I’m doing something sort of unusual for the upcoming auditions I’m holding. I have two shows I’m casting. For the standard musical (Xanadu), I’m doing an impromptu choral audition. For the choral work (My Servant Joseph), I am not. It seems sort of backwards on the surface, but there is a method to my madness.
Xanadu has a cast of 9 people, and 6 of them do extensive harmony singing. It’s all pop music, with lots of “ooh-ah” in the background, with perhaps 7 singers split into 5 different parts. It isn’t a setting where really any of them will be able to “sing what the person next to you is singing.” It isn’t Rachmaninoff (the hands down most difficult choral piece I ever sang was his The Bells), but there’s a lot of stuff going on and each player has to be able to hold his or her own.
Paradoxically, the people I expect to be attracted to this show, to come and audition, are actor/singers who are more used to doing solo work. I have worked with many talented performers who struggle with singing the notes on the page when it isn’t the melody. For someone not used to reading music, hearing their own part in the mix, and being able to blend and balance with others (while remembering their choreography), it can be daunting. I understand that. It’s just a skill and it can be taught, but I’m hoping that the process of developing a great vocal performance will not eat up so much rehearsal time that we can’t focus on some of the areas that I would rather spend time on – like learning to dance AND sing at the same time. Too often I’ve heard the vocal quality decline once the actors set down their books and get on their feet. I’m hoping if we start from a better place (choral comfort from the get-go), that won’t be an issue.
For My Servant Joseph, I am expecting those who audition to mainly come from an existing choir. I am confident that they are already comfortable in a choral setting, and will be able to, with fairly straightforward SATB music and several people per part, come up to speed quickly. There will be no dancing and little to distract from simply doing their best singing. In their solo auditions, I can assess their personal vocal qualities and put together a group that can blend well.
At least that is the plan!