The auditorium goes dark, the stage lights come on, there’s the introduction and ‘boom’ the song begins. As choir leaders, we’ve all felt those crucial moments when our choirs start to sing in a performance. Nerves and excitement are high and the level of anticipation is almost overwhelming. It’s those first few seconds that need to grab the audience, to invite them in, to make them want to listen to more. So how do you create fantastic entrances which work time and time again? Here are my top tips:
Planning – As you work through your repertoire and rehearsal planning think about each of the pieces. How do they begin? Are they dramatic and loud? Are they subtle and soft? Not every entrance will be the same but it’s vital as choir leader that you have a clear vision of how each piece should begin so that you can relay this to your singers. If you are uncertain of exactly how the piece should start then practice some different options at home before taking the piece to the choir.
Breath – Think about the time signature and tempo of the piece and practice conducting this at home. Work on the choir’s entrance using clear signals and showing their first breath by breathing yourself. You can use a mirror to check that your communication is clear. It’s vital when starting a piece that the choir breathe together in the correct place so that the entrance is spot on, and not delayed or staggered. Practicing entrances multiple times with your singers will help them to gain confidence particularly if the entrance is loud and rousing as they may be nervous about coming in at the wrong time.
Clarity – Always consider the language and the first word of a song. Make sure they word has clarity and doesn’t sound muffled, mumbled or unsure. Under-confident singers may not use their mouths to their full capacity, trying instead to get the sound through the smallest gap possible where they feel unsure. In rehearsal, practice these entrances by speaking them first and ask your singers to over-emphasize their mouth shape. You will be amazed at the clarity this can create. Often singers don’t realise that they are holding back the sound by not opening up their mouths enough. By doing this exercise they will be amazed at the difference and realise how important it is.
Attention – When leading our choirs, we all know how easily distracted we can get, focusing on the score in front of us. Be careful not to launch into a piece before the choir are completely still, quiet and ready. There’s not a chance of creating a crisp, clear entrance otherwise. Remind your singers that being in a choir is all about teamwork and each and every voice needs to be poised and ready for that all-important entrance.