In this edition, the focus is <b>transitions</b>.
Telling a Story
While a group should undeniably bring its A-game to competition, and settle for nothing less than the twelve best minutes of music it can bring to the stage, there’s also something to be said for telling a story. If a group can cultivate a sense that they are taking the audience on a cohesive journey with them, it builds emotional engagement with the performance, makes the set more memorable, and keeps the performance feeling streamlined. The last thing a group wants is for audience members to be looking at their watches in the dim of the auditorium, thinking, really—they’re going to sing another song? The group’s objective should be for songs to build upon each other, riding waves of emotion, and developing an arc such that every single piece of the performance feels indispensable.
Not Breaking the Illusion
Every time the audience breaks to applaud, it breaks the illusion of the performance. Think about the experience you had the first time you watched your favorite movie. Were you consciously thinking about the fact that you were watching a movie, or were you so wrapped up in the presentation that you felt like a part of the movie, and temporarily forgot about your normal life? By the same extension, you want for the audience for your competition set to get so wrapped up in the performance that they forget about time, space, and uncomfortable seating, you want for them to exist within your music. Transitioning between songs fluidly—not stopping to reset your formations, hand mics to new soloists, drink water, and blow a new pitch between each song is an excellent way to preserve that illusion.
Some groups have taken fluid transitions to the extreme by embracing completely seamless sets—no breaks between songs, just one piece bleeding into the next. When it’s done well, the results can be pretty phenomenal, lending the sense of a twelve-minute expertly woven medley. When done poorly, it can feel like the song that never ends.
If your group can get away without blowing pitches, awesome. If you can’t, you shouldn’t sacrifice your tuning for a more fluid set. Similarly, if you can hand off microphones to new soloists and percussionists in an organic or unnoticeable way, that’s great. If you can’t, you shouldn’t force something that’s going to look contrived. A seamless set for which audience members can hear and see those seams, isn’t really seamless at all.
What sort of transitions have you seen work in competition. Let us know on social media @acappellablog.