If you lead a choir, over time, it's possible you may find yourself in a bit of a choir leading rut. Any activity that we do repeatedly risks becoming mundane - even something as rewarding as leading a choir. Often, it's a sign that you need to change your focus. Here are some top rut-busting tips.
Analyse your patterns
Be honest with yourself, what is your weekly pattern? Do you prepare your rehearsal plan in good time or is it a last minute dash? If it's the latter chances are you're not giving much thought to new ideas and it's easier in a rush to repeat exercises and ideas which may be becoming stale. Try and build some time into your week for looking at new and fresh ideas for warm-ups, exercises and repertoire. Perhaps search online, create your own ideas from scratch or interact with other choir leaders - Total Choir Resources is a great way to do this. By trying to break the mould taking new ideas into rehearsal, you will help to rejuvenate both yourself and your singers.
Don't become predictable
Think about how your rehearsals are structured. To a point, there is comfort in repetition but if your singers are pre-empting and starting the warm-ups before you've even instructed them, it's time to shake things up a little. I remember with my choir I once realised that we were continually rehearsing our set in performance order so the big finale was left to the end of the rehearsal when everyone was getting tired. By doing it at the beginning instead, the choir breathed new life into it and the sound was so much better, which really enthused us all. From now on, I'll mix up the order in which I rehearse things a bit more often.
Find a new performance challenge
If your choir, like mine, is very much rooted in community life, it can be very easy to end up doing the same performances year after year. There's nothing wrong with that, but things need spicing up occasionally. Start looking for alternative options - maybe there are one-off events taking place that you could get involved in or you could even create your own new event within your community. On the other hand perhaps you could get involved in something further affield? Why not look for a large choral event or workshops you could take part in?
Offer singers new opportunities
Getting out of a rut is all about changing patterns. A great way to do this is to think of new opportunities for your singers. If you always sing everything as a whole choir, you could look at introducing solos or smaller ensembles (in the 'classical' world, you might look for repertoire that features a semi-chorus). As well as offering a challenge to the keener choir members, this gives the whole choir the opportunity to sing something different. Auditioning and rehearsing a piece, then bringing the soloists and choir together will create a new dynamic for you.
Think big, remember what inspires you
Finally, don't be afraid to dream. Do you have an ambition for yourself as a choir leader or for you and your choir? It may seem like a dream but could it be a reality? Jot down some ideas of performances or events you would love to do. How could you make them a reality? What steps would you need to take? Get back to the reason you became a choir leader, what music means to you and what the work you do means to your singers. These kind of thoughts should inject fresh spirit to your choir-leading life and invigorate you. Dare to dream and make those dreams a reality.