How to calm your choir’s nerves before a performance

There’s always lots to do on the day of a performance. You’ve got any number of things to remember and organise. However, it’s crucial not to forget how your singers might be feeling. Although most are probably very excited about the event, they may also be feeling nervous, especially those who are fairly new to the choir and to the performance experience. Here are some handy tips to help you take care of your choir, build their confidence and give them the best chance of enjoying the performance.

Make time

You will often have the opportunity to rehearse in your performance venue on the day of the show. Make sure that the principal focus of this rehearsal is getting the sound and logistics of the performance right. Don’t be tempted to rehearse your repertoire in detail or, worse, start criticising your choir’s efforts. The day of a performance is too late to make drastic changes to how a piece is performed. Over-rehearsing on the day will sap your choir’s confidence and make them nervous.

Make sure, where possible, you allow youself and your singers enough time between rehearsal and performance to get ready or get a bite to eat so that they don’t feel too rushed as this can also contribute to nerves.

Plan ahead

The more organised you are the better your singers will feel. If they know exactly what will happen on performance day in terms of timings, where they need to be when, what they need to wear, they will feel calmer and more in control. Providing a running order for the show will also prove helpful. Make sure you plan the performance with the choir in mind. How much of the time are they on stage? When will they get a break? Although the show is about the audience’s experience, it is also about your choir’s enjoyment.

Find some space

When you’re choosing a venue, think about where your choir will be get ready and hang out when they’re not on stage. Is there a room they can use? Does it have seats? Access to fresh air? Can you provide water for the singers? Having a space where they can relax and prepare will really help your singers feel less nervous and give them a base.


Warming up your choir before a big performance is crucial, so always allow time for it. It helps to bring them together as a team, it helps them vocally, and it can also be great for shaking off the nerves. Keep the warm-up short and full of easy exercises, rather than complicated ones which may throw some singer’s off and dent their confidence. End the session with something funny which will make them giggle – maybe a round with some actions.

Inspire your choir

After warming up, always allow a minute to talk to your choir. Keep this 100% positive and encouraging. Tell them how hard they’ve worked, how great they’ll be and, most importantly, to go out there and enjoy themselves.

Comments on How to calm your choir’s nerves before a performance

  1. Avatar Naomi Rankin says:

    Telling a joke – ideally one where the clueless conductor is the butt of the joke – this doesn’t replace the pep talk, but it is useful if you have a delay after everyone is in position and poised to go on-stage.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Naomi,

      Examples of such jokes welcome! I don’t think I know any choir related jokes.

  2. Avatar Valerie says:

    Thank you Victoria and Keven. There is a lot of “food for thought” in both of your articles. I am now in a different mind set as a performer and as a choir leader.

  3. For years I suffered with nerves as a performer … and then it hit me! When I let the nerves get to me I am, in reality, thinking about what others think of me rather than thinking about the performance. I know how well have done in rehearsal, I know I can do ‘this thing’. I know that unless I concentrate I will not be in the best place to show what I can do. This logical train of thought has, over the years, worked tremendously well so that now, though I occasionally feel a little anxious lest I not achieve my potential, I rarely get the jitters. When I am calm and relaxed about the performance my choir is far more relaxed and performs better. I also make a point of telling the choir that we are here to enjoy ourselves and only if we do that can we share that enjoyment with the audience. I have a stock of gags, quips and other tricks that have the choir giggle and smile as they leave the Green Room. It works for me!

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Thanks Kevin, that’s really inspiring.

    2. Any gags, quips, giggles you can pass on would be much appreciated.

      1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

        Thanks Pauline.

        Here, here, would be great to hear some jokes. Although I’d probably be more nervous about telling the joke than the performance – it’s all about the timing!

  4. Excellent advice Christine and some good reminders there – especially to focus on the choir’s enjoyment of the experience as much as the audience’s. Sometimes we don’t have all the information about where they will stand, the format of the dress rehearsal etc so I make sure I let them know that we will have to “go with the flow” on the day and I need them to be flexible and all questions should be directed to me and I will find out and feed back to them (the worse thing is choir members piping up in the dress rehearsal with questions about the minutaie!) – this applies particularly when we are the chorus for another group or backing singers. I like your idea of having a motivational minute with the choir beforehand and I need to make sure that is on my check list as it all gets very busy leading up to the performance as you say – I once saw Madonna do this with her dancers and it was so effective and left an impression on me.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Maddie, glad you liked the article. You make a really good point about letting your choir know they may need to be flexible on the day of a performance. I have had events like this particularly those when your choir is taking part in someone else’s event and it helps if your singers are aware that they need to go with the flow and you won’t necessarily have answers to everything beforehand. I too have seen those Madonna documentaries where she talks to the dancers beforehand, you can also see this on the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It.

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