Notes from Ambon: Surprise

Matthew Hanzel Avatar

“You will be performing tomorrow, not the day after.”

If that sounds like a nightmare coming true, I don’t blame you. A choir competition is supposed to be predictable. Surprises, at least at the organization side, should be very, and I mean, very minimum. Schedules are published months prior, the list of juries is also issued at least weeks before the competition day. Some competitions even publish the list of all competing choirs just to inform all participants and members of the public alike.

Now what if, you are told that you are to perform tomorrow, instead of the original schedule, which is the day after tomorrow? Even worse, what if you have to do that without any stage rehearsal?

Predictability is important for a choral festival–or competition, for that matter. Predictability helps your choir to adjust its schedule, notably its rehearsals. Not only that, proper scheduling will allow the choir for extra preparation, such as stage rehearsal. Now let me tell you something: I cannot emphasize the importance of stage rehearsal. Stage rehearsal introduces the choir (and the artistic director/conductor, for that matter) to the room or venue where the choir will be performing. During that rehearsal, the director/conductor can adjust blocking, try to grasp the acoustics of the room, see the size of the stage, and do many, many things. For competition, stage rehearsal helps the director/conductor to understand what will the judges/adjudicators hear when the choir is performing. Yes, it is that important.

In addition, lack of surprise is good for the committee’s face. It shows professionalism. How not, if the committee sets a fixed schedule that is known to participants since months prior, the committee will be remembered for doing its job pretty well. On the contrary, without a fixed schedule, or changing the schedule erroneously, the committee will be remembered only for is lack of professionalism. What worse than having thousands of participants whining–angry even–on the ever changing schedule?

Schedule in a choral competition is not entropy (constant change). There needs to be a real schedule known to all, and not changed just at the behest (or mercy) of the organizing committee. No participant wants to be caught off-guard by the change in schedule. Thus in any choral competition (or any competition), please do us, competitors, a favor, by not changing the schedule, reducing unnecessary surprises, and allow us to prepare ourselves to the best of our ability. That is the least you can do as a professional organizing committee.

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