Our new choir director will be absent this Sunday and I've been asked to cover for the week. Since we are in the process of learning 872 new tunes for the Christmas Cantata I won't be able to steal much rehearsal time from him, so I need to keep it simple.
Prepping music for a choir is more labor-intensive than people realize. First, at some point in your life you have to have put in a few years learning to read music. Like reading text, there is an automaticity to it that non-readers do not fully appreciate. Think about it: When you read, you are not spelling out each word in your head any more - what you see is rapidly interpreted, skipping any number of the steps you needed to use while learning, and goes straight to understanding, almost as if you are 'hearing' someone speak it. A really good musician can look at music and have the same process happen. Our current choir director is one of those. He wanted to add a little something to the accompaniment recently and said to the organist, "At measure 86 I want you to add a four octave unison Fa-Sol-Fa-Mi-Re-Do in sixteenth notes in the last two beats that returns us to the a tempo at measure 87." I understood it immediately, and so did she. But I would never have been able to say or imagine it that way.
Sadly, I am not a 'really good musician.' I need to hear what I am seeing in order to really learn it. Since I am not a piano player, this was a challenge in the days before CD's with split tracks, MP3 players and rapid access to music online. And I need to practice that 'waving my arms in the air' bit to get it down before I drag the choir through it (something our choir director is still relatively new at - he's a better musician, but I'm a more experienced director).
When I first began to direct our church choir I was afraid my lack of musicianship would hold them all back. But I learned that my singers weren't 'musicians' - more than half of them couldn't read music at all. They were just people who loved to sing, and what I learned was that when people want to sing praise to God, they will make do with the director God gives them until the director learns the job better.
I don't direct the choir full-time anymore because of the inherent unreliability that comes with having a chronically ill child. But there is nothing that puts together the joy of ear and eye like directing a choir, and I'm grateful to be able to do it once in a while still.