I’m just recovering from the most recent performance of the flute choir that I conduct, (the Tampa Bay Flute Choir). It was a lovely performance in front of a large, enthusiastic audience. It could hardly have gone better!
I have to admit that I was VERY, nervous going into the performance, almost unreasonably so. I am a novice conductor and can really mess things up if I’m not on top of things. I also tend to take responsibility for every little bit of the performance, such as the degrees of dynamic change, the impact of accents, the expression in a melodic line, etc. When I get obssessive about these things, I have to remind myself that in performance what the flute choir needs most is a steady beat and a sense that everyone is where they are supposed to be at that particular moment. The time for micro-management is over. I’m a good ensemble coach, which is great for rehearsals, but during a concert the group needs a leader, fearless or not.
As a new conductor, I’ve learned that a great deal of personal preparation is needed in order to create a good performance. Conducting a musical performance can be very different from performing on an instrument. My prep isn’t that different from what I do to get ready to play in an ensemble, but instead of worrying about the technical issues of flute playing, I’m worrying about how to move the baton or my hands in order to guide the players through the music. Sometimes I think of the choir as a large, living musical instrument and I am its player. In reality it isn’t quite the same thing, but if the group dynamic is really good, it can be close! I love the coaching side of it, encouraging the players to play more musically than they thought possible and giving technical advice that will help them accomplish that (only when needed!)
The rehearsal theme this season (described in an earlier post) has been that we are weaving a musical tapestry with each player responsible for their own thread, sometimes bringing the thread to the surface so it can be heard, at other times taking it to the background so other threads can be heard. This concept has worked well, with players quoting the idea often.
We are already hard at work organizing and rehearsing for the next concert. I hope I can carry the successes of the last two performances (Christmas was good, too!) forward to the season finale so we end on a good note. I literally try to always end rehearsals on a good, beautiful, resonant chord so we leave feeling both like we accomplished something and looking forward to duplicating that experience next time. This last concert has had that effect on the group; I want to keep it going!!