There are several ways to not rehearse your choir that really pay off. I spoke about one way in my last episode. Specifically, finding out your choir’s WHY. 

Episode 42

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Today I’m focusing on text interpretation through deep reading.

One of the best ways that we as choral directors can strike up a productive non-musical rehearsal is to facilitate a deep read with our choristers. 

This is an activity that you do BEFORE you ever sing a note of a particular piece.

A deep read involves taking apart the text of a given piece and asking some very important questions. It also involves paraphrasing the author’s text, to make it more meaningful to you and the the chorister. 

Let’s take a look at the steps of a deep read. 

  1. Gain some background information on the author, their life, struggles, relationships, possible reasons for writing what they wrote, etc.
  2. Write out or print the text in the author’s original form. 
    • The stanzas should be separated.
    • The lines and punctuation should be reflected as intended in the poet’s original. 
    • Be certain to take into consideration the use of upper and lower-case letters and any other small details.
  3. Next, with your choir, begin to go line-by-line paraphrasing each individual thought, sentence, or phrase with the input of the choir. 
    • Stop and define any words you’re not 100% clear on.
    • Why did the author use THAT word and not a synonym? 
    • Proper nouns need definitions too.
      • If it’s a geographical place, learn about that place and why it would in the text.
      • If it’s a name of a person or character, why do they appear in the text? What significance to they have to the author? 
    • Be sure you know what EVERY word means and why it’s there. 
    • If you can find an first-hand account or interview with the author explaining the text, read it. This would be best.  
  4. Dialogue with your choir about the text and its newly paraphrased form. 
    • Discuss the author’s purpose
      1. to entertain?
      2. to persuade?
      3. to inform?
    • What does the text mean to…
      1. You (the director)?
      2. The individual members ?
        • Get volunteers to share with the whole choir or a peer sitting next to them.  You think this may be corny to do with adults, but it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary.  If your church choir won’t have it, then they’ll never be open enough to give the congregation what they need. 
        • Share, share, share (Kumbaya, baby!)
    • What does it mean to the choir in their journey as a group?
  5. Without looking in the music, ask the choir to take educated guesses as to what words and phrases the composer may have highlighted in the music? Why would the composer use…
    • those harmonies?
    • those dissonances?
    • those dynamics?
    • other musical elements?

Every time you hand out a new piece of music. Take a moment to add this process to your rehearsal.  I promise you that you’ll have less frustration when it comes to teaching the notes and rhythms, because the choir will be more invested. Heck, it may even mean a lot more to you as the director!

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