“Never upstage the choir!” I heard these words spoken by Henry Leck to a group of singers during a National ACDA children’s honor choir rehearsal (Chicago, 2011). The choir was incorporating some non-choreographed movement into a particular piece, thus causing the words of caution. One young man, I would guess age 10 or so, did upstage the choir by losing focus and going wild with his movements. Mr. Leck stopped the choir, issued a gentle but firm reproof then resumed the practice. He was forced to stop again by the excited singer, and called him out again. His message was clear, you’ve upstaged the choir twice now, don’t do it again. I don’t remember the young man forcing the choir to stop again.
Many of us conductors are composers also, and frequently write music for our singers. This can be an incredible blessing, but it is important to remember, “never upstage the choir!”
A performance is not about bringing attention to ourselves, although it does reflect positively on us. The key word, in the previous statement is reflect. I suggest the focus should be on the mission of the choir. Maybe it is a specific mission such as bringing glory to God, bringing awareness to a cause, or something more broad such as just having fun, Christmas, Spring, etc…. As the mission of the choir is fulfilled, a positive reflection will be cast on all the participants in the music making experience, including conductor-composers.
Conductors who compose and bring their compositions to their choirs give them a rich gift. But remember, while conductors and composers deserve credit in performance, never lose the mission.
I hope this has been helpful and informative!
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