I get to teach my very first singing school tomorrow! This semester, University Chorus (a general-admission chorale of about a hundred singers) sang William Billings's "Chester," and, maybe six weeks ago, while they were still in rehearsal, the conductor asked me to consult with her regarding performance practice. This led to a rather lengthy discussion of the history and current practice of Sacred Harp singing, as it's rather different from standard choral practice. In the course of this discussion, the conductor and I thought that it might be fun to hold a real singing school for University Chorus. The conductor likes to do fun things with them, like have them sing non-standard choral music and experiment with styles, so a singing school is right up her alley.
For various reasons, we ended up not having the singing school before their concert last Friday. In retrospect, this was a good decision. Now their season is pretty much over, and they have time to loosen up and devote an entire fifty-minute rehearsal to this singing school, as opposed to the twenty-minute, sandwiched-into-concert-rehearsal-time deal we had originally been considering. So I have fifty minutes to do the whole deal. A history of the art form, teach them to sing scales in shapes, and then really get them singing. I chose four tunes that I want to spotlight: 107 Russia, 128 The Promised Land, 131b Invocation (First), and 501 O'Leary. If we get through all of those, then I have 131t Messiah to extend the singing a little.
Never having led a singing school before, I'm going to be basing mine heavily off the schools that Tim Eriksen leads. I've seen other people teach them, but Tim's approach seems best for a general audience that isn't already at a singing. Twice, I saw him give a sidebar lesson about lining out psalms (the English practice that led singing masters to start writing the new music that would become Harp). One time, he played a recording of an English congregation that still lines out psalms, and once, he taught the class to do it. That might be a cool thing to do.
Yikes, it's late! Gotta get going! Things to do, movies in Hebrew to see, data CDs and software to pick up, a singing school to plan!