Mar 4, 2016

Conductors are used to having a lot of control. They can’t make their musicians hit the right notes, but they are usually on stage in the midst of a performance, guiding and leading their ensemble toward a common performance goal.

In the orchestral world, choral directors work off a different script. They prepare and rehearse their choir and then find themselves sitting back stage or in the audience as the symphony conductor leads both the orchestra and choir at concert time. For men and women used to being in the thick of it wielding a baton during crunch time, it requires a lot of trust and collaboration to relinquish that control.

“This job is not for everybody,” said Edward Maclary.

Maclary is the director of choral activities at the University of Maryland, and he leads the UMD Concert Choir which will perform Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The choral conductor explains that in the lead up to a performance like that, his job is to prepare his ensemble for whatever the orchestra maestro or maestra will ask of them in the two or three rehearsals choir and orchestra have together ahead of a concert. In some cases that means rehearsing passages multiple ways to allow room for another conductor’s range of interpretation.

Maclary said he does more preparatory conducting than some choir directors he knows who might not enjoy handing over the baton. But Maclary said he’s been shaped as a musician by working closely with other conductors. And in his role as an educator, he said he sees both the concerts in which he conducts his ensemble and the concerts where they are conducted by others as a valuable learning opportunity for his students.

Watch Maclary talk about the process of being a preparation conductor below: