I'm happy to say that the Cappella Clausura concerts this past weekend went very well. However, it was a bit of an education in the effects that location can have on one's performance.
One hears a lot about the difficulties that can arise from performing in a new and different space. I've always been aware of acoustics - places can be live and echoing, or dead and muffled, and sometimes huge acoustic differences can have a very problematic effect on diction, cutoffs, rhythm, etc. In addition, standing can be awkward, places can be too hot, cold, drafty, damp, or dry; sightlines can be messed up; etc, etc. However, I can't previously recall having my comfort level with the music substantially affected.
Well, on Friday we sang in Gordon Chapel at Old South Church, and I was just sloppy. I sang a few wrong words; I missed a cut-off mid-phrase that's a particular pet peeve of mine when other people miss it; I missed the note order on one quick lick of eighth notes. I frequently had flashes of that feeling that occasionally affects musicians everywhere: "Have I really ever seen this music before?" I sincerely doubt any of this was noticeable from the audience - it was really a series of very subtle mistakes - but I felt quite dissatisfied, and wondered what was wrong with me.
On Saturday, we sang in our rehearsal space, the Parish of the Messiah in Newton. I stood in the same place for rehearsal that I've stood for the last several weeks. And presto - I felt comfortable, and strong. No more mistakes. I wasn't the only one, either - the entire concert was much tighter and more confident. It could have been because we'd just done it the night before, but it was also because we felt at home. I didn't realize until Saturday that I had been thrown off-kilter in my music-making by my surroundings on Friday. It's a good thing to learn, and a strong argument, when I conduct and need to make these decisions, for having the dress rehearsal in the performance space.