When you work with a choir over a long period, you learn their strengths and their challenges. But not all vocal sections are the same. Sectional rehearsals allow you to focus on the needs of a smaller group, praise their strengths and encourage them to take repsonsibility for their own performance.
Teambuilding and solidarity
Working with a section individually can make some singers, particularly the ones who like to hide at the back, feel suddenly exposed. My mission for my sectional workshops is to encourage everyone to work as a team, to show those less confident that their role in the choir is as important as anyone else’s and to prove to them that they have the skills they need.
Rather than sit in rows as we would in choir, we form a circle. We start with stretches and simple warm-up exercises which I know people would find familiar and therefore comfortable. Once warmed up, I move to some more advanced exercises to promote harmony and blend. For these, I mix the singers up to encourage interaction (and to help them gently out of their comfort zone). For some exercises, we walk around the room, weaving in and out of each other so that everyone could hear the harmony and how their voice fits.
I make sure that, while I deliver similar content and value to each section in the workshops, I also make it specific for them. I do this by choosing exercises carefully to suit their voices and range, by referring specifically to their part in current repertoire and talking about their role within the pieces. For example, are they singing the melody? Are they offering supporting ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’? How does their part fit into the overall arrangement?
Based on current rehearsals, I make a note of the songs I want to work on with each section. Teaching one section at a time really allows me to focus in on specific parts and build confidence and a better sound. As a choir leader used to juggling a room full of singers on different parts, this is such a treat for me!
Invest in your relationship with your singers
Running these workshops is also a great way for me to really get to know my singers. This can be hard to achieve, particularly if you run a large choir. Sometimes you can miss things when you’re just listening from the front to the overall sound. By working with each section, I can really hear what’s going on, I can interact on a more personal level, teaching fewer singers at once, and I’m able to convey to them that their role within their section is important, contributes to the overall sound of the choir and matters to me.