At the start of my choir rehearsals, I like to do some stretches to music. My choir is quite used to this now, but in the beginning I would get lots of comments from members suggesting that they’d got the wrong place and had walked into an aerobics session! This was all light-hearted banter, but I sensed some of them really wondering what I was doing.
For me, good singing is not just about the voice, it’s about the entire body: how we feel and how relaxed we are when we prepare to sing. I think physical warm-ups help us to prepare mentally for singing. If you rush into a rehearsal still carrying the tension of the day with you and launch straight into vocal warm-ups, you probably won’t sing at your best. I believe it’s an important part of our job to look after our singers. They may only sing once a week at rehearsals but you can be sure a short routine of physical and vocal warm-ups at the start of each session will set them in the right direction and make their singing experience a more pleasurable and less tiring one.
You might be thinking that I have everyone dancing round the room, but I don’t. I have to be conscious that people are there to sing. I need to consider the demographic of my choir and the space limitations. Here is a typical physical routine I might run through in rehearsal:
- Big stretch and yawn
- Shoulder rolls and shrugging shoulders
- Gentle neck stretches
- Breathing in bringing arms half way up and breath out bringing them back down
Physical warm-ups benefit your singers in a number of ways. Firstly they help relieve any tension which may be stored up after a busy day or may be a sign of anxiety about singing. When we relax, we are more likely to smile, which has a positive effect on the sound we make. These exercises also help us to focus and communicate to our singers that the session has started and it’s time to focus on the choir. The odd silly exercise is always a good idea to get everyone giggling.
When I lead my choir, I find that doing these physical warm-ups also makes me relax and focus. A big breath in and sigh out with sixty other people is very theraputic. As I see and hear everyone working with me, I feel more confident and ready to start running a productive rehearsal.