Choir Rehearsal Observation: Armstrong HS Concert Choir, 4/21
On 21 April, I observed the Armstrong High School Concert Choir in a rehearsal with their director, Stephanie Trump.
Ms Trump started the rehearsal with warmups, which were more extensive than other high school choirs I have observed in the past. She devoted the first 15 minutes of class to warming up and sight-reading. She projected the sight-reading material on an overhead in the front of the class and had the students sing the scale of the key they were to sing, which was the only part of the entire rehearsal where she conducted them (in a 4 pattern). When they had trouble with a line in c minor, she had them sing the pitch she named aloud (do, me, ti, te, etc.), which helped them notice and perform the notes with accidentals more clearly and their relation to one another.
After warmups Ms Trump worked with them on a piece they had started on in a past rehearsal but had not gotten very far into yet, "Congori Shango". They performed the part they knew, which was the first two repeated sections. When Ms Trump didn't stop them, they attempted to sight-read further, but couldn't stay together well enough. Ms Trump slowed the tempo way down and had worked with each of the four sections individually. In contrast to her other choirs, this group was much more well-behaved when they were left unattended while she worked with other sections. It was obvious throughout the rehearsal the amount of respect they had for her and their fellow students to be so well-mannered.
It was harder for most of the sections to agree on the correct rhythm, so Ms Trump taught the remaining parts of this song mostly by rote, which worked fine. It was harder for the choir to remember to take the different endings at each repeat, but Ms Trump let it slide most of the time so they could focus more on learning the bigger parts of the piece. When all parts were learned, she had them sing it all the way through a couple times (with Ms Trump playing along with the section with the hardest part) to moderately high success. The biggest issue was remembering to take repeats, but overall the parts were well-learned. As previously mentioned, Ms Trump didn't conduct them in this piece, but counted them in at the beginning, and would occasionally remind them to take repeats when necessary, but she didn't do a whole lot of counting aloud, even during extended rests. I was impressed that the choir was able to stay together without this type of guidance.
With the remaining time (less than five minutes) Ms Trump had them sing a piece that they had obviously been working on for quite a while, as it was memorized. They didn't get all the way through, but they did the first part pretty well. Since they knew it so well, they paid less attention to scoops and small rhythmic inaccuracies, which Ms Trump didn't point out to them. I suspect it is a piece that they probably do frequently, if not annually, so she has confidence in their preparedness for the actual performance, and wasn't concerned with pointing out minor mistakes. Overall I was impressed with this choir and their response to a director who was a very good leader.