Today I took the wraps off of a new project I have been putting together for the past few months: the summer fling vocal ensemble. The concept of the project evolved and morphed several times during that period, but I’m pretty happy with where I ended up:
We are a mixed chamber group of community chorus singers skipping out for a month during the summer to explore new genres and experience small ensemble singing.
The initial idea for the project came about because I have always wanted to participate in a smaller vocal ensemble, with just a few (2–3) voices on each part.
In the Seattle area we have an awesome set of community choirs, but most of them are larger than what I was seeking, and the smaller ones were mostly either professional groups or women-only groups.
It was clear then that if I wanted the chance to experience and learn in this area, I was going to have to put something together on my own.
Last summer (2015), I decided to take my first plunge by assembling a barbershop quartet. I reached out to friends, and friends of friends, and eventually found 3 other people to try it with me.
In the end, I felt the experience was really worthwhile. I learned a lot, sang in a new (for me) genre, and I really loved our time singing together. Yet I found myself with a few regrets afterward:
- I had no prior barbershop experience, so I had to rely heavily on another member to do most of the driving in what was ostensibly my pet project.
- It was just the 4 of us with no outside coach or listener to provide feedback.
- Our work never culminated in any performances, so the end of the project kind of fell flat.
This year (2016), I decided to try again with the express goal of solving the problems:
- I would create a more traditional classical ensemble, where I could at least leverage my own experience.
- I would hire a coach/conductor to guide some of the rehearsals and provide feedback.
- I would be sure to end with a concert.
Since I had been recently delving into early American hymnody, and had come across a few interesting anthems along the way, I decided pretty quickly that I would use that as the core repertoire for the group.
The next step was finding people. My aim for this group was to find 3 people per part (a total of 12). I really didn’t want to go through auditions, especially since I feel like auditions are not good indicators of how dedicated and hard working people are. So I decided instead to tap my network of friends, and sure enough they came through.
It was at that point things began coming together. I whittled down the repertoire to a reasonable, focused program; transcribed all the music from original sources (because I’m like that); arranged mutually amenable rehearsal and concert times; found a coach; located a suitable venue; put together a website and Facebook page; and did the kinds of things I was used to doing as General Manager of the Sacred Music Chorale.
However, I didn’t feel like it was really happening until our first get together, which happened last night on July 11. Everyone showed up! We ran through a bunch of the music, I faked my way through directing, and good sounds were made.
And now I’m encouraged and very excited to see how this adventure turns out!