R – So… how do we approach a “performance”? As we near the end of our rehearsals together, this is worth asking. How DO we approach performance? For me, it comes down to whatever our fundamental goal is, and unfortunately there are often times as many different goals as there are singers. I can speak for myself at various stages in my life, I performed to make a relative proud, I performed because I “loved” the literature, I’ve performed because I wanted to see the audience happy. Truth be told, I’ve also performed because, “well, I’ve gone this far with it, I guess I should stick with it through the performance”. I’m sure many of you could add additional motivations that you’ve experienced for yourself.
When it comes right down to it, choral music remains an art form. As a motivating factor, for me that has certainly become enough. There is a truly remarkable obligation that we have as a choir because the art of our concerts is twofold: the artistic creation of the music we are singing (composer), and the “real time” re-creation of that printed score into sound (performer). Robert Shaw often times referred to choral music as the most “moral” of the arts, and I believe this is what he was driving at: choirs – artistic choirs – have an obligation to do right by what the music in front of them intended and, as he said, that has significant moral ramifications. So where does that leave us? The great teacher Howard Swan alludes to a wonderful definition of Art:
…to reflect something on the inside of surface level. If it is artistic, it will inspire on its own. If on the other hand the goal is to create a superficial response, it is not art.
I believe our answer of how to approach a performance lies somewhere in that quote. What are WE going to do at our performances the weekend of May 5th? If we remain committed to the unique disciplines of tone, articulation, rhythmic integrity, vowel unity, melodic and harmonic precision, all within the context of musical phrasing and ensemble sensitivity, we will be creating Art. Moreover, we will be doing so at a very high level. This may or may not make a relative proud, we may not “love” every selection, and the audience’s response will certainly remain out of our control. But we will be able to leave our performances feeling like we gave something back… something back to music writers who inspire us as well as audience members who came to support us and hear what we had to sing. We will also be giving back to ourselves the knowledge that we strived for a goal worth achieving. For me, that’s motivation enough, and precisely how I will be approaching our concerts. I hope you will consider joining me in doing the same!