In ‘Bottoms UP’ I spoke about the advantages of piano cueing from the bottom note of the choral chord rather than the top down. Here’s another TIP for your pianists that will help your rehearsals go smoother. I call it ‘leaving breadcrumbs’.
In the story of Hansel and Gretel, a trail of breadcrumbs was laid by the children to help them find their way home. In a choral rehearsal we need to lay a trail of breadcrumbs so that the singers can find their way. Your pianist is key to this. Instead of merely cueing the starting notes where you are about to sing, the piano needs to leave some bread crumbs so that the singers hear where the line is going, or where the harmony is leading.
I know it’s common sense, but one note or chord as a starting cue is like leaving one crumb in the forest. It doesn’t tell you enough! You need two or three or four crumbs to establish a direction. So it is with the rehearsal cue. To really help the choir negotiate a challenging interval, or harmonic progression, the pianist should begin a little trail of breadcrumbs as she sets up the starting point for the choir.
As a rehearsal pianist myself, I’ve found that there is always time to lay a few crumbs . . . to establish a few notes of continuity for the choir . . . just before the conductor is counts you in. Sometimes there’s even time to play a difficult progression or interval a couple of times. This helps the singers store the sounds in their mind’s ear just before singing. The more reinforcement the better.
So, let’s have some breadcrumb trails being laid out there to help guide your singers’ first steps. It might make all the difference between being devoured by a challenging sequence and being free to run through the woods with abandon!