How to handle noisy choir rehearsals

We've all experienced those choir rehearsals where the chatting and background noise feels like it's getting out of hand. It's exhausting for you as a choir leader and counter-productive for the choir. In this article, I want to encourage you to think about the reason for the noise and consider what would be the ideal atmosphere for your choir rehearsals. I will also give you some practical tips for regaining control when you feel that you've lost your singers' attention.

It's not about you

When you're faced with a noisy rehearsal, it's easy to take it personally and imagine that the choir's distraction is a reflection on you as the leader. But think about it like this: has your choir really come along to your rehearsal with the intention of being disruptive and upsetting you? Almost certainly not, so try not to take it to heart. Now consider the opposite end of the spectrum. If the choir filed in silently, sat down and looked at you with anticipation waiting for the rehearsal to start, would that be any better? Not at all. You're always looking for a balance between the the choir's enjoyment and exuberance, and the need for everyone to stay focused in order to have an effective rehearsal. Sometimes this gets heightened for all kinds of reasons and it's at those times that you'll fine that having some techniques in your pocket for keeping things under control will help you strike the right balance.

Not all 'buzz' is bad

In my experience (and I know from our comments section that many of you have similar experiences), there are a number of reasons that rehearsals can get a bit rowdy. The classic example is the first rehearsal after a big performance. Everyone is still on a high and excited about their experience. You don't want to completely discourage that excitement as it's part of the enjoyment of being part of the choir. Other factors that can affect the noise levels in the choir are things like hot weather (particularly if, like us, you don't get much of it), which can send people into 'holiday mode'. Any attempts by you to change things in rehearsal, such as the choir's formation, can often lead to lots of chatter as well.

Re-channel the energy

So if you are faced with a noisy rehearsal what can you do to keep things on track without geting too tired and irritated with your choir? My first tip would be to re-channel their energy into singing activities. Always have some energetic warm-ups to hand that you can sub in if necessary. Something like a song or round with physical actions is perfect. This will focus your singers as they try to coordinate the lyrics, rhythm and action all at once.

If you have planned a lengthy learning session in a rehearsal, but you find that the energy in the room is detracting from the choir's concentration, you may have to react in the moment and perhaps shake things up by singing something that's familiar to the choir. Breaking the learning time up may prove much more effective and continuing on a course that isn't getting the results you want.

Re-focusing after a break

One tricky part of a noisy rehearsal can be getting everyone's focus after a break. The last thing you want to do is try to shout over everyone. Instead, make an announcement that the rehearsal is resuming. With those singers who are ready to start get a round or simple song going. As other members hear, it will be like a call to return. Before you know it you'll have everyone back in position and singing the song. This doesn't need to be a piece of repertoire, in fact a short warm-up song that you are used to doing is far more effective.

The golden rule is not to shout over your choir as this will tire you out. Calmly stand in front of the choir, poised for action and with a smile, wait for everyone to quieten down and you'll soon be back on track.
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1 comment

Victoria Hopkins

Very good points, plus you taught me a new word! I will use 'susurration' to my choir and watch the eyebrows rise.
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