Hints and Tips from King Duncan

King Duncan (a k a Tony Brewer) writes from his demesne in Kent:

“Hints & Tips ………..

One of the pleasures of singing in the Community Chorus is mixing with people of all ages. There are the young girls, looking gorgeous in their party outfits, & the young men, fully charged with testosterone as they face up to the enemy. And then there are the old-stagers like me. If my experience is anything to go by, we oldies probably all have problems learning the music – our memories are not what they used to be! So here are a few tips & tricks that I’ve found useful, which may come in handy next year (when we’ll all be one year older & less competent!). And if you have any more to add, please feel free.

1. Adopt the right mind-set – tell yourself you CAN learn it, rather than excusing yourself with a limp “I’ll never get my head round this”.

2. Write out the words – seeing the words flow slowly from the tip of your pen helps to embed them in your mind. (Typing them out helps but it’s not as good.)

3. Familiarise yourself with the look of the score – know which words & music are on the first system, the second system, just before the turn, just over the page, etc. When you need to remember the words, think what they look like on the page.

4. Learn it backwards – learn the last line, then the second last, then the last two, then the third last, then the last three, etc.

5. Use reminders – if you find you’re mixing up the words, think of a reminder to get them the right way round, e.g. “Days of torture, days of terror” are reverse alphabetical.

6. Count – if you know the notes & the words but have trouble getting them in the right place, count out the beats, e.g. “… King & country in their hour of need (2,3,4,1,2,3) God save the king (2,3,4,1,2,3) Our royal master…….”.

7. Know your cues – learn what comes just before you sing. Find out if your note is played somewhere before you have to sing it. Often the last note of the previous phrase is your first note (Verdi is quite kind to the chorus). If you’re practising by singing along with a CD recording always start from before your cue.

8. Rehearse, rehearse – remember the professional adage “I don’t rehearse until I get it right, I rehearse until I can’t get it wrong”. (I’m reminded of the story of rehearsals for the first performance of Britten’s ‘Death in Venice’. After a long & tiring day, the music director called for one last run through. Peter Pears, singing Aschenbach & by then elderly & not a well man, was so exhausted that his mind could not remember the words, but he managed to ‘vowel’ his way through the whole lot – his body, his ‘muscle memory’, remembered the shapes & sounds & feelings of the words.)

If you’ve got any tips to add to this list, do please let us know.

Sing well!”

(Photograph by Lena Kern)


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