My fabulous Chamber Choir started a new season of rehearsals this week. As usual, there was a lot to get ready and, I confess, I left some of it until a little late in the day! Here’s a quick run-down of my ‘back to choir’ checklist.
There are all sorts of different ways to manage choirs, but however your choir is run, there will inevitably be admin to do. For my choir, there are attendance registers, performance availability sheets, scores registers (for music that’s on loan to choir members) and occasionally other lists and records, for example if we’re running any workshops or trips.
Before every new season, I check that all our records are up to date and accurate and, if necessary, chase people for information.
You hope, of course, that your whole choir is waiting with baited breath for the resumption of rehearsals, but people are busy and life is complicated. It’s worth dropping everyone a line by email as a reminder of when rehearsals are starting and what the choir is expected to bring.
If your choir sings from printed music or lyric sheets, does everyone already have what they need? Will you need extra copies of anything for new members? Are you tackling new repertoire that you need to hand out? If I know that at a particular rehearsal, I’m going to be giving out a lot of music, I sometimes send out a specific request that people show up a bit early, so we don’t end up eating into our singing time.
We operate a ‘pay as you go’ system for our choirs, as well as the option to pay quarterly, so there’s always money to be taken at rehearsals. I check that we have enough change in the cash box and that everyone knows when new quarterly payments are due.
My own rehearsal plan for a particular session is the distillation of my score preparation and my season planning. I use my season plan to decide exactly what we’ll rehearse from our repertoire, then I create a complementary warm-up session. I like to make a note of the point in the rehearsal that I intend to move from one thing to another. It’s not always set in stone, but it helps me to avoid running out of time and not getting to everything.
I’d love to tell you that I always leave myself plenty of time to practise for my choir rehearsals, but I’m often very pushed for time. Even if I can’t manage anything else, I try to go through each piece of repertoire, reminding myself of how I will tackle entries, ends and pauses, checking tricky moments such as transitions and tempo changes, and thinking about exactly what I want the choir to get from the rehearsal.
When we start a new season, I sometimes find that I’m quite nervous about it. I haven’t seen the choir for a few weeks and I suddenly feel like I have no idea how to lead a choir! I try to banish that imposter syndrome by thinking back to what we achieved in our last season, and what we hope to achieve in our next. Ultimately, it’s all about the choir, not me, and the more I think about them, the less I worry about myself and my abilities.