We all know who the person is that stars in every concert and seeks to take the credit at every opportunity. Is it your conductor?
Do you feel a little aggrieved by it? Here is a little light hearted guide to help keep your conductor on his or her toes.
1. Never be satisfied with the starting pitch. If the conductor uses a pitch-pipe, make known your preferences for pitches from the piano, and vice versa.
2. Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting, crowded space or a draught. It is best to do this when the conductor is under pressure.
3. Bury your head in the music just before cues.
4. Ask for a re-audition or seating change. Give the impression you are about to quit. Let the conductor know you are there as a personal favour.
5. Loudly clear your throat during pauses ( if you are a tenor you should ignore this tip as tenors are trained to do this from birth).
6. Long after a passage has gone by, ask the conductor if your C sharp was in tune. This is especially effective if you had no C sharp or were not singing at the time.
7. At dramatic moments in the music (while the conductor is emoting) be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing.
8. Wait until well into the rehearsal before letting the conductor know that you do not have the music.
9. Look at your watch frequently and shake it in disbelief occasionally.
10 Find an excuse to leave the rehearsal fifteen minutes early so that others will become restless and start to fidget.
Time to Draw Breath
11. When possible, sing your part either an octave above or below what is written. This is excellent ear training for the conductor. If he hears the pitch, deny it vehemently and claim that it must have been a combination tone.
12. If you are singing in a language with which the conductor is the least bit unfamiliar, ask him as many questions as possible about the meaning of individual words.
If this fails, ask him about the pronunciation of the most difficult words. Occasionally, say the word twice for him and ask him his preference, making certain to say it exactly the same both times.
If he remarks on their similarity, give him a look of utter disdain and mumble under your breath about the ‘subtleties of inflection’.
13. Ask the conductor if he has listened to the von Karajan recording of the piece. Imply that he could learn a thing or two from it. It is also good to ask, “Is this the first time you’ve conducted this piece?”.
14. If your articulation differs from that of the others singing the same phrase, stick to your guns. Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert.
In other words, make every effort to take the attention away from the podium and put it in you, where it belongs!
The writer takes no credit as being the author of the above. I am merely passing the guide on to those who may find it useful or humorous.
As far as the writer is aware, this article appeared in the Summer 1990 newsletter of the British Columbia Chorus Federation. Since then it has appeared in several British musical society magazines.