Yesterday in our Moving Star session, we talked about how challenging it can be to get the right kind of breath support when you are trying to respond to another singer. As an improvisor, you are listening intently. You are devising your response (albeit instantaneously), and there is so much mental work going on you can sometimes forget to breathe deeply. You begin singing your cool idea but find you don't have all the breath you want to sustain it.
Sometimes the solution to responding is through leading.
It made me think of watching conductor Ken Lam with the Charleston Symphony last week. While rehearsing a particularly virtuoso passage in the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, it was clear the whole orchestra was falling a bit behind. Nothing troubling, almost indiscernible, but enough to get Ken's attention. Instead of saying, "Hey, you're all behind," he gave only one direction. "Double basses, instead of responding, could you lead?" There are so many things I love about that bit of direction from the podium. First, instead of reasserting his own leadership role, it suggests that leadership is potentially everywhere in the orchestra. Second, it is a question, provoking wonder and curiosity rather than the obligation of a command. And most of all, the result: not only did it solve the tempo and ensemble issues, but everyone played more in tune, and on their toes.
The next time I respond to another singer, I'm going to see if thinking of my response as a kind of leadership helps. I'll let you know.