How to stay cool & composed when you perform with your choir - Total Choir Resources

How to stay cool & composed when you perform with your choir

During a performance it’s the choir who are ultimately on stage to shine, however as conductors we are an imporatant part of this process and how we conduct ourselves during a performance reflects on our own professionalism and ultimately that of the choir. In a way each time we step out in front of our choirs or an audience we are performing. So how do we represent ourselves with calm and confidence when sometimes we may feel quite the opposite? Here are some tried and tested tips.

Feel and look your best

It goes without saying that ample rest, lots of hydration and a good diet will help you to feel good in the run up to a performance. Eating heavy meals right before you go on stage is never a good idea as it can make you feel bloated and sluggish. Similarly, dressing to feel your best will help boost your confidence. Choose an outfit that you like and that will give you the flexibility you need to conduct your choir comfortably. Remember, never has the back of your outfit been so important. For the majority of the performance, your audience will see you from the back so make sure you are happy with this also so that you can feel as relaxed as possible. Also ensure that your outfit doesn’t clash with what your choir is wearing and is suitable for the event.

Take a deep breath

When we’re nervous it’s very easy to launch into things at lightning speed. If you’re going to make introductions in a performance, take a deep breath, turn to your audience and speak slowly. This will not only help them to understand you, it will also help you to feel calmer than if you were racing along. Think carefully beforehand, not necessarily about what you will say (scripted speech often sounds unnatural) but how much you want to say. I always prefer starting the first piece without introduction, both for impact and also so we have one song under our belt and some of those initial nerves out the way. I will then thank the audience, say what the piece was and introduce the next. A little background story can also assist people’s enjoyment, particularly if there are no programmes for them to refer to. Be careful to keep your remarks as brief as possible. The main reason people are there is to hear your choir sing. You don’t want to make your singers really nervous by having to stand through long speeches. Above all, do as little or as much as you are confident with. Remember that your main focus needs to be the choir.

Bring confidence to your choir and you will feel it too

I remember my first ever big performance with my choir. I was unbelieveably nervous, but then I met the singers for a warm-up and saw how nervous they all were and how much it mattered to them. In an instant I found my strength by helping them to feel more confident. I assured them everything would be fine, the performance would be great and people would love us. In doing that, I began to believe it myself and rose to the challenge.

Don’t panic

It’s absolutely cruial to learn not to panic if mistakes occur. Don’t draw attention to them with worried facial expressions as you may unnerve your singers. Instead, try to correct the problem as quickly as possible and carry on. If there is no way back from the mistake and things are going seriously wrong, honesty is sometimes the best policy. Stop, take a moment and then begin again. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to say something to the audience. Encourage your singers to carry on through individual mistakes, chances are no one will notice, whereas if they gasp and put their hand over their mouth they will be the centre of attention!

Acknowledge your audience

Remember that your audience is there to see your choir perform and as part of that will want to show their gratitude by way of applause. Always acknowledge this applause, however nervous you feel or however keen you are to push on with the performance. Otherwise, it can seem to them that their opinion doesn’t matter. Face them, smile and enjoy the moment. At the end of the performance, thank your audience, if appropriate, and acknowledge your choir and musicians. Don’t rush the moment – your choir has earned it.

Put these tips into practice and you can appear to be as cool as a cucumber even if you’re not. With more practice, you’ll find it easier to manage your nerves and experience excitement at the prospect of a wonderful performance.

Christine Mulgrew

Christine Mulgrew

Christine is a contemporary choir leader who loves to help novice and nervous singers find their voice.

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Jeanette - 6 months ago Reply

I continually look forward to all your facebook post and emails. Lots of them reinforce in my mind that I seem to be doing things the right way for my group. I always wear a nice black top and pants in front of the choir, as that is the choir dress also. That way I know I blend in. Keep up all the handy hints, they are appreciated very much.

    Victoria Hopkins - 6 months ago Reply

    Hi Jeanette. Thanks for taking the time to tell us how much you like Total Choir Resources. You’ve made our day!

Newell M. Gwariya - 9 months ago Reply

Thanks for the great tips that can help induce confidence in many choirs and conductors on stage. A joke for choristers before performing can add joy. Reminding singers to smile and the audience to enjoy the music stimulates both groups.

    Christine Mulgrew
    Christine Mulgrew - 9 months ago Reply

    Thanks Newell, some great advice.

kamali - 9 months ago Reply

Many thanks for your tips which are always welcome and practical.
Blessing.

    Christine Mulgrew
    Christine Mulgrew - 9 months ago Reply

    Thanks Kamali, so pleased you find our tips helpful.

Peter - 9 months ago Reply

I also find it’s good to mention your accompanist at the beginning as I find they sometimes get forgotten when the thanks are given at the end. A good accompanist is worth their weight in gold.

    Christine Mulgrew
    Christine Mulgrew - 9 months ago Reply

    A great tip Peter. After a show with all the adrenalin, exhaustion, pride and relief everything went well it’s so easy to forget a few key thank yous!

Brenda Adams - 9 months ago Reply

Thanks for this. I tend to talk fast when I am nervous so the tip about breathing and talking slowly is useful. I never know what I am going to say beforehand so to have that ok’d was helpful too, I had wondered if I should prepare more of a speech but it seems to work and I always think of something useful to say. Giving out positive vibes and reassurance both before and after the performance is crucial for my choir as they are not very confident.

    Christine Mulgrew
    Christine Mulgrew - 9 months ago Reply

    Hi Brenda, thanks for your message. I completely understand, it’s so easy to speak too fast when you’re nervous. Sometimes I wish I could sing what I have to say to an audience musical theatre style – singing to an audience seems to come much more naturally to me than speking! Couldn’t agree more about the positive vibes.

Teresa-May - 4 years ago Reply

Hi, great article.

I can guarantee that from a choir member’s perspective, a calm vibe (or otherwise!) from your leader makes the world of difference to how you or a group is feeling and singing. One person always said to us that no matter what happens, just keep going. She always emphasised the importance of feeling and emotions in the sung word, and music as a service. This helped remove the “performance” mentality and the pressure, but refocussed our attention on the message and gift we were giving to others through our voices.

Other tips I use to calm down include thinking of the staff lines on the sheet music as calm water in a deep blue ocean; breathe in slowly through the nose, hold, then out slowly through the mouth; think of something funny/relaxing; smile, don’t push the voice, and just do your best. Be kind to yourself and let yourself enjoy it.

    Christine Mulgrew
    Christine Mulgrew - 4 years ago Reply

    Hi Teresa-May,

    Thanks for your comments and ideas. I will definitely try some of the relaxation techniques next time I perform with my sheet music in our Chamber Choir. Sharing music you have worked on and are proud of with an audience is always a joy and is a very positive way of viewing a performance which I’m sure would also help singers to feel more confident.

Ivan Grulla - 4 years ago Reply

This will really help me a lot to improve more on performances on stage with my choir. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas! More power!

    Christine Mulgrew
    Christine Mulgrew - 4 years ago Reply

    Really pleased the article was helpful to you.

Maddie Cordes - 4 years ago Reply

Thanks for these thoughts Christine. I agree about the outfit in particular – although I love my dress it has a tendency to stick to me as manmade fibres and I found myself pulling it down regularly during the evening when I was in the spotlight for the first three quarters of an hour. We had a high profile event recently for WW1 with all the big cheeses from our area in attendance – about 400 people – and the choir rose to the occasion I must say apart from one rolling of eyes from one member after our first piece went a bit awry!

I find chatting to people whether people I know or strangers helpful beforehand to settle my nerves as people want you to do well and are genuinely looking forward to hearing you. I think a pep talk with the choir is good if it can be managed, I need to arrange a more definite meeting time and meeting point so that I can give those last words of encouragement and reminders etc.

    Christine Mulgrew
    Christine Mulgrew - 4 years ago Reply

    Hi Maddie,

    Thanks for your message and for adding another very valid tip which I couldn’t agree more with. By chatting to people and acknowledging your audience beforehand rather than hiding away, you can really help get rid of your nerves. I have done this on many occasions too. With regards to a pep talk beforehand I find this works really well. We always set a time and place for outdoor events or meet in the back room if its a concert venue. I give a quick pep talk to help bring everyone out of their nervous shells and do a few simple warm-ups. We always end on a fun teambuilding tongue twister to make everyone smile and relax!

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