I chose the arrangement version of the slow movement, Larghetto taken from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.36 for a mixed chorus with piano accompaniment to conduct for my final project of the conducting class. I arranged two rehearsals with my musicians before the final project performance date. I didn’t manage to book the classroom for rehearsal due to the full booking schedule of the rooms on my chosen rehearsal dates. Hence, I arrived half an hour earlier at school to look for a suitable practice room to use as our rehearsal place.
The first rehearsal was a mess. My musicians wasn’t well prepared. Due to the unfamiliarity of the music, many phrases were not accurately interpreted in terms of the pitching and pronunciation. Therefore, I decided to break down the performance piece into smaller sections to work on. Besides that, I gave some general ideas of the music as well as my approach to the music to my musicians. I asked them to mark down the necessary breathing points and other additional notes on their music scores regarding my interpretation of the pieces. By this, they will have clearer instruction on how I want the piece to be interpreted. As I have no enough experiences in conducting an ensemble, it is difficult for me to hear everything during the rehearsal. Hence, I recorded my first rehearsal in audio form for my own reference. I reviewed back to the audio recording after the rehearsal to check the tempos and pacing, and what had I left out throughout the rehearsal. This helped me to get a better idea in conducting my second rehearsal.
In the second rehearsal, I pointed out the difficulties in specific sections of the music and worked on it first before starting the piece as we were limited in time for rehearsing. From the first rehearsal, I felt that we stopped too often, and thus the sense of continuity was lost. Hence, I decided to finish a phrase before stopping to make corrections. It was also helpful when I reminded them for the mistakes that they made before going back and rehearsing.
I am looking forward to conduct an ensemble again soon. With this being said, there are several improvements for myself to work on if I am given the chance to conduct again in the future. Firstly, I can practise minimising my speaking during the rehearsals and focus more on the important points. One example of how this can be practiced, is by preparing a plan of action to introduce and reinforce musical concepts in a short and direct way. Furthermore, I need to learn to listen critically. Other than notes and rhythms, I need to keep my ears open in order to pay attention to the sound quality, tone colour, breath, phrasing, vowels and consonants, and balance within the ensemble. Learning to listen critically is much more important than planning gestures or learning the baton techniques while conducting. Moreover, I would also like to improve on the way I interact and communicate with the musicians, and the leadership skills that are required for a conductor.