The mission of the American Guild of Organists is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. To achieve this, we
January Dean's Message
One of the purposes of the AGO is “…to encourage excellence in the performance of organ and choral music…” but we emphasize organ to the point that we go most years without a single program on choral music. I am therefore so glad to see our January chapter event on choral music and the organ, and I would encourage your attendance at that event (see a description on the Calendar page of this web-site).
The importance of the emphasis upon choral music was really brought home to me this past December as I heard various choirs and as I was involved in choral music myself. This gave me an opportunity to really think about what leads to excellence in choral expression. Here are a few of my thoughts:
Connecting the singers with the music. I was really struck with how much difference it made when the singers really knew the music. The ultimate test of knowing the music is the ability to sing without the score. This is difficult, of course, and most choirs I have sung in are just getting the words and the notes down when it is time to perform. However, The American Organist recently published a most insightful article on an interview with Stephen Layton who directs the Choir of Trinity College-Cambridge (November, 2014 issue, pp. 32-35). Members of his choir sing without scores in performances and of those singers Mr. Layton said, “The sense of vulnerability that comes from singing without a score enables them to sing first from the heart [and] then the mind.” While most of us will never sing a great deal without scores, it is certain that knowing the music better is a key to choral excellence.
Connecting the singers with the listeners. I really think that we miss out when we do not make a deliberate effort to connect with the audience with every piece we sing. How can we expect listeners to connect with the music if as singers we do not connect with the listeners? If your choir can be seen by the congregation, you can work on facial expressions and body movements to connect the listeners with the music and this certainly should be done. If the choir is not visible, it is tougher. However, it seems to me that nearly all choirs can make the optimal connection with the listeners—namely, singing while standing among the listeners. Suppose once a quarter our choirs went out to the congregants and sang a piece they knew so well that no music was needed. They could really connect with the listeners and the listeners, in turn, could connect with the music. Wouldn’t something like this really make our choirs more effective?
Carl Dodrill, Dean
I hereby declare January to be Choral Excellence Month, and I urge you to join me at our program on January 17!