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Inviting a choral expert to our rehearsal

My budget has been restricted this year and I must spend my con-ed funds in the calendar year. I was fortunate in the past to set it aside for a few years and attend one of the many wonderful, summer choral events/workshops being offered around Canada or the US.
My solution is to pay a respected colleague to attend a choir rehearsal (church choir, 6 leads, 24 voices) and work with us/critique us. I can probably pay for three such ‘calls’.
Anyone done this? Anyone do this regularly? Tips or suggestions?
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on December 20, 2015 1:12pm
Where are you located?  The farther a critic lives from you, the more you may have to pay.  Close proximity is helpful. Yes, this is not an unusual request coming under the baner of "clinic."   
on December 20, 2015 2:24pm
I am very fortunate to have a great number of choral specialists in my area. The issue of distance will not be a problem.
I guess one of my questions is: have you found it more advantageous to have a clinician work with your choir on tone production, choral sound, diction etc. vs repertoire. Or use repertoire to tackle the issues of tone production, choral sound, diction etc.
Would it be better if I ask the clinician to focus on a specific issue (maybe 2) and just ignore others. I (and the choir) will want to see an improvement and have specific issues to keep in mind for the following weeks.
It might just really depend on the clinician.
on December 23, 2015 12:35pm
Chiming in: I guess I would do as much as possible in context. In other words, if you want great (or a particular sort of) tone production on a movement from the Brahms Requiem, have your clinician coach you and your choir doing that movement, and be very clear upfront what you like and don't like about how you currently sound and where you (think you) want to go. My intuition tells me that you'll get better results that way than more in a decontextualized vacuum.  If there's a piece that you have in current rep and want to improve for an upcoming show, all the better.
on December 21, 2015 4:21am
I do this every year, both with my choir and as a clinician myself. It is always helpful for a clinician to come in and work with your choir. This does two things. It allows your choir to learn concepts in a different way than you teach them, and it reinforces the concepts that you teach every day. It's amazing how I always get some comment that the choir member didn't believe that what I was telling them would work but when the clinician said it they took it as gospel. 
I also try try and get clinicians who have a specialty based on what we are working on. One year I got someone to come in just to work on a Capella singing. This year, 5 churches pooled their resources and had a longer day with a clinician that we brought in for the day. It's been a great success. 
on January 24, 2016 7:37am
We hold our annual choral "Fall Retreat" all day on a Sat. in October - at a different venue than our regular rehearsal/performance space - in town.  (Our annual "Spring Retreat" is held out of town).  I started this with our choir several seasons ago, and will never look back. 
Like you, CJ, I always invite a clinician (who comes in for the morning session) who has a specialty based on some or most of the repertoire we're working on.  After a scrumptious pot luck lunch, we then work on the rest of our repertoire.  Always an incredibly valuable experience - in innumerable ways - both for the choristers and for me!
Jenny Crober,
Art. Dir., Conductor, VOCA Chorus of Toronto
on December 21, 2015 5:11am
This may seem strange, but the best "clinic" I ever took part in was just this last year. Not only did our clinician come in to work with the choir, but also with me as the director. The reasoning behind it was that "it all begins with the director." How can I, as director, get what I want from the choir. And how can the choir respond with what I want.
All too often we know what we want as the director, but don't communicate well with the singers. This clinic was invaluable in pointing out things that I was doing to sabotage the success of the singers.
I would suggest making it a long rehearsal time, say a long term Saturday retreat type of thing. It's amazing what can happen in a concentrated time with all involved. Just beware, your ego will take a hit. However, you will  be a better director!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 21, 2015 8:04am
Dear L Pike,
Working with choirs in a rehearsal context is of course what I have done throughout my career - Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University. Since retirement I have had many opportunities to offer workshops/lecture-demos, teaching and rehearsing in brief residencies at USC, Stanford, University of Oregon, Portland State, University of Michigan, Boston University, and Yale. Where are you located. Let me know if you might be interested in workshops with your 24-voice church choir on any aspect that might be helpful - depending upon your desires, my primary approach would be rehearsal techniques - how to hear, how to fix - Improving Intonation, Ensemble Rhythm, Vowel Unity, and Expressivity related to style and structure: dynamics, phrasing, articulation, linear direction, rubato.
Jameson Marvin
on December 21, 2015 10:35am
A truly authentic adjudicator/clinician would want to hear your choir perform with you directing and with the accompanist in place.  The adjudicator would listen to the ALL aspects you named, and more, and then comment as necessary.  If YOU feel that you are unable to achieve a particular concept with your choir, the clinician, forewarned, could help in that respect with private conversations with you and/or with conversations with your choir.  But, if you hire a clinician, why would you want that professional to comment about only one aspect.  Yes, comments would be centered on the initial request, but additional comments could be made outside of that agenda.  I hope this response is helpful. 
on January 21, 2016 11:40am
I do this with my Elementary and Middle School Choirs.  
What I have done is the following:
1. Bring in a clinician to work with them for a day.  
2. Focused on a "specialized style"  - so  if we are working on a jazz style, I bring in a top notch jazz choir director to work wtih my students....etc....
3. Bring in a renown director and their choir and do an exchange/joint concert.
Just some ideas.!  Best of luck!    
on January 22, 2016 3:35am
I have always learned something when a respected guest visited a rehearsal.
on January 22, 2016 1:35pm
I was able to form a years' long relationship with a choir when invited to do just this. My friend was a wonderful organist, but not a singer, was invited to be an organist/CHOIR MASTER in a different church far, far away. She asked me to coach her and her choir for weekend retreat and some following workshops to prepare and conduct a Faure Requiem and later, a Durufle Requiem. Everyone won.
on January 23, 2016 12:53pm
I've never gotten to do this with a church choir - the 'stars never aligned' - but as a public school band director, I was able to invite clinicians from time to time.
I and my groups learned the most when I scheduled their rehearsals at the right time.  I wanted the clinician to do more than woodshed parts, but I never wanted them to lead one of the last rehearsals before the performance.  I double-checked the organization and community calendars to insure maximum participation.  I offered scores well in advance, though the clinicians rarely needed them.  Of course, these were students, so I prompted them to be on their best behavior, but I'd still tell my adults what to expect.
I and the groups learned the most from having a trusted clinician come back at least once, maybe twice a year.  Certainly we learned a lot from 'one-offs' but the returning clinician could reflect and comment on progress made - or needed - since the last visit.  I learned to schdule personal time with the clinician after the rehearsal (usually over a meal or coffee) where they could suggest changes and improvements for the future.
Finally, I learned to never personalize suggestions.  The best clinicians are the ones who will tell you honestly what you need to change - and that's not always easy to hear.  But I also learned to disregard some advice.  Sometimes they just didn't understand the group's goals and challenges, though, usually, we all learned a lot from the visit of a good clinician.
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