…the less I move.
This is a basic principal of conducting – as the music gets more intense, faster and louder, the conductor appears to do even less – there is only so big you can beat, I guess.
I had the “once in a lifetime” opportunity to sing under Robert Shaw – twice, actually. Both times (once in Carnegie Hall singing the incredible Eighth Symphony of Mahler) I was struck by how seemingly little he did. For the first half of the week, in fact, we weren’t even allowed to sing with text – we had to articulate “one and two and tee and four and” the entire time. This exercise immediately opened up our ears to actually listen to what everyone else in the 1,000 person ensemble was doing.
Another ear-opening exercise was singing to a make-shift pendulum Mr. Shaw cooked up out of his bag of tricks on stage – he literally pulled out a large piece of string and attached his watch to the end, stood on the podium and gave it a huge swing. Every time it reached the height of one side, we sang.
Our training that week was about not only trusting him, but trusting each other – and trusting ourselves to listen to what was actually going on around us. Of course, that meant that in the performance, Mr. Shaw stood in front of thousands and presided over our joy in sharing this music. It appeared to the audience as if he was doing nothing – and I guess at that point, they were right. His work had been done earlier that week (and in his 70 prior years of study) in rehearsal – it’s really hard to listen, especially while you’re moving all over the place.