Let’s face it: as cool as musical tours are, the real reason you are going anywhere is to show off your group’s talent. Sharing music is a cultural experience and a beautiful way to communicate in a language that everyone understands! However, booking and confirming venues can be tricky.
As a director, you want to make sure that your repertoire is going to show off the best qualities of your ensemble while keeping in mind the restrictions of some spaces.
Here are some useful tips on choosing your repertoire to make sure you know your stuff!
▶ Sacred or Secular
It’s a good idea to keep a mix of both sacred and secular pieces within your ensemble’s repertoire. Some venues may not accept secular repertoire, but it’s not a bad idea to have a good selection of tricks in the bag.
▶ Performing at Masses
Europe in particular has some grandiose cathedrals that offer a truly powerful acoustic experience for an ensemble. Generally, you do not have to be of that religious denomination to sing, but be careful when choosing repertoire for these places. Most adhere to a strict “sacred music only” policy.
Additionally, it is custom to follow a modest dress code. There should be no shoulders showing and no knees exposed.
Mass parts are typically sung in either the language of the country or Latin. English versions of the Mass parts must seek approval. Traditionally, visiting choirs are allowed to sing only at four parts: Introit, Offertory, Communion and Exit.
▶ Variety with Composers
As amazing as it sounds to perform Mozart’s Requiem in Stephansdom—the very place it was composed—the Austrians have heard the same thing for hundreds of years. Instead of going on like a broken record, it’s a good idea to switch up the composers. Variety is the spice of life!
▶ Proper Permission to Perform
Copyright laws don’t magically disappear once you clear the airport check-in. If you aren’t playing a piece memorized, be sure you have the original copies in tow. “Bach” it up!
▶ American Element
This is a cultural exchange! Don’t be afraid to bring a bit of home with you to share. Audiences love some American authenticity. It is a good idea to switch up the program with some American folk songs, rousing gospel music, a rock & roll standard, or a fun pop mash up.