Preparing for one of our concerts takes months of planning, but it is the final few weeks before a show that prove the most busy, occasionally stressful, but ultimately the most rewarding.
Producing a show is a varied business; we have to book the venue, recruit musicians, technicians and stage management, and advertise and sell the show, alongside directing and rehearsing our 50 singers to get them show ready.
Mindful of this, this week’s blog takes a small glimpse into what Anna and Emily are both up to with just over 2 weeks until show time.
The run up to one of our shows is, for me, the busiest part of the Starling term. When we start rehearsals for a new production, I arrange and prepare scores for all of our singers and provide them with rehearsal tracks, but in the weeks before a concert, my time is dedicated to arranging band parts and organising the technical schedule for the show. This is lots of fun, but can sometimes be a bit of a headache!
We have a very talented band for Summersault, and I’m excited to have written an Entr'acte specially for them and this production, putting a spotlight on this talent. Having sent out arrangements to our drummer, bassist and second piano player, my days are now filled with writing clarinet and saxophone parts for me to play in the concert, making sure our sound and lighting team have all the necessary equipment for the show, and planning our band call, which will take place a few days before the event. I'm also busy preparing rehearsal material for our Summer School cast, so a typical day at my desk has a view not too dissimilar to the picture below!
The view from Anna's desk
We've a lot of different musical and vocal styles in this production, so I enjoy being sensitive to this when arranging music. It’s also fun trying to create the sound of a large band with just four musicians. As musical director, you can feel a bit isolated playing and conducting behind a piano or music stand during the weeks of rehearsal, so I can’t wait to be on stage with a group of other musicians, not to mention our talented singers; there's no better feeling.
It’s my job to make the performances come to life ready for a live audience, and to ensure the show looks as good as it sounds. Unlike more traditional choirs, ‘show’ choirs stage musical performances, adding anything from complex dance routines to simple movements which enhance the storytelling of the music. Summersault features diverse styles from a cappella love songs to war time female close-harmony and full scale musical theatre dancing cutlery (yes, you read that correctly). I love the challenge of choreographing for a range of dance styles and performers, but with the pressure of getting steps perfect for a concert you’re likely to spot me running over dance routines wherever I am.
Months before a show, I start devising suitable movement, a process that can take weeks of research, planning and dancing around my kitchen for a single routine, which is then continually refined right up until its first performance. The blocking rehearsals that follow can be tricky - with over 20 singers in our largest choir, Forte, I have to keep on top of every singer’s movements. Shouting dance instructions over loud singing means I have to take special care of my voice in the run up to a show, particularly as I’m one of five singers performing with Corvida in this concert.
Between rehearsals I’m planning how every single one of our performers will enter, perform through and exit the stage, and I’m transcribing and recording the hardest routines so our singers can rehearse at home. The final few weeks see me focus on getting the show slick, fast-moving and most of all, fun! As adults, we’re taught not to show off and inhibitions often get in the way, so the games and exercises we plan in the run up to shows like Summersault encourage our singers, who in their day jobs do anything from teaching to nursing and law, to enjoy their time on stage. With only two rehearsal hours a week, we’d always like more time, but it is our hope that by show week we are all ready to face the music, and dance...
To see our choirs in performance, join us at Summersault on July 14th and 15th at Toynbee Studios.
Ticket information can be found on our What's On page.