I remember the first time I looked at it with my choir. They’re looking at the sheet music and we’re listening to the demo recording. There’s an epic intro, a great groove gets going and then…well..it could best be described as a sort of fugue with all four sections of the choir going out on their own. It’s massive. It’s huge. It’s HUGE!
The song finishes and I hit pause.
“Are you kidding?”
“How in the world?”
United States Army General Creighton Adams is credited as saying ‘When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.’
So that’s what we did. We looked at the fugue section one bite at a time. We figured out the rhythms and notes. We sang them all together. We sang them in sections. We put them together. At that point, I told them, ‘I normally like to smile an encourage you while you’re singing. I’m probably just going to be staring at the music and pointing to each group for your entrances…that happen ever 1 1/2 seconds or so!’
I remember the first time we sang it in church. We started. They knocked it out of the park. We finished. And that elephant tasted good.
There was such a sense of accomplishment with everybody. It was a moment.
And it gave them all the confidence to tackle more challenging pieces.
We sang the song a few more times while I was there directing choir. I can remember we were rehearsing it for the third time we were going to sing it (maybe nine or so months later) and a good friend and one of the tenors, Jerry, said, “Do you remember when we first looked at this song? We thought there was no way we could do it.”
So I’ll say, in a VERY MUCH SO allegorical way, that elephant tasted good. *
In my last blog post, I said that “sure, you’ll have to practice some of the licks to play them really well as a group.”
Since AnderKamp Music began back in 1998, I have tried to keep a ratio around a 2-6-2 idea.
• 2 arrangements that are fairly easy to pull together quickly, with limited rehearsal time
• 6 arrangements that are in the middle in regards to playing/pulling them together
• AND….2 arrangements that are meant to be challenging pieces.
Now the challenging pieces are not meant to be impossible to play. Not at all. And, as I mentioned in the last post, all of the licks in the Retro Hymns 2 series sit REALLY WELL on the horn.
Here’s how to eat them:
1. Let EVERYBODY hear the recordings BEFORE they see the music
2. Sit down together, playing the recording and having them look at the music
3. Find a section that you enjoy and seems fairly easy and have them sing their parts
4. Play that section so it helps build confidence and they get a feel for the tune
5. Find the section(s) that you feel they may need to look at and have them sing those parts
6. Play the challenging section, phrase at a time if needed, and let them get a feel for it
7. Back up from the challenging section and start playing the tune to get into that section
If you haven’t really tackled music that ‘seems’ super challenging before, it could seem overwhelming. But I am here to tell you that when you put challenging music in front of your group AND YOU have the confidence of the game plan of how to learn them (like the suggestions above), you are immediately raising the bar and challenging your folks.
In my experience, when I challenge my folks and I personally have the confidence that they CAN accomplish the challenge, some amazing things will happen:
1. They will play above the level they thought they could
2. They will feel an immense sense of accomplishment and it will build their confidence
3. They will practice! (they have to)
4. They will get better (trickles down to ALL the music they are playing)
5. There is a bond created within the group that is hard to describe. It is a sense of being a part of team.
6. Who are we kidding? It will be FUN to play!!!
It is an elephant and it will taste good!
Retro Hymns 2 – THIS IS FOR YOU – Because it’s challenging
If you want more information about the arrangements, click here
Retro Hymns 2 is now available on iTunes! Click here to go to iTunes to preview AND purchase (and then post a review) of the record