Choirs can deliver sublime results. With some effort and the appropriate tools to prepare the repertoire, even non-professional singers can shape and modulate feelings in a choral concert. Those feelings fly to the audience and then back to the performers, creating an eternal and graceful loop.
It sounds good.
But inside the instrument, things are not always that clean: there are rust and dust that need to be cleaned regularly.
Marita Goga states that an external mediator is an ideal way to take away impurities, such as a cloth, which is not a part of the instrument.
Not all choirs can afford such an adviser; you may not even want to turn to one. Therefore, as a do-it-yourself keynote, here you will find some ideas on how to prevent and solve conflicts in a choir. They are presented as a divisi:
- Egocentrism I: this is usually the cause of the most significant battles in a choir. “People cannot see me,” “This one on my left is better heard,” “I would solve it better,” “I know how it has always been done.” The cure is the “solvent” humility exhibited by a choir. It turns out that the polyphonic experience builds as a sum, where each piece is essential but comes from an indistinct coral “mass.”
- Egocentrism II: strangely enough, it may be required to place a leading figure in the middle who exerts his or her authority. In a musical group, not everything is democratic. The conductor, the chairperson, the section leaders, they have the final say and must know how to use that card. The rest should know that these are the rules from the outset.
- Attention I: be on the lookout, as that “Look Out” warning note on difficult passages in a score. Who patrols, keeping an eye on the little sparks? The conductor, the section leaders, the choir board do. However, the choir as a whole has a sixth sense of “nociception” (awareness of what happens to our own body). Early attention to details, without detracting from them but without dramatizing them. Rather than cursing the straw that breaks the camel’s back, we will have to question all the previous ones that helped to break it, and those spectators who watched the process impassive.
- Attention II: pay attention and provide care to those who feel offended, because conflicts depend on subjective feelings, and what some people may find trivial, may mean a lot to some other. There are some preventive tools, including honest praise, feedback (congratulate in public, reprehend privately), gratitude, the shared celebration of success, mourning (also shared) of failures.
- Temperance I: as an add-on to all the above. Knowing how to contextualize what things are worth and cost. It is not a contradiction to pay attention to something that you know is insignificant, but you need to have that expertise.
- Temperance II: keep calm and try to spread it. Pour oil on troubled waters. Be warm. That comes from closeness, understanding, even physical contact.
Da capo: let’s go back to the eradication of the sense of property that serves to take the wind out of the sails before it blows them away. Jorge Drexler teaches us to feel that music has no owner because it is something big, ancient and beautiful that becomes intangible to specific people or times, flowing like an underground river that goes beyond our own identities or cultures. Don’t miss the talk given by the Uruguayan musician, where he unravels those mysteries to the sound of a milonga.
And when you are done, walk away from the screen and hug something or someone.