The first question from the audience asked the singers how soon they started to trust one another. ‘About half-way down the final page,’ thought one; ‘not until I started to trust myself,’ suggested another.
Many commentators have responded to hand-wringing about the ‘decline of trust’ in institutions by pointing out that organisations should first prove themselves trust-worthy. It should not be up to individuals to be more trusting. But if the singers had waited until each of them had proved themselves trustworthy before starting to sing together, it would have been a very long session. As Florian said: ‘On a fundamental basis you have to trust your fellow singers before you even start. You’re putting yourself on the spot and if your team-mates don’t … play by roughly the same rules as you do then it doesn’t make any sense. So you go in with a feeling of trust already.’
Perhaps it is a case of being open to trust, of choosing to believe that new team-mates are trustworthy and thus allowing them the space to confirm it. This was illustrated during a discussion of the embellishments that Andy had added to his part.
Adding embellishments is common in music of this period, and there are certain ‘rules’ about it: you have to know how and when it is appropriate to do so. But as Laura said, it also helps to build trust: ‘You hear someone else put in an embellishment and you think, good, they know what they are doing and they are in control enough to put in those extra notes.’ It allowed her to relax, she said, and be more playful with the music in her turn.
Certainly this was easy enough with this particular group of singers, who were all used to performing at a very high standard. But what happens when there are people of different abilities, asked one audience member. ‘In the business world we don’t always get to choose our team.’
The solution in the performing arts industry is probably only that you need more time, suggested Tom. ‘As long as there is a feeling that the person who is the weakest link can get to a level beyond that which they set for themselves, because of the encouraging conditions.’ Andy agreed, but added that the person who is the strongest link also needs to feel challenged, and find something that they can be doing productively beyond waiting for others to catch up. If people of very high ability feel that they are wasting their time it can be ‘disheartening.’
Fleur concluded by observing that, even in a skilled group of singers, there are different sorts of skills. ‘Maybe someone sounds really good but they can’t read [the music] as quickly. You’ll sometimes end up being the person reading the notes and saying “this is how it goes,” and they will then bring what they can which is the quality of the voice. You end up with two voices blending together really well, and it happens more quickly than if they were doing it by themselves. Everyone’s strengths together make it work.’