How to prepare seasonal repertoire for your choir

When it comes to choir planning, it's staggering how quickly the year seems to fly by. This is compounded by the fact that as choir leaders we're always having to be one step ahead, thinking about the next season before the current one is even in full swing.

As I write this post, I am planning what I think can be the trickest season of all - Christmas. If your choir performs Christmas music, you will no doubt know what I mean. When it comes to the festive season, getting organised ahead of the game is crucial. So how do you get the balance right at Christmas? Here are my top tips.

Book performances carefully

Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year socially and it's likely that you will get many offers for your choir to perform. While it can be tempting to jump at as many opportunities as possible, make sure you think things through before signing you and your choir up.

Ask yourself: how many performances will your choir enjoy? What type of performances would best showcase and inspire your choir? Are all the performances the same or are you offering the choir a balance of interesting events?

My choir tends to do around four performances at Christmas. We have regular events we attend and also some one-off opportunities. Some of our performances are outdoors, such as carols on the village green, and others are indoors, such as a performance at our local hospital for patients and staff. The balance of events always seems to work well as there's something for all tastes.

Be clever with repertoire

Choosing repertoire at Christmas is something I know many choir leaders find difficult. On the one hand you want to offer you singers amazing pieces they will enjoy and that will challenge them. On the other hand such pieces can take longer to learn, meaning rehearsals need to start earlier in the season than might be ideal.

I think it's important not to overload your singers with lots of learning. The key is balance. By all means choose a more challenging piece for your choir but balance this out with a few simpler songs that the choir will pick up easily. Over time, you will be able to build a bank of music that you can bring out for each festive season.

Plan rehearsals carefully

At this time of year, it is especially important that you think ahead and plan out how you will cover all the material in rehearsals. You want your choir to feel confident and ready to perform. Be realistic with the time you have and what you can achieve.

Think about the enjoyment of your singers. They may favour rehearsals that are a little less intense than the rest of the year. Why not have a themed rehearsal with fairy lights and mince pies to set the mood (possibly not in October though)? Or you could have a non-Christmas section during a rehearsal where you sing a few old favourites that the choir knows well.

Finally, make sure you enjoy this season with your choir by being organised, ahead of the game and ready to celebrate what I hope has been an amazing year with your choir.
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