Lions, Tigers, and Staging – Oh My! November 9, 2015

Staging has begun. For those of y’all that don’t know, staging is the phase of rehearsal where we learn the order of the pieces and begin to plan our formations for performances. Up until now, we’ve been learning the music, working on details, and memorizing each piece. (While I word that concisely, all of that work is arduous and takes a lot of outside hours to perfect.) However, staging, at least for me, is the scariest part.

The whole tour program is basically a storyline in Dr. Miller’s mind. He gets inspired by a musical work, a concept, or a situation and finds pieces that will help weave that tale for the audience. He groups songs together into different scenes, each scene ordered to shift the emotions and develop the plot of the program. Our job is to tell that story and instill those feelings in our audiences.

The hardest part, I believe, is for us as a choir to understand where he wants to go with that story line, what kind of aura we should elicit through our performances, and how to find personal experiences and emotions to connect to this story without Dr. Miller explicitly telling us what he envisioned. We spent time during the second staging rehearsal enumerating the order of the pieces in our program and then outlining different adjectives that we relate to each scene. It helped us reach a communal idea of how to direct our emotions throughout the course of the program, but we still have to apply it. It’s a very intricate and delicate emotional puzzle that takes time to organically build as a choir. Up until these staging rehearsals, every song we’ve learned has been its own singular emotional experience. We’ve already cried as a choir. We already know what it’s like to collectively feel, collectively live in the music. Staging is just how we begin to intertwine those isolated moments into an open experience for our audience to participate in as well.

Yet, it doesn’t end there. On top of finding a way to weave the whole program together emotionally, we must have it fully memorized. All 17ish pieces (that is, if you count every movement of the 2 works we’re doing, which I definitely do), not including solos, small ensembles, or encores. We have to remember each transition, every starting chord and how to transition from the last chord of one piece into the next, who sings what solo and where, how our movements to new formations change based on the sequence of the story – let’s just say it’s a lot.

And we don’t feel ready. Honestly, I doubt we’ll feel ready until we’ve performed on tour a few times. But this choir teaches vulnerability, if nothing else. Because, yes, we go into performances feeling woefully unprepared and unrehearsed. Despite the hours and hours we dedicate, it will never feel like enough. We will start some performances shaking in our boots, scared to death that we have to emotionally give so much when we feel like we’re not ready. Performing is up there with lion taming and tight-rope walking. It makes us give everything we have, unsure of how we’ll be received, and wondering if we’ll make it out in one piece. (Pun intended?)

On that note, here goes everything.

About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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