir

Conducting, of course, is the way you communicate with your choir during the performance. How do you make that communication the most effective?
  1. Understand what information the choir most needs from you. This will be different from choir to choir and from song to song. On one song, their biggest need may be for you to guide them through twists and turns in a complicated harmony. On another song, they may need you to keep them focused on staying in rhythm together. And in another song, they may be solid on their parts but need reminders on the lyrics. You will know what they need on each song observing their strong and weak points when you're working with them in rehearsal.
  1. Plan your signals. What gestures do you want to use to communicate the needed information? I have a web article about some of my preferred hand signals for choir directing (here's the link: http://www.squidoo.com/hand-signals-for-choir-directing). But there will be some situations where you need to come up with a signal that might be unique to that one song and that one choir. Think about what you're going to need and come up with a plan.
  1. Take time alone and practice conducting through the song. Remember that whenever there's a change coming, you want to give your signals enough in advance so that the choir isn't taken by surprise and they can make a smooth transition. Try to practice it enough times that it becomes automatic for you, almost like a dance.
  1. Think of rehearsal time as a time not only for the choir to work on their vocals, but also for you to continue to refine your directing technique for the song. You've already been preparing on your own, but in rehearsal you see if the choir is successfully getting the message that you're trying to give them with your signals. And, as I said, you get an idea of what areas the choir needs the most guidance in, and you can adjust your conducting accordingly.
  1. When the time comes that you're singing the song in service, stay in the moment and stay focused. I try to keep my body language flowing with the feeling of the music at the same time that I'm giving the signals that are required to keep everything together. This serves as an example to the choir also of how to get into the spirit of a song at the same time that they're focused on getting their parts right.
Choir conducting is an art. The director brings both together both the technical skill and the spiritual sensitivity to bring the best out of the choir and the music. Work on developing both and communicating them both to your choir.

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