Our church, being very near the seminary where our church workers originated, became the training ground for budding choral directors. It became an extension of the seminary’s auditorium. Many music cantatas presented in the seminary gets a repeat performance in our place. We have been exposed to many concerts both in the church and in the said institution. I didn’t realize that one day, I will be handling a choir of my own; in my church.
Being forever musically-curious, I gathered by instincts how to use a choral piece to teach people to sing their particular parts. As a teen, we got to sing on youth rallies and music competitions. Somehow we manage to bring home some trophies. Nothing serious though, as if we were just having some good times. Our church, being a young church had transient young pastors who eventually built their own churches in their homelands/provinces. Choral directors, just the same, came and went.
From observing, I guess I gathered teaching tips I used later as I formed my very first group. I called the attention of the church kids and formed a kids choir and we studied the Psalty’s Christmas Calamity, a mini Children’s Cantata. The book has a section on production notes which I painstakingly studied and incorporated in this musical. The presentation was well prepared and it earned raves among the people in the church; and it paved the way to many other succeeding children’s musicals. On the side, young people would fill the gaps by providing musical numbers in our worship services. Well, some things come naturally to us, Pinoys. Music wise, we are a natural.
Time sure passes quickly. You know, the very singers at that very first cantata have grown up and have families of their own. Some of their children are my high school choir singers today. I have the second generation singers. But the original singers, sadly have been replaced by new members in the adults choir. I am yet to see the day when singers would not retire but would go on singing until they grow old in this ministry. I guess they say one is enough, (me being that one). They have focused their energies to raising their kids. Hopefully, some day, they would find themselves singing again in the ministry where they started.
One day, the incumbent pastor, Pastor Arnold Badaguas talked to me and convinced me to handle the choir for good. With some reservations, I accepted the challenge. And may I tell you, the journey was not so smooth after all. But I managed to get my hand on worthy materials to study the art of singing ( in the choir); how to handle vocal problems, how to relax the body and to keep singing freely. That is not to mention some individuals who shared their wisdom on the subject. Choral directors nowadays are a ‘lucky’ bunch, what with all the highway of information flooding the internet. Just hope they will subscribe to the worthy ones; you know, not all these ‘singing experts’ are really in the know. But as I have observed, there are many who could really help out.
There were many pitfalls and stumbling blocks along the way; some of which nearly defeated me into quitting. But taken as a whole, everything contributed to my present stature as a mature choir director. I would rather not elaborate on some ugly facets of my ministry. I never guessed how much hurt I could possibly experience in the midst of all the Christian virtues flowing from the pulpit. Politics was not absent in my stint; and I guess in many others’. I got harassed and backbitten and hurt countless times from some directions. What hurt me the most were the instances when those attacks would come from the most unlikely sources. Suffice it to say that I do not need to mention any of it. They were all in the past. I moved on, he he he. After all, I remained. Standing after all the battles, no offense taken, albeit scarred, thank God.
Some time soon, I will try to share some teaching techniques I have gathered along the way. Modesty aside, I am not your usual choir director. I am quite of a ‘sound engineer’. I do not let people sing ‘naturally’, as in sing the way they like to. I painstakingly coach the singers to sing a certain way- the classy way. I disdain horizontal sound so much I would deal with it extensively on any rehearsal time. People tend to sing lazily or haphazardly. If you would just let them sing their way, your choir will sound amateurish and glaring. I am not successful all the time, because people tend to revert back to their faulty singing styles. So I had to be very patient and remind them to sing from the diaphragm, and observe their body parts whether they are doing good or are doing a sloppy job.
At this point of my career, I am quite unpressured by the task. I have learned to use a software to make my own minus ones, which I use extensively; sometimes even during the congregational singing.
I will be sharing with you some pics of our choirs. I will just figure out a way to transfer them from some of my hard files to here.