The most beautiful conducting gesture in the world
He had the most beautiful conducting gesture in the world, and he was my choral conductor for five years. When you sing together on average 120 times a year, you accumulate quite a few experiences - one concert in particular stands out in my memory.
One day, my conductor arrived to the rehearsal with a bandaged arm - he had broken it on a ski holiday. His left arm was hanging in a sling from his neck, neutralized.
At that time we were rehearsing with a guest conductor anyway, and, as usual with amateur choirs, my conductor was present at the rehearsals without having to conduct himself. A few days later though, we were scheduled with him to perform an a-cappella concert. We were curious.
How to conduct with one arm only
Admittedly, we did know the music for this concert very well - it was our standard programme, which we toured about 30-40 times a year. But there was no way to do this without conductor, not with a choir of 70 amateur singers who are unprepared for it.
How do you manage to show the expressiveness of your conducting gesture with only one arm, which should also show the beat? What do you do when the most beautiful conducting technique is not at your disposal anymore? You have guessed it, you conduct with body language, presence and nonverbal communication. But this is easier said than done - we know that good intentions in performance situations are not very helpful.
An emotional singing experience
On the day of the performance, he stood in front of us, one arm in the sling, neutralized, the other arm free - and his body language transformed in that concert. We were seeing him and singing and were amazed.
He showed with his eyes, with his whole face, with his whole body - and conducted the music anew. And we, who knew this music almost by heart, who even knew him almost by heart, we were moved: by his presence and by the music - because in that moment, the music became new for us, too. In that concert I often had tears in my eyes - it was so beautiful to sing with him, so connected. It was simply a dream. Out of the hundreds of concerts I ever sang in my life, this one is among the most significants.
What can we learn from this?
And now the question: isn't it possible to arrive at this level of connection and emotion with your singers without breaking your arm? Of course it is. Because our being touched came from seeing our conductor quietly putting aside his perfect gestures and preparing himself to conduct with his whole body. This action opened a door for emotion. And this is available to us every day.
Lecture about Resonance Training at World Symposium for Choir Music 2017
This year, I'm invited to speak at World Symposium for Choral Music (WSCM11) about how Resonance Training can enable conductors with tools to bring emotion into the sound, together with their singers - and with their whole body. I'm looking forward to meeting you there!