“Until all the essential details are in place, you cannot really begin making music. When I say “markings,” I don’t just mean only where you breathe but also exact pronunciation, dynamic changes, all the phrasing, the divisi assignments, et cetera…I try to instill what I would term basic or fundamental expectations. These are essential to start with before you can even think of making great music.”
Gee, Dale, notice you don’t even mention that other “essential detail”, better known as the notes. Seems like your assumption is that the notes are mastered outside of rehearsal and then all the “essential details” are added on top of them, and then, and only then can you expect to start “making music.” Which raises the question, if you come to rehearsal and you don’t even know your notes, how on earth do you expect to make music?
Ingemar Stenmark, possibly the greatest and most fluid ski racer of all time, could run a slalom or giant slalom course like nobody's business. People studied his technique, frame by frame, trying to figure out what he was doing that made him so much faster than everyone else. There were a couple of theories. One that he used wedges in his boots to boost the transition from downhill edge to inside edge at the top of the turn. Another was that he skied in what was referred to as the “A-Frame stance” and if you watched him ski you could see where that idea came from.
But I have my own theory about why he skied faster and more precisely thru slalom gates than anyone else. He did use the A-frame stance to roll from downhill to inside edge, effectively starting a new turn while still riding the downhill edge from the old turn. And he did use wedges in his boots, but so did a lot of other skiers back then. No, what I believe made him so fast was that he was better than everyone else at memorizing the course. Every ski racer tries to do this, to visualize every gate, every roll in the slope, every steep pitch, every side slope, so that when they kick out of the starting gate they are thinking one and two and three turns ahead. This is what allows you to set up for a gate instead of just trying to get around it.
Imagine if you a just a fraction late for a gate, the next gate you are a little bit later, and by the third gate you are off the course. Imagine Ingemar, he sets up above the first gate and knows just when he has to roll of that turn and into the next to get a highline on the next gate. Multiply this over 60 or 70 gates and you get lots of fractions of seconds disappearing and you end up high man on the podium.
Now imagine the Bagaduce Chorale is singing “Music Down in My Soul”. Imagine the printed music score is like a slalom course, each bar like a slalom gate, each run of gates (flush, open, closed) like a line or phrase in the piece, each roll, dropoff, side slope, is like the dynamic markings. So to be the world’s fastest slalom skier or the world’s most excellent choral group, you need to know the gates/music intuitively so that you can anticipate and prepare for the next and the next and the next run of gates/musical phrases.
Monday night’s rehearsal was the best of times and the worst of times. We were able to “run” most of the music (sort of like making most of the gates but not quite all of them and what that gets you is a disappointing DNF). But, while running the music is fun, very few of us were anywhere near “making music.” Any competent skier can run gates, just as any competent singer can sing notes. But to run gates like Ingemar, or to sing The Road Home like the Dale Warland Singers requires a long, hard road of preparation to build the base on which music making can occur.
Dickens always seems timely, …”it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope…” it was the time of hard practice, it was the time of great artistic rewards….we hope!