Thursday I had the opportunity to attend an excellent choral concert in Orange County CA. It was put on by the Mater Dei high school, a Catholic school. I was amazed by the quality of performance. There where several groups, including a bell choir, that sung, although they were all from the same school. The venue was beautiful, as you can see in the picture below. There was a massive pipe organ, as you can also see in the picture.
The performance was virtually flawless. The different groups came on and off the stage perfectly almost every time, the music was fabulous, and the acoustics were great. It was top notch.
But no one realizes how much work goes into a concert like that. Well, I won’t say THAT. But the number is small. Most people come to a concert (or any performing arts presentation for that matter), watch it, enjoy it (or don’t), and leave. They may think a little bit about it, but it is difficult to really know that much without seeing it first hand. In truth, the amount of time spent performing is tiny compared to the amount of time getting ready. In fact, depending on the group, a choir (just the singers) will put in over 100 hours of work to learn the music.
The work for a concert begins months before the concert happens. Learning various pieces of music can take hours of hard practice in order to reach perfection. For example, a 3 part piece of music (let’s say soprano, soprano, alto) does not come as easily as a piece of music in unison or two pats. Each part has to be gone over seprately, and bits and pieces put together, until, eventually, the whole song is learned. Then it has to be mostly memorized, which is not easy either.
Then the singers have to learn what it sounds like with an accompaniment. Sometimes the accompaniment provides support for the parts (i.e. the parts can find there notes hidden amongst whatever else is going on). Sometimes, the accompaniment does not supply support. And some other times it does things that are completely contrary to what is being sung.
Then, of course, work has to be done on how to perform in a venue. This includes getting on and off the stage, moving singers during the concert (if required), and learning to sing in a place you normally wouldn’t. This can require many hours of work in some cases.
During and just before
The most obvious thing that happens during a concert is singing, and that is the most important part. But a large amount of work is put in prepping the venue, creating programs, deciding how things are going to flow. This work is most frequently done by people who are never recognized.
Then there is the actual concert. Members of a choir may arrive anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours (and, I suppose, sometimes longer) before the start of the concert to prepare. Then there is the actual singing. Many times during a program there will be seperate groups that sing, and this may require the help of a stage manager.
Afterwards the singers get to go home. But many times, depending on the venue, people may be there until late in the night cleaning up and prepping it for it’s next show or concert. And you can guarantee that, before long, the members of the choir will be getting ready for their next performance.
Although I tried to keep this short, I hope this gives you a little insight into what it’s like to prepare for a concert. Although this is specifically about choir concerts (this is where most of my experience is) it applies to many other things such as plays and concerts of other genres.