Some conductors of students and amateurs know and use the power of community to improve artistry and technique. When the conductor is the teacher of singing and musicianship as well as the coordinator of mechanics and narrative, she also has the power to connect the singers to each other, to harness that connection to create a meaningful experience for the singers and the audience.
Not all conductors do it, but (in my not-at-all humble, highly qualified opinion) the best ones make community as big a priority as technical prowess.
By contrast, in professional choirs, singers are expected to do the emotional things on their own just as much as they are expected to sing with excellent technique and impeccable musicianship. Many professional choirs are chamber groups, where a few members negotiate musical choices rather than letting it be coordinated by a conductor. Large choirs who need a conductor are generally not made of consistent membership, but are defined by the conductor with varying singer membership. But I suspect that a professional choir whose members were truly a community would have a different sound than a bunch of singers who show up and get the job done. Singers who love each other, sing with the purpose and passion of amateurs (which, after all, means “music lover”), will create a more intense experience for the audience.
I suspect this.
I got to sing in a choir with a bunch of other professional singers this summer. I wrote vaguely about it at the time because the publicity was under wraps, so I couldn’t be specific. The recordings are being released soon, and we have already gotten to hear them. I hear and judge choirs all the time, but I can feel my objectivity slipping as I listen to these tracks.
I had never met any of the other singers before the first rehearsal, but we all shared academic and musical heritage; and by the end of four days, we were family. That was the intention from the start: to have a choir of highly trained singers who aren’t doing a gig for a check, but to make music for the love of it and each other. It was different from any other choral experience I’ve ever had, and so meaningful for me that I’m incapable of listening to the music completely objectively. It’s all overlaid with the pleasure of the experience.
My objective ears tell me they are lovely recordings. But is it the unique, special, emotionally intense result that it feels like to me? I suspect it’s something more than a typical choral recordings. I wish I had objective ears to hear for sure, but I suspect we accomplished our mission.
I hope we’ll find out when the recordings are released and some objective experts can respond.
The choir is called The Same Stream.
I’ll let you iron out the symbolism of that on your own.
The alto section might get matching tattoos, like the cast of Lord of the Rings.