I had some great advice from a fellow blogger, Kenneth Woods, which I would like to share with you. I asked Ken about the mathematic equation used to decide how long to work on the pieces you are conducting.
I work with orchestra maybe about 2-3 times a year. I wish it was more - from what they tell me, they enjoy working for me, and likewise, I with them. I love the “professional” aspect of the orchestra rehearsal, even if for the first 5 minutes of the rehearsal I usually feel like a fish out of water, and a bit nervous. Anyhow, this weekend I am conducting a professional Baroque string orchestra with my chamber choir, Handel and Bach on the program. I get two rehearsals with the orchestra, first one with soloists, second with the choir, then a dress rehearsal and then the concert. Not a lot of time really, although not unusual. Likely we will only “rehearse” each movement once before the dress, as a 2..5 hour service with 70-80 minutes of music will fly by. Do you have a method for working out how much time to allocate for rehearsal? I was once told 2.5 minutes of rehearsal for every 1 minute of performance time. I’ve worked out the rehearsal schedule with this in mind, borrowing time from easy movements for more difficult movements. It seems like a ridiculous thing to do, but if I don’t, I will run out of time - and with the union clock ticking, there is no going overtime.
Any other suggestions on how to make a short rehearsal process like this more effective?
I’ve never had much success at trying to find a mathematical formula. With good players and singers, I can rehearse a very good Messiah on one 3 hour call, but that’s a very familiar piece. Your best assett is a good librarian- make sure all the bowings, cuts, repeats, ripieni markings, continue markings and so on are clearly and consistently marked in every part. It only takes one part with a wrong marking to waste 4 minutes of time, especially if they’ve got the wrong version of a movement circled or the like. Then, show everything and have fun. Conduct as if you had all the rehearsal time in the world- as expresively as you can. Don’t try to be extra clear to save time- it never works, because that kind of kappellmeisterish viertel-schlagging doesn’t transmit any information to the players.
The last two sentences stuck with me for the past two days. Although I still made flexible use of my original 2.5:1 rehearsal:performance time ratio, I was very conscious about enjoying myself and conducting expressively. In the end, I found I had a bit of extra time in both rehearsals, not much, but enough to fix a few things that needed second attention.
Two things I learned tonight about the Union (which I am a card carrying member ... I was once told "if you are going to lead them - you should join them in all ways that you can, which means being in the Union". However, the union rep in the orchestra was a bit upset that I had set up my video camera without asking. It wasn't a big deal, as I apologized, and asked permission after break, and no one came up running to complain. Which is good, as it's always hard to apply for jobs when you do not have a quality video of you conducting an orchestra!