World-class coaching for West London men's choir

World-class coaching for West London men's choir
Type of post: Chorus news item
Status: Current
Date Posted: Tue, 12 Mar 2019

 High-quality coaching has always been something that Capital Chorus strives to offer its members.

As a men's a cappella choir which sings unaccompanied, our voices need to be on-song, and as close to pitch-perfect as we can make them. ,The barbershop-style which we enjoy so much places a high value on bringing out the emotions in the songs we sing, and making them as entertaining and moving as we can for our audiences. So we were delighted when Rob Mance, one of North America's most renowned Barbershop chorus directors, agreed to join us for an evening in February to share some of his expertise. 

Born in Canada, Rob has spent the past seven years as director of the Kansas City barbershop chorus, Central Standard, taking them from 9th to 2nd place in the annual international contest held by America's Barbershop Harmony Society. His career has encompassed professional singing, coaching, music education at school and university level, and conducting ensembles from well beyond the Barbershop world. 

Apparently Rob first noticed Capital Chorus when he and Central Standard were invited as special guests to perform at last year's convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers in Harrogate. At the same event our chorus' rendition of Gaston was awarded the prize for the most entertaining barbershop performance., and it was seeing us there which encouraged him to spend an evening with us on his next visit to the UK.

So what did we learn?  Well, Rob spent a good deal of time helping us blend our voices to form a "wall of sound". He worked with us on some basic things like hitting the right note first time without wavering. He stressed to us the importance of supporting one another, For example, when one part was singing an embellishment to a song, it was important that the other three parts should sing as though they too were embellishing the score.  Rob focused on the teamwork between a chorus and its director. The Director's job, he explained, was to hand the singers a big ball of energy which they could amplify and hand back. He was very complimentary about our own energetic musical director, Pippa Goodall, who was happy to accept some coaching tips of her own from Rob in front of the whole chorus. It's not every MD, he said, who'd be willing to do that. Most importantly, perhaps, he stresed to us that every rehearsal should be treated as though it was a performance. 

Inevitably, and happily, the evening ended with our guest accompanying us to the pub and continuing the conversation over a beer. Our thanks to  Rob Mance for all his advice, experience and wisdom. We'll do our best to put what we've learned into practice as we prepare for a weekend-long singing retreat in April, and the next BABS convention in May.