Directing a Ward or Stake Choir
Years ago I was shocked to receive the calling as Ward Choir Director. I was a pianist, not a director. My experience consisted of a single choral directing class at BYU and years of singing in choirs. I pulled out all my old notes from that class and went to work directing in front of the mirror. I ordered lots of choral CDs so I could become familiar with the sacred choral repertoire and I practiced conducting in the mirror as I listened to choral music. I talked to professional choir directors who gave me advice and directing tips. Then, I enrolled in the BYU Choral Academy that summer, a perfect training experience.
A choir director is a humbling calling. Sometimes you are down on your hands and knees begging people to support you in your calling, to come and sing. If the choir is frustrated it’s the director’s fault. If the choir doesn’t cut off together, again, the director’s fault. If one choir member is sticking out, singing louder than the others, again, the director’s fault. I learned to be very precise in my directing. I learned that I had to practice a lot. I learned how to move people around without hurting their feelings so they could either be heard or silenced, depending on the problem. I learned how to be a little entertaining because no one wants to come to a boring rehearsal. I learned the importance of talking less and singing more. After all, the choir came to rehearsal to sing, not to listen to me blab the whole time. I learned how to help others recognize the spirit in the music we were singing.
When I was called as a Stake Music Chairman, my Stake President wanted me to direct the Stake Choir as well. So, I got in front of the mirror again, bought more CDs, ordered more music, and got to work perfecting my directing skills. Our Stake choir and orchestra performed Handel’s Messiah at a local performing arts center and I had to practice my directing 2 hours a day to prepare for that. I bought a cheap baton for my toddler and we directed together, every day for two months. After that experience, all the music the choir performed for conferences, etc. became very easy to direct. Directing and running rehearsals was second nature by then.
I only direct the occasional stake choir now and I must say I really miss it. But, as with all callings in the Church, they come and they go. On to new challenges.