Final Message to Choir Teachers

Kia ora tatou

Many thanks for all your hard work this year with your choirs.

“Whatever the Weather” was a great success and the feedback that we have had has been overwhelmingly positive. Every year we spend a lot of time selecting the songs, aiming to cover as many genres as we can to produce as stimulating a show as possible, but this year seemed to really work well on so many levels.

There were a couple of comments around using more “modern” songs, and we look at that every year, but so many are only suitable for solo voice rather than a massed choir, or are unsuitable for children because of the lyrics, that we have to be very careful. The pitch selection is always solidly in the range for a good head voice and rarely (if ever) goes higher than an E which is well within a child’s natural range. If boys’ voices are breaking then taking it down the octave is fine for the really top stuff but most should be absolutely fine. We do experiment with adjusting keys so that each song sits well for children’s voices. The only time when there can be a trade-off is when we have songs for the Concert Band or Symphony Orchestra because there we need to be mindful of the keys that the transposing instruments (Bb clarinets, trumpets and tenor saxes; horns in F and alto saxes in Eb) have to read in, but prime consideration is always given to the tessitura of the voices.

Just addressing a couple of general issues, ticketing seemed to work well this year from our perspective but there were the inevitable hiccups. We gave very clear instructions as to where the children would be sitting but there were necessarily minor adjustments to be made as we seated the choirs. HYowever, if they were, for example, “left of stage” they were that. With some schools bringing fewer or more children than they have indicated or not being present for the morning rehearsals (which is something we require for precisely these reason, as well as getting acquainted with the performance space) there will always be minor adjustments.

As we look at moving back to the Town Hall in either 2019 or 2020, we will need to be very specific as to the numbers in each choir and, as part of that transition, it is probably a good idea to start thinking about how you go about selecting choir members as we will not be able to be as flexible once we move into that space (ticketing will also be at a premium as there will likely be fewer seats per performance). Auditioning may well be a part of how you select your choir but what we really want is keen children who want to be there. Ability, however, does play a part – just try having that conversation with the sports coaches when someone who just isn’t up to it wants to make the top team – the Arts are no different, especially when you are enagaging in public performance. I think it goes without saying that we would be wanting children who a) want to be in it and b) have a genuine interest in singing and performing and c) have some aptitude for doing so.

Being part of a 1000-strong choir is not going to suddenly magically transform unruly behaviour and, sadly, quite a few of your comments reflected frustration with the behaviour of children in other schools and the lack of proper supervision by accompanying adults. We also welcome a strong teacher presence at both the Area Rehearsals and the Horncastle Arena – one thing I always enjoy is seeing the teachers singing with the children (great role models!).

The start time of 7.00pm continues to work well – for those for whom this still isn’t early enough, we won’t be going earlier because it would be problematic for many parents to get to the venue by, say, 5.00pm (for a 6.00pm start). It was gratifying that each night finished at 9.15pm, which had a lot to do with our slick stage management team and creative directors who ran a really smooth show. We are very aware of what successive late nights can mean for children, especially those in the representative groups, but we are now at the stage where the 10.00pm blowouts are a thing of the past!

So, it only remains for me to thank you all again as we look forward to “Fun and Games” in 2018!

Ngā mihi nui

Patrick Shepherd
Musical Director