Singing in a choir often means that you’re using borrowed music. My choir will do its best to give you back the copy you used before, but that’s of course not always possible, meaning you get to experience someone else’s markings. This can be an interesting, amusing or frustrating experience depending on the marking up style of the previous user. Which of these score marking personalities have you experienced?
For me, my least favourite type. Opening the music will cause your heart to sink. The scribbler will have crossed out everything except their own part, so if you’re singing a different one, trade the score in unless you want to spend an entire rehearsal frantically erasing or trying to decipher your own part under all the crossing out. Instructions will be written multiple times and dynamics and tricky passages circled, which can sometimes be helpful, as long as you happen to find the same passages difficult. If you’re a scribbler, think twice before doing this on a borrowed score, because it’s likely the next user will be cursing you. And don’t even think about reaching for that highlighter pen…
The conductor’s pet
Possibly even better than a brand new score. This person will have been hanging on the conductor’s every word and will have assiduously captured every breath and dynamic marking, so unless your current conductor has different views to the previous one you won’t have much to write in yourself. Hurrah! They will have also carefully noted the markings given to you as homework (yes this happens to us) because the concert’s conductor has an edition with different figures so that they always know where they are. [Note: this is not me. Rehearsals for me are characterised by the question, “What page are we on?” and I’m grateful for those around me who constantly indulge me by answering with grace and only mild looks of disparagement.]
You can usually spot a score previously held by someone new to choral singing. The score will be littered with numbers in an attempt to make sure the counting is correct, but you’d better double check their maths – I’ve seen the wrong number of beats in a bar more than once before! You might find translations of common musical terms or arrows all over the page to track repeats. You might also find a whole range of different ways to try and pronounce the words depending on the language (this is actually quite tricky to be fair). If you’re an experienced singer you might find yourself needing to get rid of a lot of markings, as with the scribbler, but at least you feel like the former user was really trying hard.
While a few helpful markings will exist you will also find your score littered with amusing comments and gossipy asides. Conductors beware, because if you say something amusing in rehearsal, there’s a chance it will be captured for posterity in the jester’s score. The same goes for soloists. If the previous borrower had an artistic bent, you might even find some drawings! I’m pretty certain I’ve also encountered a shopping list… These scores are good for adding a little amusement to a slow rehearsal although don’t laugh too loud as you’ll earn yourself a glare from the conductor.
This person loves all the technicalities of the music so you’ll always know which key you’re in, which part of the chord you should be singing and whether the third is high or low (yes that’s a thing). If the music is in another language you’ll probably find a copy of the translation lurking in the score somewhere and the phonemes will all be marked in correctly (tip: most of us don’t have a clue what a schwa vowel is). This score is handy if you’re planning on writing an essay, but can sometimes be light on useful hints and tips (yes it’s great to know which part of the chord you’re singing, but sometimes it’s just more useful to know the altos have just sung the same note).
When you open a new score which type are you hoping had your music before? And which type are you?!