Director: Peter Butler
A Chorus director is responsible for teaching notes to singers
Choral music was very popular in the ancient world.
Unison choir singing, as in songs of praise, are written about in the Old Testament, and the first church choir per se was appointed by King David more than 3,000 years ago.
Being chosen to sing in that choir was very serious business and done to the exclusion of all else, literally working at it 'day and night'. It was the decree of King David that 'there be music seven days a week, 24 hours a day to worship God ?.' Of course, the type of music sung by a choir (also known as a chorale or chorus) can vary greatly, and there are many different sizes of choirs. However, all share a single purpose, and that is to sing for the enjoyment of others. Additionally, an ensemble of singers must always have a leader, better known as a choir director (choral director, chorus master or choirmaster).
Peter Butler of Moncton is the director of the MetroTones Pop Chorus (Pat Dickie is co-director), a volunteer position he's held since the choir began in 2000.
Born in Saint John and now retired from a career in banking (mortgage manager), Peter was originally involved in barbershop singing with which he also did some directing both in Saint John and Moncton in the late 1960's and early 1970's. He then 'got away from it' for about 20 years and made his return to directing with the MetroTones.
He explains the directorial effort required for the MetroTones.
'We get a lot of our stuff from J. Pepper Sheet Music, who have just about any song you can think of, and it's a matter of going in there and looking at the category that we like to sing, which is primarily the big-band era. We find some tunes that we think our chorus would like to sing and in arrangements that are compatible to the ability of the chorus.
'It could take a month or two, spending hours and hours on the computer trying to find the right song and the right arrangement and so on. I'm familiar with a lot of the big-band-era tunes, so I look to find stuff that we think the chorus would like and that our audience would like. We then present it to the chorus and rehearse and rehearse and rehearse to get it as best we can.
Peter Receives the Paul Harris Award
Assistant Director: Pat Dickie
'I depend on Pat Dickie, who has a degree in music and was a music teacher for many, many years and very, very accomplished. I lean on her quite a bit, and she's a marvelous lady who does a super job.
Between the two of us, we try to get it together.' The full orchestration accompaniment is purchased on CD, and Pat Dickie steps in when piano accompaniment is required.
The chorus director is responsible for teaching the notes to the singers of the various parts of the music.
The MetroTones sing in four-part harmony primarily, although some arrangements do have five and six parts. A song that the chorus sang at one of their annual Christmas shows had a number of bars that were in eight parts - double bass, double tenor, double alto and double soprano.
Peter points out that it can be a challenge when the singers you're teaching don't read music, 'but our group are apt to pick this stuff up pretty quickly', although much rehearsal is always needed for any choir to perfect a presentation. In the case of the MetroTones, that means 14 to 18 songs per show.
And then there is the actual show to direct. Peter uses hand, facial and body movements to 'get across to the chorus what we want them to do with a particular song.' Those cues tell the singers when to come in, when to breathe, when to go softer or when to go louder for each part of the song, when to keep the tempo moving - in essence, to be one with the music.
Peter enjoys the teaching aspect of being a chorus director - as well as the performing. A popular entertainment choice, the Metro-Tones draw as many as 1,500 to their shows, and they no sooner finish one concert before audience members are asking about their next show.
- Linda Hersey (Times & Transcript - Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada)