4 essential things to remember when you teach new repertoire to your choir
When your choir has enjoyed a great performance and it’s time to leave behind familiar repertoire and embark on something new, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are my top tips for capitalising on the exciting atmosphere created by your performance as you introduce new repertoire to your choir.
Think about time
When embarking on new pieces, consider how long you have to get them ready for performance. Timings may vary with some gaps between performances being longer than others. Plan your rehearsal sessions so that you allow enough time for the initial learning and also for perfecting the performance of the piece. If time before a concert is short, think about the difficulty level of the piece and try not to introduce a number of harder pieces in a short time frame. Instead, maybe balance one challenging piece with a couple of easier ones. Much better to achieve the right results within the time frame you have than to take on too much and not be properly ready. This will only stress you and your singers out.
Work through sections
When planning your rehearsals think about how much of a piece you will try to cover in one session. If the piece is fairly easy and repetitive you may manage to cover it all. However, if there are intricate harmonies which may take longer to master or if the song has several different sections, consider breaking this learning down over a couple of rehearsal sessions. Singers will feel more confident when learning manageable amounts than if they feel overwhelmed by too much information. This ties in with the previous point of making sure you have enough time to teach the repertoire over the number of rehearsals before your next performance.
Don’t spend the whole rehearsal learning
When there’s new material to learn, it can be tempting to spend the whole rehearsal doing so, particularly if you feel that time is short. However, don’t forget one of the main reasons people enjoy being in a choir is that they want to sing. Learning, particularly in the early stages, usually involves a lot of stopping and starting. Make sure that you allow time in each rehearsal to sing repertoire that the choir already knows and can sing from start to finish. I often have a section of old favourites towards the end of the rehearsal when the capacity for new learning can dwindle. I find this really peps people up and makes them leave the rehearsal on a high rather than feeling a bit bamboozled by all the new material.
Think of the new repertoire from your singers’ point of view
When planning how you will teach repertoire, think of the best way to introduce it. This may not necessarily involve starting from the top of the piece. Perhaps the song has a really catchy chorus which you can learn first and then go back to the verses. Also think about how you will layer the parts. If you start with the melody of the piece ask everyone to sing along so that they get a feel for it and then introduce the different harmonies layering up the sound so that you build up the effect. Your singers will really enjoy this sound as it starts to come together and develop harmonically.