Our choirs, contemporary and chamber, performed their spring concert last Saturday. After weeks of work and rehearsal, it was a great success and everyone had a fabulous time. There were congratulations and thanks flying back and forth in emails for a couple of days, then it was time to return to rehearsals. And that can feel a little, well, flat.
After a big show, we don’t necessarily want to launch straight into the next tranche of work, so how can we, as choir leaders, handle that in-between time? Here are my suggestions.
Chances are, not everything went perfectly at the performance. Maybe the choir tripped over something that’s been a problem all along. Maybe a new and unexpected glitch arose because of nerves or a change of surroundings. Whatever went wrong, this is the time to keep schtum. Post-mortems are just not helpful; they bring everyone down with great big thud. By all means, make notes for your own purposes so that if you encounter the same situation in future, or you’re performing the same piece, you can be aware that something needs tweaking. Just leave the choir out of it for now.
What a choir needs from its leader immediately after a performance is “thank you” and “well done”. If something went dramatically wrong, like the choir didn’t come in at all and you had to start again, I’m not suggesting that you completely ignore it. Just play the Pollyanna a little. Find the positive. You could point out that the choir coped with the unexpected with poise and good humour. You could remind them that everything else went brilliantly. You can work on any problem areas later. For now, just appreciate your singers.
Now for something completely different
After a performance, we like to kick back a little and do something different. I often make a post-show rehearsal more like a self-contained workshop. It’s an opportunity to spend more time than usual warming-up the voice and focusing on technique. It’s also an ideal time to coax your singers out of their comfort zone. If you always sit in voice parts, what about mixing everyone up? You could try some rounds and canons in new and unfamiliar voice groups. If you’re leading a large choir, it can be fun and useful to play a name game to introduce singers who may not have met before.
One of my favourite things is to get everyone singing the “wrong” part in something familiar. The singers sing at their own pitch and, if necessary, jump octaves if the part goes too high or low for them. It causes great hilarity and is also fantastic for encouraging cohesion within the group. You could also take something the choir knows and put a new slant on it. Sing something serious in a silly voice (Allegri’s Miserere in a squeaky voice is a hoot). Double or halve the usual speed of a piece, or keep everyone on their toes with wildly erratic conducting.
Another idea is to learn something entirely new, either a short piece or an excerpt, that your choir would not normally perform. If you usually sing sacred music, what about tackling a pop song or a show tune? If you’re a contemporary choir, how about some early music or chanting? If you always work from scores, try improvising something.
If your performance schedule is such that you have to get on with new repertoire immediately, you can still give your post-show rehearsal a “holiday” feel with some of these suggestions. The important thing, I think, is to play around and have some fun.
Open the doors
If you plan ahead a bit, you could make a post-show rehearsal an open one and invite potential new members along. There are several advantages. The atmosphere is likely to be upbeat. The newcomers will hear all about your recent triumphant performance. Your existing choir members are likely to be learning new music at the same time as any newbies, so no one will feel out of place or left behind. You can make the rehearsal a real showcase for the choir.
If you’ve encountered any particular problems or challenges with the post-performance recovery period, do get in touch. And if you put any of my suggestions into practice, I’d love to hear how they go.