Monday, 20 December 2010


On Friday evening there was an excellent BBC4 documentary following the vibrant soprano Danielle de Niese as she worked towards a performance in a leading role as Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart. Part of the ritual of staging an opera is having distinct rehearsal types in sequence:
  1. Music
  2. Staging
  3. Technical
  4. Sitzprobe
  5. Orchestra staging
  6. Full dress rehearsal
Yes, Sitzprobe also struck me as the most fascinating rehearsal, as well as the most unusual word, derived from the German: sitzen (to sit) and proben (to rehearse). The film showed the full cast sitting and listening to the orchestra as all the sections were played, both instrumental and accompaniment. And that's all the cast did, just listen...

In my early days as a musician I noticed more experienced players would stop and listen all the way through as a piece was introduced rather than start playing along as I was prone to do. This gave time to detect extra nuances and other important elements that I was missing by my 'keen to impress' musically immature participation.

Sitzprobe is an important and often overlooked discipline in many aspects of our hectic lives...

Posted by Picasa


Sam Charles Norton said...

Sounds painful :)

but adolescent giggles aside I wonder what the church equivalent is - prayer?

Peter Banks said...

The church equivalent is definitely to listen to the musicians playing the music ;-)

Sitzprobe is a meditation and contemplation on elements that are not our prime contribution, i.e. actors/singers listening to and observing the orchestra or band which they are not part of.

The thoughts I'm exploring are that within churches we also need to have those 'stop' times when we do not contribute but rather seek to be 'part' of something just by absorption through non-distracted observation.

It has made me think about how we can, for example, pray, read the Word or sing/play in a Sitzprobe way so that folk can become engaged by focussing rather than necessarily being stimulated to participate.

My hunch is this is all to do with creativity in His image along the lines of 'redeemed art'. Am sure further thoughts will emerge after reflecting some more on this...

Sam Charles Norton said...

'listen to the musicians playing the music' - and everything else you say there - extend that to a choir and you have the justification for classical Evensong :)

Peter Banks said...

Thanks Sam... kind of, yes!

Sitzprobe is about a type of rehearsal, whereas every choral event I've ever been involved in the more experienced singers have never taken that time to listen to just the music and just start reading their music and singing straightaway. So if they/we do take that moment to listen first then perhaps Choral Evensong could be better...

Furthermore, where Evensong is 'a capella', listening to one another, as the Camerata Singers clearly do, would yield a much greater Congregational 'listening' engagement than when singers focus on their individual parts and, dare I say, personal worship ;-)

James and Maggie said...

Interesting post Peter, let's hear it for Sitzprobe. I have often been frustrated by people not listening & therefore hearing music closely enough and I'm sure I am guilty too on occasions, especially when learning new material. Within a church context this [sitzprobe] idea sounds very akin to Quaker practice to me and extremely valuable. I recon sometimes one has to just shut up and listen in order to hear what god is saying.

Peter Banks said...

Spot on Alpha Male!

Have a restful break when you finally get there... PB