Keeping your choir's attention throughout a rehearsal can be challenging sometimes. There can be times when noise levels begin to rise and singers don't seem to be as focused as you'd like them to be. Don't take offence, this is in many ways the nature of any group of people brought together for an acivity. It doesn't mean that they don't want to be there or that they don't like what you're doing. Try out these attention-grabbing tips and you'll soon have everyone's focus back where you need it - on the music.
Don't be predictable
We've mentioned in the past the importance of planning rehearsals to ensure a range of activities, as well as covering the repertoire you need to within performance deadlines. However, don't allow that planning to become too regimented. If rehearsals always run in a predictable pattern, people can become bored and fidgety, which is when focus on what you're doing can start to wander. Keep the choir on its toes by changing your routine. If you usually start with announcements, launch straight into warm-ups. If you're working on repertoire and want to improve a certain element such as breathing, why not do a breathing exercise during the rehearsal of that piece?
Ask people to participate
Don't give your singers all the answers. After a sing-through of a piece, ask them questions such as what they thought of the blend, what needs improvement - anything that will get them thinking and invested in the piece. You are much more likely to keep their attention when they work hard to meet your and their expectations.
Try not to focus upon the same set of warm-ups each week. Think of new ideas and variations to try out with your choir. By sparking people's creativity and imagination, you will definitely get their attention. If you have lots of fun and interesting warm-ups to hand, you can always use one during the rehearsal at any time you feel the energy or attention dipping. This is particularly handy after a refreshment break when people have been chatting and may be distracted with other things.
Be inclusive when learning parts
It can be very easy when teaching different sections of your choir to leave other sections sitting there with nothing to do. Boredom often leads to chatting. Instead of letting this happen, ask each section to either hum their part while working with another section, or ask them all to have a go at the part in question. Understanding and learning the other parts is never a bad thing for a choral singer and supports the section learning theirs. Tell singers they can go up or down the octave depending what's comfortable for their voice.
Mix things up
As creatures of habit, we tend to enjoy routine and you may find that, week in week out, singers sit in the same places, next to the same people, hearing the same voices around them. That may mean that the stronger singers are having to work harder to carry the weaker ones and that people are only getting one experience of the choir's sound which may lead to boredom and chatter. Try moving everyone around a couple of times over the evening. This can be either within sections or, if you're feeling brave, why not mix the whole choir up? Mixing people up can give the rehearsal a fresh energy. What we have found with this technique is that people suddenly pay more attention, work harder, enjoy hearing the different parts and voices around them and the whole piece is elevated.