Last night was our first choir rehearsal of the new year. It was great to get back and see everyone again, although our numbers were a bit sparse! Hopefully next week will see an increase in numbers. :)
I used to dread the start of a new choir season, if only for the massive volume of new music I would be handed by the choir director. When I first started my job at Springfield Presbyterian Church, we were at the end of the choir year, so I didn't get hit with too much music, but the follow fall was a different story. At the first rehearsal I got hit up with a HUGE stack of music. I left that evening feeling more than just a little overwhelmed.
But as time has marched on, I've learned to anticipate, and even enjoy a new season and new music. As a church pianist, there are several things I have learned (and continue to learn!) that make my job as accompanist more manageable, and even enjoyable!
1. Being handed a stack of music does NOT equal; you MUST have all this mastered by next week. That stack represents an entire season or more of music. Focus on the coming month first and then work from there.
2. You most likely won't ever perform all the music. Each season, there are several pieces that our director decides not to have us perform for various reasons. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen until AFTER we work on it for a bit, so I still need to learn the music.
3. Learn the choral parts first. Generally the first week or two on a new choir piece the director won't even ask for the accompaniment part as we just work on drilling notes for each vocal part. If I familiarize myself with the vocal parts first, that takes a load off my back, helps me comprehend the piece more fully, and makes me more secure when drilling parts with the choir.
4. You don't have to play all the notes! Yep, I've become pretty good at fudging, substituting, filling in, or whatever you want to call it. There are some times when I don't worry about being able to play every single note that's written in the music. I'll substitute with other chord tones, and sometimes leave out the extra octaves. My job is more about support and providing a backdrop for the choir. I'm not a performer.
5. It's a collaborative effort. This is perhaps one of my favorite things about accompanying- it's not all about me! It's a group effort between me, the director, and the members of the choir. If we're not in tune with each other, it's going to fall apart. As a member of the team, I need to be cognizant of what's happening around me, and ready to adapt at a moment's notice.
6. BE FLEXIBLE! This is super important! As accompanist, I always have to expect the 'unexpected' and be ready to go with the flow. This kind of goes with #5, but flexibility is so important that I felt it deserved it's own spot. :)
7. Have fun. Also super important. When I work with our choir, it's not about how well we perform. First and foremost, our goal is to bring glory to God through the music we perform. And our second goal should be to have fun, enjoy the music, and communicate that joy and excitement to the congregation.
That's just a small snippet I've learned in the past almost two years in my current church position. And even now, as I face a new season of music and another stack of choir pieces, I'm excited about the months ahead!