Sometime ago, about a year and a half, I became the choir director at our church.
Keep in mind I have had no formal training although I sang with a women’s choir in college. It was great stress relief and I enjoyed trying different pieces that were difficult.
I was lucky enough to watch good directors and remembered their techniques. I think about that now when we are prepping new songs and need to make changes, sometimes on the spot.
My problem has been a lack of confidence and tendency to allow the pianist more leeway. That is when two different instances reminded me that perhaps I should be more directive.
The first was a comment by the pianist who plays monthly at our church but stepped in when the regular pianist was on maternity leave. I asked her to replay the intro for one song because I could not hear the entrance point. “You have to cue it, don’t wait for me,” she said.
The second instance was during Performance Today on NPR in which they were talking about conductors and the role they play for the orchestra. The conductor decides the tones and speed of passages. But they are also traffic managers who make sure each section comes in on time.
Suddenly, it seemed to me that the choir wouldn’t get better unless I got out of my own way. I began directing more, asking more from the choir members in regards to volume and speed. I had always been asking the choir for music requests but it appeared as if they were taking me up on it more as of late.
So the choir is beginning to sing sweeter, on time and willingly towards songs that may be hundreds of years old or within the last decade. We have done songs by Charles Wesley and black spirituals. Next month we are finally doing
I’ll Fly Away with banjo accompaniment and one choir member has asked to do a solo bit.
Is this all because of me getting out of the way to being a better director or happenstance? I would say both. Some things have fallen into place while others needed a little prodding and a lot of trust.
As we get better with each week and braver, it makes me wonder how to use this thought process in other areas of my life. Has this ever happened to you?