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#1254237 - 08/22/09 08:14 PM school accompanist questions
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Anyone teaching choir in the schools? Do you accompany your group(s) or do you have an accompanist?
I posted something like this in the Corner as well but would like teachers'/directors' perpectives very much please.

What do you expect from your accompanist:
1. do you expect him to sightread?
2. Do you expect him to play all vocal parts plus the accompaniment at the same time during rehearsals? Or do you teach the parts a capella, then add the accompaniment in?
I have accompanied choirs for several years and put in a ton of practice work before rehearsals, learning the vocal parts with the accompaniment, which is very hard for me.
Any advice/suggestions? Thank you!
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Piano Teacher

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#1254245 - 08/22/09 08:32 PM Re: school accompanist questions [Re: Barb860]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I prefer to make a midi file and conduct, at least for rehearsals. I also place backing tracks on the internet for students to download.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1254332 - 08/22/09 11:47 PM Re: school accompanist questions [Re: keyboardklutz]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3239
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I prefer to make a midi file and conduct, at least for rehearsals. I also place backing tracks on the internet for students to download.


Interesting. Did you know there are conductor programs like Tapper, that take a midi file and let you advance it at your own tempo by tapping one key?
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1254365 - 08/23/09 01:14 AM Re: school accompanist questions [Re: TimR]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13811
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I think the idea is always to get the best artistic result from the available resources.

Ideally, we'd all have a fantastic pianist who can read accompaniment and parts at sight on a nice grand piano; and the pianist would also be a vocalist and conductor who really knows the ins and outs of choral work. (I know someone like this, and he's fantastic.)

Unfortunately, those people are in very short supply, so when you don't have a swiss-army-knife pianist available, you work with your pianist's strengths. If they're not strong readers, just have them play LH or work with the choir a capella (they need to learn how to sing in tune anyway, without the accompaniment as a crutch!)

That being said, as a pianist, I've developed a bit of a hierarchy as to what works best. The indispensables are:

1) The bass line - without this, the rehearsal will be a disaster. The singers tune to it, and it provides the foundation for the harmony. If a pianist can't give you a strong bass line, it's better to have no pianist at all.

2) Individual vocal lines - you'll need parts. Contrary to popular opinion, I've never found it necessary to be able to read all 4 parts open score - if you can catch the bass part and the other parts' entrances, that's usually enough. It's particularly important to play the tenor and alto parts, as the sopranos can usually figure things out on their own. It's also extremely helpful if you can predict where the problems are going to be. 7th leaps, close intervals, suspensions, odd harmonies, etc... Singers need help with the funny stuff; the obvious stuff usually takes care of itself.

3) Full accompaniment - for performance, this is all you really need. The better you play, the better the choir sounds. The idea is firm support - you have to follow without being ahead, and you have to be loud enough to hold them up without overpowering them.

So if you can cover those three things, you're in good shape.

And a word about conductors - the best conductors are the ones who care about tone and intonation. They know about vowel shaping, how to place consonants, good diction, and breath support.

A quick story:

I worked regularly with a conductor who was VERY good, and we got along very well. One day I show up to rehearsal and he had chosen a complicated baroque work with an extremely difficult piano part. I had no time to prepare and knew that it wasn't sight-reading material. I simply told him "this isn't reading material, but I can catch parts one or two at a time." He said "okay," and proceeded to rehearse the group with a variety of techniques that did NOT rely on the piano.

I mention this because a good choral conductor doesn't need a pianist to carry the rehearsal. A good choral conductor could manage a good rehearsal with no pianist, 25 sopranos, 4 altos, 9 basses, no tenors, one arm, no lights, and a sore throat. In my experience, the conductors who rely on accompaniment the most in rehearsal are the ones who need it the most and are lost without it. The worst conductor I ever worked with demanded I play all the parts because he himself couldn't sight-sing the bass line or hear when the sopranos were singing the wrong note. (The choir eventually asked him to step down - thank goodness!)

Bottom line - regardless of what a conductor expects from an accompanist and vice-versa, you're rarely going to get exactly what you want. The best musicians play off each others' strengths and know how to adapt. When that doesn't happen, you just put on your professional game face, do the job as best you can, take your money and run.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1254371 - 08/23/09 01:25 AM Re: school accompanist questions [Re: Kreisler]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Thanks, Kreisler, great comments and helpful to me. I guess I would be in the category of playing for a conductor who does not sight-sing well, and freely admits that. It's a school situation and the director is a band director who was asked to take on the choir as well. I have to play all parts to keep the kids on pitch.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1254373 - 08/23/09 01:36 AM Re: school accompanist questions [Re: Barb860]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5959
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Barb860
I guess I would be in the category of playing for a conductor who does not sight-sing well, and freely admits that. It's a school situation and the director is a band director who was asked to take on the choir as well. I have to play all parts to keep the kids on pitch.
In that case I wouldn't lose any more sleep over trying to play parts and accompaniment. Play the parts until they're fairly secure and gradually wean them off it. And the choir director should be very grateful he has you!
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1254420 - 08/23/09 06:46 AM Re: school accompanist questions [Re: TimR]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I prefer to make a midi file and conduct, at least for rehearsals. I also place backing tracks on the internet for students to download.


Interesting. Did you know there are conductor programs like Tapper, that take a midi file and let you advance it at your own tempo by tapping one key?
Thanks, I'll check it out.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1254452 - 08/23/09 09:11 AM Re: school accompanist questions [Re: keyboardklutz]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3239
Loc: Virginia, USA
I recommend a youtube performance of the Bach Fugue in G Minor by smalin.

It appears to be a piano performance with graphics. But if you read the fine print, it's actually a midi controlled by Tapper.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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