A musical ensemble works best when it presents a unified voice to the audience. Choirs may be as small as a few members to thousands. The number of voices and the size of the performance space shape the listener’s experience. Whatever the venue or the number of performers, coordination is a critical factor.
The size of the group and the proximity of members influence how the choir is managed as well as how the work of preparing for and giving performances is handled. Above one to two hundred singers, the most effective way to empower learning and the development of a unified performance is by joining separately rehearsed choirs together in a “mass choir” ensemble.
You can’t just throw a bunch of independently managed choruses into a huge concert hall and hope for the best. The coordination that goes into bringing anywhere from two to eight or more sections, each with their own part in the score, together with accompanists and soloists under a single concertmaster for a choral performance needs to get taken up a notch. It’s like running a large business with a common mission and a unified experience for both staff and customers.
Unless you’re doing something funky with real time communication and coordination at concert time, the mass choir has a single, highly visible leader that everyone looks to for direction. That leader works with a senior management team: the music directors for every unit in the group. The leadership team shares a common vision and a unified interpretation of the strategic plan (the scores of every piece in the program): an interpretation they’ve been bringing to life in their own choirs for months before bringing everyone together for one or a few final rehearsals and the performance(s). Every aspect of the mood, intonation, phrasing, breath is common to each group. Diction is crisp. Silences are profound. No individual or group stands out among the rest.
If you work in an organization with several departments, perhaps spread over multiple offices, would your job feel different if senior management, middle management, and individual supervisors across areas and functions were all coordinated in helping everyone achieve a common goal? Not just at the Vision, Mission, Values level, but consistently shaping workplace culture, sharing good ideas from one notable experience to the rest of the organization. For many of us, it sounds like an impossible dream: the individualism of some senior leader, failure to maintain consistent communication in all directions, and the perceived need to interpret policies for local conditions are just a few of the possible failings.
Ten thousand voices can give a stellar performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with precision and emotion, every chorister working at their peak when it counts. Companies with thousands of employees can and do commit to and achieve the same kind of unified, empowering environment.
Over the coming week I will focus, with my peers from across the country, on working across my organization to understand how we can more consistently manage meaning and coordinate our work.