Chorister Guide to Keeping Conductors In Line

 Chorister Guide to Keeping Conductors In Line

Chorister Guide To Keeping Conductors In Line

The conductor stars in every concert and takes the credit for all your hard work. The basic training of every choral singer should also include the art of one-upmanship to let the conductor know who really is the backbone behind the choir.   The following guide is a fun take on developing the unique relationship between singer and conductor.  The only chorister guide providing a tongue-in-cheek look at keeping your choir leader, musical director or conductor in line.

A choristers guide to keeping conductors in line

A choristers guide to keeping conductors in line







Wait until late into the rehearsal  before letting the conductor know that you don’t have the music.

Tell the conductor that you can’t find the beat.  Conductors are rather sensitive about their stick technique, so challenge it frequently.

Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting, crowded space and of course a draft.  It’s better to be doing this when the conductor is feeling pressured.

Ask for a re-audition or seat change.  Ask often.  Give the conductor the impression that you are about to quit.  Let the conductor know you’re there as a personal favour.

Bury your head in the music just before they cue.

Loudly clear your throat during pauses (tenors are trained to do this from birth). Quiet instrumental interludes are perfect opportunities for you to blow your nose.

After you’ve gone over a rather long piece, ask the conductor if your C# was in tune.  This is more effective when there were no C# in the piece you were practicing.

At dramatic moments in the music, especially if the conductor is emoting, be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing.

Where possible, sing your part either an octave above or below what is written.  This is excellent ear-training for the conductor.  If he hears the pitch, deny it hehemently and claim that it must have been the combination tone.

If you are singing in a language which the conductor is the least bit unfamiliar, ask them as many questions as possible about the meaning of individual words.  If this fails, ask them about the pronunciation of the most difficult words.  Occasionally, say the word twice (in exactly the same way) and ask their preference. If they remark that they sound similar, give them a look of utter disdain and mumble under your breath about the ‘subtleties of inflection’.

Ask the conductor if they have listened to the von Karajan recording of the piece.  Imply that they could learn a thing or two from is.  It’s also good to ask, ‘is this the first time you’ve conducted this piece?’

If your articulation differs from that of others singing the same phrase, stick to your guns.  Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert.

Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others become restless and start to figet.  It’s also good to look at your watch frequently and shake it in disbelief occasionally.

Make every effort to take the attention away from the podium and put it on you, where it belongs!


I take no credit as being the author of the above, I am merely passing the guide on to those who may find it useful or humorous.  As far as I am aware, this article appeared in the Summer 1990 newsletter of the British Columbia Chorus Federation. Since then it has appeared in several British musical society magazines. Helen