‘We need bums on seats’ is the cry of many a choir, using this as a reason for sometimes frankly unimaginative programming, it is becoming quite clear that audiences are wanting more, becoming more knowledgeable, and we must cater for this otherwise those bums will remain firmly placed on the sofa at home!
Countless performances of the old favourites (and a very limited selection of those) sometimes by choirs singing within a few miles of each other, may well keep the singers happy but are we exciting our audiences, are we happier to sing what we know than venture into the great unknown – which may of course be harder work?
Recently as a judge at an international choral festival I heard choirs imitating forest sounds, using percussion in their music, going from standing to sitting cross legged on the floor and silently restanding – all to serve the composer’s intentions in a beautifully produced Latvian folk song, Es Gulu. The audience were captivated.
The range of music available to sing is enormous. By the time the standard orchestral repertoire was written some of our greatest choral composers had been dead 200 years. And what of supporting todays composers, (remembering that every piece of music was new at some time)?
We live at an exciting musical point where there are composers writing in all sorts of styles. We have access to recordings and YouTube performances of thousands of pieces of music from all over the world, ( and so of course do our audiences) There are gems to be found for those prepared to look and these can and should be delivered to our audiences if we are to keep them interested and the choral art fresh and alive.
Personal favourites are subjective but I am as astounded by the beauty of some recent Baltic music as I am in the woeful neglect of some of our own lesser known composers.
For my choirs this weeks music has included Vivaldi and Scarlatti, Barton and and Healey Willan, Weelkes and Vaughan Williams, Randall Thompson and Esenvalds; (and a little bit of Knight!) some sublime English Tudor music and some from the Great American songbook. Amongst these few examples are excitement and passion, melancholy and despair.
Yes – We need the seats at our concerts full, and since choral music has the power to thrill or entertain , to uplift or to thought provoke – the choir that seeks out fresh and interesting repertoire will go a long way to making that happen.
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