Post (rehearsal) partum

by vernsanders on March 26, 2009

Just got home for a great rehearsal evening–both choir (first) and worship team. Perhaps it is the teacher in me, but I find, as a musician, that rehearsals are often the “good part.” As a leader, which I am for this choir, I get to watch the group’s development over the long term, and their accomplishment over the course of an anthem’s preparation, and their progress during a rehearsal. It is a kind of “lead me, guide me” relationship thing with my musicians at this point in my career, and I have found that I much prefer a group that is willing to work, than one which is caught up in their own egos or agendas.

As the designated “high male harmony” singer in the band, I have a different role, and it has been a lot of years since I was a sideman. It is an interesting situation, because the church is in transition in terms of the musical leadership, and the plan is that when the current worship leader leaves (his pro band will become the house worship band at a church in another part of the state come summer), I will take over that role as well. In the meantime, I “mind the vocals” so to speak. In the current role, I get to experiment with harmonies to find the right “sound” for a particular tune, and there is much more flexibility than I have as a leader.

What do you think? It seems like I’m described the leader’s role as setting the vision and maintaining focus on the goal and the tasks, while the sideman’s job is to be creative within the confines of the task. How much creativity is enough? or too much? It’s a tough call…

A week or so ago, one of the other band members, observing a warm up rehearsal of the choir before worship, pulled me aside in that “tween time” before the prelude started, and told me about some of the problems he had heard. OK, then…Wayne Dyer time…so I decided to just be direct: I know there are problems, and I know what they are. I appreciate your wanting to help me, but I am accepting some of these problems because there is a bigger agenda, a bigger picture, and (I’ve been there two months) I can’t fix everything all at once (this is a choir that had been essentially dormant for about two years). Without the defensiveness that often comes in that “don’t talk to me about problems on a Sunday when I’m trying to prepare for worship” time, he completely understood…

there’s a lesson there…

In any event, I like rehearsals (well…most of them, because there are those days that mama warned you about..).

Part of that comes from my natural affinity for improv, or perhaps, better stated, unease at rigidity, when it comes to arrangements. Composed music? Do what’s written (although I’ve learned over the years that many composers really don’t have any idea what the marks on the page will actually sound like…stories for another post…). Arrangement? Make it work for your situation (aha! only two posts in, and I’ve already manufactured an excuse for my “local solutions for local situations” mantra…). Heresy? I don’t think so. I’m not talking about wholesale changes, just tweaks to fit my situation, much as you’ll find in, say, Handel’s various versions/emendations/restructuring of Messiah depending upon the singers he had.

The point is, by the time it gets to “performance,” things are more or less settled, depending upon how much ad lib/improv/playfulness you’re willing to allow as a leader. But during rehearsals? That’s where we musicians work it out, and that’s where the fun is…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vicki Carr August 5, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I love rehearsal time, especially with a tight, professional group of musicians. The camaraderie is so rewarding. Not so much fun when the leader is unsure how to communicate what he/she wants.

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