Monday, November 05, 2007

Location, location

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.


  1. Oh, dear, now you're freaking me out.

    I have two performances of a concert program in a couple of weeks: both at places we've never had a rehearsal (although we will have our dress at one of them).

    I'd be even more freaked if the last two rehearsals hadn't suddenly gone well (although we have yet to make it through a couple of our pieces without being stopped).

  2. KM:

    Don't freak out! I think it's the kind of problem where merely being aware of it can help to solve it. And if your dress rehearsal is at one place, that should go a long way towards fixing any potential problems.

    Break a leg!

  3. Thanks!

    It's still going to worry me because 1) our normal rehearsal space is a small basement room & these are both moderate-sized churches 2) I may be aware of this but I'm not sure my director is. Oh well. We shall have little children singing with us for the last piece and that'll make everyone forget if we sound bad ;)

  4. KM:

    It is so true that small children are of inestimable value in concerts! You can easily get mad media coverage, too - that's another advantage!

    Let me know how it went (if you ever see this comment, seeing as it's buried a week in the past, now...)