Very few choruses (choirs) have the opportunity to sing with an orchestra. And, even if they do, the chances that they will ALWAYS be singing with that orchestra is slim. Those who do not have this opportunity will have to settle for an accompanist. Actually, most choruses that DO sing with an orchestra will have an accompanist as well. Accompanists are, unfortunately, somewhat of musical Sherpas.
“So what do accompanists do?” you ask. In general, these are the things you will find.
- Attends Practices
- Plays during performances
- Learns accompaniment on their own at home.
This may not seem like a lot. But trust me, it is. The biggest thing is the attending of practices. In the chorus I have sung in, the accompanist attends every practice.
Now, at these practices, the accompanist provides invaluable support to the voices. At the very start, he or she will help the singers know what they are singing. This is especially helpful when singing in 3 or more parts. Generally, singers at that level will be able to identify their part amongst the notes of the other part being played, and can listen to that for help.
We would be nowhere without accompanists in performances. You may not realize this, but, even if a chorus can sing very well, chances are all the members do not have perfect pitch. The piano provides a starting point for the members so they know where to go. In some cases, when the singers begin first, the accompanists will give the pitch. Most of the time the audience won’t even notice.
And, obviously, the accompanist has to work at home to be able to play so well. In some cases, the accompaniment may be incredibly complex and may take a lot of time to learn perfectly, although most accompanists can probably be able to play it relatively well after a few practices.
So, as I said. I believe accompanists are some of the most unappreciated people in the music business. I likened them to Sherpas. Sherpas are a group of people who live near Mount Everest. They frequently act as guides and porters for people climbing the mountain. When Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Everest, a Sherpa was right there, carrying a massive pack and, quite possibly, doing more work then Edmund Hillary. The Sherpa got a medal, Hillary got a knighthood (which is why he is SIR Edmund Hillary). In the same way the accompanist is under appreciated.In fact, I believe that the accompanists may sometimes do more work then the singers.
It’s possible that people just don’t know the roll the play in making a concert happen. Well, if you didn’t know then, you know now. Next time you see one, give him or her a big thank you and a pat on the back. They deserve it.