A fraternity, of course, is a “brotherhood” of some sort–and what we’re building is a brotherhood based around excellent singing. The particular styles of singing we choose are generally those that highlight vocal harmony, which partially explains the “harmonic” part of “harmonic fraternity”. But there’s more to “harmonic” than that. We intend it to have a double meaning, pertaining not only to the music, but to our way of getting along with one another.
Here are some of the special ideas behind what we’re doing.
- Multi-generational. We are deliberately made up of men from ages 13 and up. We get along together on purpose, even where our society often segregates one age group from another. We use our age differences to our advantage, creating a special choral sound. And by including the younger guys, we’re also training the next generation to perpetuate this special art form.
- Keenly-managed. Sing, Montana! is managed by a professional director with significant skills in choral directing, group management, logistics, and marketing. This puts us in the position to avoid having unqualified chorus members in these roles. We won’t cripple ourselves by assigning such tasks to those who lack either the time or skills to get them done. This keeps tensions down significantly, and lets the members each focus quite strongly on the singing.
- Member responsibility. We only accept as members those men who are committed to learning their own parts outside of rehearsal. This means that we can avoid the natural resentment that occurs in groups that allow their members to be irresponsible in this way.
- Lots of performance. We don’t want to be one of those groups that rehearses nearly 50 times a year, yet hardly ever performs. We love to harmonize for our own sake, but we also love to take the show on the road, so to speak, playing to audiences who also love the music we love. Look for several major performances each year, and for lots of small ones, too.
- Innovation and variety. Look for innovative things at our performances. Don’t be surprised if a skit breaks out, or if a skilled member of our ensemble sings a solo with instrumental accompaniment from time to time. We’re apt to bring in guest performers to team up in collaborative works, as well as to assemble a mass choir from time to time for special occasions.
- Conflict resolution. We are not the sort to persist in an error, but to correct it and move on. And the same goes for conflicts within our membership. We don’t just sweep things under the rug when they go sour; we fix it–because we can! It’s about treating one another with honor and respect–and that just shouldn’t be all that hard to do in a group whose mission is clear, and whose members are aligned sincerely with that mission.
- Respect. We respect each other. We respect the audience. We respect the music. We respect the art form. We respect the tradition. We respect excellence, as well as the discipline it takes to achieve it. We respect the stage and the craft. We respect decorum and “class” and “style”.
- Service. We sing in our rehearsals (and afterward!) to serve ourselves, and in our performances, to serve our audiences. We learn our parts and practice our craft to serve our harmonic brothers, as well as to serve our overall mission. We mind our words carefully in order to serve the good of the whole. We carefully protect the rehearsal atmosphere, by seeing to it that our every word and deed serves the rehearsal, and neither detracts from it, nor darkens the mood.
- Personal growth. We each have our strengths and weaknesses. Understanding this, and freely admitting it, we are each on a personal journey to learn better and better how to perfect not only the musical craft, but the craft of being a contributing member in a fraternal organization.
These are the various things that bind us together. Some appreciate some of these things more than the others, and that’s OK, but we all respect the whole list, and do what we need to do to make this ensemble work. This is the price we pay to keep it consistently fun and excellent. It’s hard work, but it makes us better people. And there’s something very fulfilling about that!