Choir performance - how to talk to your audience

When your choir performs, your role as leader can take on another dimension. Not only are you in charge of your singers, but you might also want to interact with the audience, guiding them through your repertoire. For some, this can be a daunting task. Creating the right balance between too little and too much is crucial, as is speaking with confidence. Here are some tips for talking to your audience:

Consider your programme

When planning a show it's important to consider the points at which it's appropriate to speak to the audience. Will you say something before each song, or afterwards? Will you introduce groups of songs or pieces, rather than individual items? The more preparation you can do, the better. Unless you are a very experienced public speaker, you won't want to ad-lib.

Introduce the choir to the audience

No one wants to hear a lecture about how brilliant your choir is, but it can be effective to say a few words about the choir. This shouldn't be a lengthy run-down of information, just some key positive things about the group. Avoid negatives - if there's a particularly challenging piece the choir have struggled with, don't let the audience know that (yes - we have heard choir leaders say such things!).

Take your time

Public speaking is something that frightens a lot of people. You won't necessarily be able to control how nervous you feel. What you can control, though, is your posture and your pace (it's sort of a 'fake it 'til you make it' strategy). When you want to talk to the audience, take a moment to stand up straight, smile and breathe before you open your mouth. Consciously speak slowly. You can speak at half the pace of normal conversation and still sound perfectly normal (listen to newsreaders if you don't believe me), which gives you time to say your piece without a lot of 'umming and erring'.

Keep it short, sweet and relevant

Remember that you are primarily there to lead your choir who will probably be nervous and keen to get singing, so don't be tempted to launch into a long preamble. If you have something to say about the music you are performing by all means do so, as it may enhance the audience's experience, but stick to key relevant points and keep them brief.

Keep your focus on the choir

There's lots to think about during a performance and it's important you appear confident (even if you don't feel it), in order to support your singers. Don't let the announcements get in the way of this, keep your focus and don't launch into a piece without being completely still and ready with all eyes on you.

Acknowledge the audience

The reason we perform is so that others can enjoy the music. When the audience shows appreciation, it's important to acknowledge that. We spend most of the time with our backs to the audience, so don't forget to turn, acknowledge the applause, the choir and any musicians who are part of the performance.
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