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The Acapella Experience and Moving Forward in 2017

Starting in 2016, Lisa, our webmaster, asked me to write a Dr. Bob’s Blog article once a month to be posted on our website. Sadly, this is only my fifth entry this year. I’m not sure how many choral society members actually read my entries, but I am thankful for those who have and have written a reply.

This year we rehearsed and performed a tremendous amount of acapella repertoire which, however, involved only a small percentage of the choir: those who went on the overseas trip and those who are in LAAC, which, not surprisingly, is comprised largely of those singers who did tour with the choir in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I recall, from a previous posting, commenting on that choral experience. One of the largest obstacles for that small choir to overcome was singing in tune or maintaining the key center. Fast forward now to our Christmas repertoire with the full choir, as I recall having difficulty maintaining pitch in a short eight-measure acapella section in an otherwise accompanied piece. The problems we encountered with 40 voices in the tour choir, was now compounded exponentially with 90+ singers.

What was learned in the smaller choir was that each singer had to be considerably more accountable as there were fewer singers in each section. Correct notes and rhythms, attacks and releases, diction components, correct phrasing and dynamics, as well as singing in tune, now required those fewer singers to be accountable and not, necessarily, to rely on the “stronger” voices in their sections. Ears had to become more acutely aware, choral and vocal techniques became scrutinized more thoroughly, and subsequently the singers became much more aware of, not only what was emanating from their mouths, but from the ensemble collectively. This is what I refer to as the “acapella experience.” That 40-voice trip choir and now our new 23-member acapella ensemble, LAAC, are experiencing that joy firsthand. The challenge now comes to me to bring that experience to the full choral society.

Therefore, in 2017, we will be preparing more acapella selections. I’m also going to experiment with voice-matching within each section and full section redistribution and repositioning. While this might trigger some uneasiness with singers, my hope is that it will encourage singers to be more aware of what they sound like when they sing. Occasionally, I think some singers are just comfortable singing in a large choir, and might not, therefore, take their responsibilities as seriously as they should. It only takes ONE singer singing with incorrect vocal technique to initiate a pitch problem. Each singer’s mindset in a section with five singers should be identical to that of one in a section of twenty. However, the “safety in numbers” factor often overrides the necessity of that proper mindset. This is going to be one of my personal challenges as your conductor. I hope you will embrace this challenge as we move forward in 2017.

Have a great January and February, and I will see you in early March when LACS starts its 32nd season!

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