Here we are on Pat’s first tour of Germany, with four great concert venues ahead of us (including the incomparable Frauenkirche in Dresden). As usual, the first term with a new member has seen a fair amount of additional rehearsal time, and we’ve had a lot of questions from friends about our rehearsal methods and how we integrate a new member.
Essentially, the reason that the KS sound hasn’t changed too much over the years is that when one member leaves, five remain. Those five have a very strong mental imprint of the KS sound they’ve produced at every concert, and integrating a new member boils down to teaching them how to listen to what’s happening around them. Although all singers listen (to varying degrees!) we teach a special way of thinking vertically throughout a score – for those of you familiar with Sibelius or other music software programmes, this is akin to the vertical playback line that crosses the screen as you listen back to a score.
What this does it attune the ear to all the voice-parts around you, most especially the bass parts! We find that if we base our sound on the fundament, at the bottom of each chord, we can sit inside the sound beneath us and create a well-balanced, blended and in-tune chord.
The problem that many ensembles have is that they base their sound on the treble/soprano line, or “the tune.” This line is much more easily heard by the human ear, because of the high frequencies, so there’s less need to focus on it. By doing so, chords can become top-heavy and the tuning suffers because the higher voices can’t really hear the lower ones. We often hear choirs singing in two different tonalities because the top is drifting up, and the bottom is drifting down!
This, therefore, is the secret of integrating a new KS member. Teach them to listen vertically, think about the lower voices and sounds first, and “sit inside” those sounds. Job done!
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