For choir leaders, every rehearsal is a performance. For the duration of each session, the choir is focused entirely on you and it’s up to you to perform your best and deliver a useful and enjoyable rehearsal. Here are some tips to help you look and feel professional.
1. Be prepared
Going into rehearsal without a plan makes you feel instantly stressed and off-balance. Reherasal plans ensure there is a good balance of material both for warm-ups and repertoire and allow you to stay on track with performance deadlines. Having a plan will also help you feel more relaxed about how you’ll perform in each session. Anything you need to deal with at the rehearsal, including announcements to the choir or discussions with individuals should be marked on your plan. The less you have going around in your head, the more you can focus on being an inspirational choir leader.
2. Know your repertoire
Leading a choir requires a lot of mental focus. By knowing your music inside out, you can minimise the concentration you need to keep the rehearsal on track. Then, when you have to be reactive, say because of a question from the choir, you won’t be totally derailed and you can get back on track easily.
3. Have a rest
On the physical side, you’ll be on your feet for the duration, which is demanding in itself. You’ll also be gesturing to the choir and speaking aloud (and, if you’re anything like me, bopping around a bit!). All this uses energy, so make sure you have some rest time before the rehearsal, even if it’s just half an hour. If you are busy all day and run straight into your rehearsal without a chance to take a breath, your choir is unlikely to get the best of you.
4. Practise what you preach
Make sure you don’t neglect your own voice. Try to find a few minutes each day to work on techniques to keep your voice in tip-top condition. Consistency is the key, as with any physical training. A few minutes daily is much better than an hour weekly. Also try to warm up your own voice before a choir rehearsal. A few gentle stretches and vocal drills will help you to direct the choir without straining. Your neck, shoulders and arms can become quite stiff during a working day, particularly if you’re desk-bound.
5. Drink lots of water
Staying well hyrdrated throughout the day and during a rehearsal will help you to avoid straining your voice. It’s also a good idea if you’re a very vigorous conductor who works up a sweat!
6. Remember why you’re there
Remember why you are “performing”. You’re there to inspire and motivate your choir to sing their best. Just as you expect them to leave their worries at the door, if you’re having a bad day it’s neither fair nor wise to take it out on your choir. If you reflect negative feelings to them, they’ll respond unconsciously to mirror them right back to you. Learn to put negative feelings aside for the duration of the rehearsal. I often find that if I’m having a bad day by the end of my choir rehearsal I feel much better. After all, the uplifting power of music is what we all love about singing in the first place.