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The Arranging Committee

notes fa sol la Dear Miss Grace Notes: I have been attending all-day singings and conventions for several years, and it has recently occurred to me that I might sometime be asked to serve on the Arranging Committee at one of our local sessions. I confess that I have always taken this part of the singing for granted. What can you tell me about the etiquette of "arranging"? ----Ready to Give Back

image of Miss Grace Notes Gentle Singer: Miss Grace Notes recognizes that this is not a matter addressed in the Rudiments, nor in most singing schools of her acquaintance. And though she has had less experience in arranging singings than in arranging to better effect the lives of other people, she nevertheless is pleased to share with you her observations. She invites you to have a seat while reading, however, as this is not a topic she can cover in a few words.
   That you and perhaps most other singers can "take for granted" the job of the arranging committee is, she submits, a credit to those who have been doing this work. They are the unsung, and frequently unsinging, heroes of a successful convention.
   When the arranging job is properly done, it is an achievement of courtesy, practicality, and yes, even theater. By fashioning the order of the day -- calling the right person at the right time -- the committee makes possible the maximum pleasure for the class while preserving the feelings of the individuals that make it up. Miss Grace Notes thinks fondly of arranging committee-members of her experience who have made this challenge seem more of a felicity than a chore. She concedes that it may be asking too much to expect everyone to assume such duty with actual enthusiasm -- one may, after all, be tending a case of indigestion -- but she does expect you to use common sense and courtesy if you are called upon. And she will be happy to provide a few pointers.
   It is discourteous, for example, to call a singer who has just taken his or her place in the class within the past few minutes. Miss Grace Notes assures you that no one will appreciate being called to lead before he has had time to warm up his voice, or she has had time to cool her heels. Once the roster of singers has been exhausted, it is permissible generosity to extend the invitation for a second lesson to the bass singer who has driven down from Alaska.
   The practice of calling one leader to the floor and announcing at the same time the one who will follow has almost universal acceptance, for good reason: it gives the leader up next the opportunity check the opening measure of his selected song or straighten his tie -- without leaving him too much time to dwell on his nervousness.
   Miss Grace notes would not presume to prescribe the mechanics of arranging. She does at least advise you to take a seat from which you can move freely about. You may after all need to inquire about the tall young woman who has just sat down on the third row and who is singing with such authority.
   Miss Grace Notes would be remiss, however, if she failed to cite as disagreeable a recent trend she has observed at some singings. This is the practice of herding all the visiting singers through at the beginning of the singing, or all the alto section, place by place, after the first recess. Miss Grace Notes believes that, while unquestionably easier on the committee, this method of arranging robs the day of spontaneity and grace. She would no more recommend it than she would suggest that the order of songs be in numerical sequence, or that one fill one's plate at a bountiful dinner-on-the-ground with legumes only.
   Miss Grace Notes thinks it but the soul of courtesy to send one's esteemed visitors before the group during the stretch of the day when attendance and anticipation are at their peak, when indeed, the class of singers is apt to give its highest rendering. The visiting tenor from Idaho, after all, may have set his hopes on leading "The Red Sea Anthem," and one can scarcly do that to pleasing effect at 9:30 in the morning, (nor, please, should it be led after 2:00 p.m.). She is equally confident that dutiful local singers will not mind being sacrificed to the early moments of the singing when the class is still assembling and sorting out its personality, or toward the end when performance is fatigued a bit. They know they will be called during the "favored hour" when they in turn go abroad to sing. This is all as it should be, and Miss Grace Notes wonders that we should at any occaison have strayed from a practice so sensible.
   She will close this point by saying simply that there should be variety even in the method she has described. A session that has visiting and local leaders, young and old, altos and trebles, sprinkled throughout the day has the best prospect for providing interest and enjoyment for all. In any case, Miss Grace Notes wishes you well when you are called to your first assignment. She is confident that your efforts will be up to the high standards set by your predecessors. She should caution you, however, that if you do a good job indeed, you may in the future expect to be assigned this responsibility with wearisome regularity. She will thus be happy to consult with you in time about an appropriate retirement announcement.

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