Yup. I have a new piece of music that someone has recommended as just great! Now what do I do.
1. Does it fit the singers? - Is this a piece that might suit the abilities of your choir. Right now we have fewer tenors than before. Although our guys are good, doing something with a challenging tenor part is not wise. We are using more SAB arrangements to suit the voices we have available. Just a look at the range of the parts and the complexity of rhythms will give you a good idea whether your singers will be happy learning that song at this time.
2. Does it fit the choir's purpose? - Is this the type of music that your singers enjoy? Honestly, sometimes you don't know that until you get singing it. There haven't been many but a few have left us feeling less than fulfilled. The music may be fine but the words not or vice versa. Is the style suitable? We started singing Blowing in the Wind early on and it didn't suit the singers at that time. When we came back to it later, it was a hit and ETS is doing a grand job.
3. Recordings or You Tube - Often times you can find the exact arrangement of the song you have chosen. Be careful in listening to a different arrangement. I like to get a general feeling for the piece but I don't listen to it more than 2 or 3 times. Otherwise, the interpretation of the other choir or director gets too set.
4. Play the piece over - That is a great option if you are facile at playing the piano. I am good at timing, but not at getting all the notes played together. Let's just say I can sing it better than I can play. I will often play over the various parts but most often just the more difficult bits. The piano just doesn't replicate the voice and I find that less than satisfactory. I use this option the least
5. Have a read through - This is my favourite option. The previous ideas are really for the director and some directors want to have a solid knowledge of the piece before beginning. A read through is great for honing or learning sight reading, interval training, listening skills and co-operation. There are some in your choir who read and sing well and others who are not as adept. Even in an auditioned choir, you have levels of ability. A read through gives you a chance to give those abilities some growth.
6. Let it rest - Every once in a while, like the Blowing in the Wind mentioned above, I have left a piece that just didn't seem to be coming together. Don't flog a dead horse all ready. If it isn't working, let it be. You can always come back to it and try it later.
I know there are conductors who memorize all the parts. There are others who couldn't sing a part to save themselves. It all seems to work. I think the one thing that must happen is that YOU, the director, must have a vision for the piece and how it is to be presented. Is it light hearted or serious> Does it need more rote work or will reading suffice?
The director is the key and you had better know where you are going with a piece and be able to give clear directions to your singers so that you are all following the same map. Otherwise, you will figure you are ending up at the city centre and the rest of the choir is still in the fields. Have a vision and use the suggestions above to help you and your choir to get there.