Cellphone technology has a lot in common with the world of making music. For one thing, losing the signal is the worst! I mean, just when you think you’re part of the conversation, bam . . . the line disappears and you’ve missed something important. Same with singers.
Over the years I’ve accompanied a lot of choirs, and the very first lesson I remember learning was that singers need to hear what you’re playing . . . especially during the learning process. (Duh?!) Apparently, this is not so obvious to all. In fact, many very fine pianists I’ve worked with as a leader, seem to think expressing the dynamics of the music is more important than actually being a functional help during rehearsals.
Nothing could be more wrong. A rehearsal is a very different experience to a performance. Think of what is going on in the conscious and unconscious mind of the singer when a new piece of music is being taught: notes are being learned, intervals are being gaged, parts are being differentiated, words are being formed, and rhythms are being mastered. This is a complicated business, especially for the average singer.
The rehearsal pianist has to break through the barriers that these various components present to the musical ear of the singer. If the notes are not heard, they simply won’t be conquered in timely fashion. Perhaps that is why this phase of the learning curve is called note bashing! It is, literally that. And no matter how mundane, it is the most important thing that the player can do for the choir at that moment. The pianist only becomes an accompanist when the music has been learned . . . after the duty to support the learning process is over. Only then can the performance begin.
And until then, the dynamics of the music are superseded by the need to be heard. Okay . . . Can you hear me now?!