Taking advantage of spare rehearsal time with your choir

At the moment, my choir is busy rehearsing for our village music festival. It's our very own mini-Glastonbury with an extended weekend packed with live music, craft stalls and amazing food and drink. It's definitely one of the highlights of our performance calendar. A couple of weeks ago, I was panicking that I didn't have enough time to get the choir performance ready. However, after a brilliant rehearsal session last week I'm now thinking three more rehearsals before the performance seems a bit too much. I don't want to risk them getting bored with the repertoire before we perform it. Being in this position, with a little too much rehearsal time on your hands, doesn't have to be a problem though. Here's how to take advantage of it.

1. Get technical

As we perfect our festival set, I'm spending a lot of time working on dynamics and techniques that will help my singers to create the best sound they can. With some extra time, I can extend the part of the rehearsal where I concentrate on technique. As with my usual warm-ups and exercises I will keep these fun and engaging. One thing the contemporary repertoire often requires is good clear diction, so I might try a number of exercises that improve my choir's understanding of creating good clear mouth shapes with the placement at the front of the mouth. Tongue twisters are a great option, as well as singing short, easy pieces, trying firstly with a neutral facial expression and little mouth movement then, in contrast, showing what a difference exaggerated mouth shapes and a smile can bring to a piece.

2. Blast from the past

With time to spare, and as a distraction from the serious business of concentrating on upcoming performance, I might throw in a couple of old favourites for the choir to sing. I will choose pieces that I know they can sing confidently. When singing through these kind of pieces it's best not to get stuck into working through the 'ins and outs' of all the parts. You're just looking for a quick-and-easy uplifting sing. Throwing in old repertoire every now and then is a great way to keep things up to date. and in your singer's minds. so that you have a wider variety of music to pick from for performances, especially the kind that can come up at short notice.

3. Build the team

The more your singers work as a team, the better the performance, so I will definitely throw in some extra team-building exercises. Rounds are great for this and there are endless options. Mixing singers up so that they interact with different people is a great way to get everyone communicating. I may also do a variation on my favourite 'rhythm game' where I split the choir into four or five groups, and encourage them to create an improvised song. Again, I might move everyone around for this so they are not next with the same singers each time. Finally, there's nothing like some movement to get everyone giggling and working together. Clapping games or a song with actions help to create a great atmosphere.

4. Performance skills

We often approach a performance with too little rehearsal time, not too much. With a bit of time on our side, I will really get my choir thinking about their presence on stage. Creating a mock performance situation, I will run through some key points then sing through the repertoire with these in mind. Areas I will look at include facial expression, posture, eye contact, what to do when you forget some lyrics, accepting applause and stage etiquette (mainly keeping quiet in between songs - better to get this sorted in rehearsal than with a 'ssh' on stage)! This way, I can be confident that my choir will feel more prepared for going on stage, which will in turn create a great vibe in the performance.
Stuck in a choir-leading rut? Time to freshen things up
Involving your singers in contemporary choir rehearsals


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