What I’m looking for in a performance? Breath.
I’m not interested in a choir singing exactly the way they sang in last night’s rehearsal. What’s the magic of that?
Sometimes the breath comes from an edge of danger. Music slightly too difficult to perform easily. An unexpected starting tempo that jars the singers awake. Starting the piece a half-step away from the rehearsal key.
Anodyne, military-precise performances will likely get better scores in competitions, but they leave you cold.
I view my job as existing primarily in rehearsal, and by the time we are with an audience, it is advisory. I help them start, remind them of important moments, and then try not to conduct the breath out of their performances.
Going for performances with breath means a greater chance of failure – rewards come with risks, after all. But I’ll gladly risk lower scores to get the times when the last chord ends and no one in the auditorium breathes.