The pros and cons of having a break in your choir rehearsal

Whether or not to have a break during a choir rehearsal is often a hot topic of debate among choir leaders. What I’ve learnt over the years is that whatever you decide, think carefully from the off because once you start something it can be difficult to then take it away again. If you’re starting a choir or considering making some changes to your rehearsal structure, here are some pros and cons to help you along the way:

Pros:

  • If you run a choir that is community-focused, building relationships amongst the members can be a big part of why people join in the first place. A break gives singers a chance to interact and relax together.
  • A break may reduce chatter and help focus your singers on the rehearsal as they know they will get an opportunity to catch up with their friends.
  • An entire rehearsal can be a long time for people to focus on learning, particularly in the evening. It helps to break up this time and refresh singers ready to focus on the second half of the rehearsal.
  • Having members who muck in and help out with organising a break can be a great way of boosting team spirit.
  • As the leader, a break gives you a pause to collect your thoughts, make any relevant notes on the rehearsal so far and any changes you may want to make in the second half.

Cons:

  • A break may interrupt the flow of a concentrated rehearsal and move singers’ focus away from the repertoire in hand.
  • Depending on your venue and choir size, the break may prove tricky logistically.
  • When singing, water is the best form of hydration. A tea and biscuit, while comforting, may not be so beneficial.
  • If you have a break involving the preparation of refreshments, there’s lots of clearing up to be done.
  • If you provide refreshments, that’s an added expense, plus you need to keep on top of and bring in fresh supplies.

If you do decide to have a break, here are my top tips:

  • Have a strategic system so that the break runs smoothly, with people quickly able to get what they need without putting themselves in danger ie; bumping into others carrying hot drinks.
  • Decide how long the break will be and stick to this. A fifteen minute break can easily turn into twenty to twenty five if you’re not careful.
  • Have a method of getting everyone back to their seats quickly (some music can help with this).
  • Bulk buy supplies so that you’re not left racing to the shops before every rehearsal. It’s also more cost effective.

Comments on The pros and cons of having a break in your choir rehearsal

  1. Avatar Celia Hart says:

    Our community choir has always insisted on a tea break, which is included in the very low fees paid weekly (what a bargain!). Yes, I would sometimes prefer to carry on without it, but for some choir members I suspect the social side is at least as important as the singing! We also use the time to make announcements etc and we have the option of peppermint tea (better vocally!)

  2. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

    Thanks for the fantastic comments, everyone. Lots of food for thought here.

    1. Avatar Judy Pile says:

      As a former chorister and as a voice teacher who has taught numerous choral singers, many of whom have come to me with vocal problems, I am surprised that vocal fatigue has received only a passing mention in this discussion. Choristers are often sight reading and learning copious amounts of new material in the space of a rehearsal, and good technique often goes by the wayside. Many choir rehearsals are held at the end of long, busy working days. I think it is essential for singers to have a break in rehearsal for the sake of their long term vocal health.

  3. Avatar Jeanette says:

    Being leader of a community based choir of 30+ members, we have a 15 min break after 90 mins rehearsal, with tea and bikkies, then our no.2 accompanist comes in for the last 30 mins. It is really beneficial doing it this way, with our no.1 accompanist having to leave after 90 mins (he is a secondary school teacher). We get the main learning or practice done in the first part and go over things that need extra work in the last part. It is a very good socialising time for our members and I get the chance to sit down for 15 mins. and have a chat.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks for your comments Jeanette,

      Sounds like your tea break fits in well to your rehearsal. Good point also about you the choir leader getting a short break. I know our break always re-charges me!

  4. Avatar Juanita says:

    I definitely have a break with my choir for all the reasons mentioned above, plus it can be very tiring to sing for a long period of time. But our break at this stage is only 5 minutes or so, no tea or bikkies, just water/ toilet/chat break. I have been considering having a longer break with tea etc but I am still not sure about doing this as the current one seems to work fine. We do have a tea and cake time in our end of term practice which also works well – a short practice then a little tea party. Anyhow, I never introduce a new change without the input of the choir and this system works really well. Thank you Chistine once again for your fabulous continued support of us beginner choir leaders, from across the big wide world, here in Canberra, Australia! By the way, my choir has grown from 5 in Jan 2015 to 17 now so I am wrapped. I have a goal to reach 20 by the end of the year!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Juanita,

      Lovely to hear from you. I’d say if your current break works well and suits the choir then perhaps keep it that way. Once you introduce tea etc, it’s hard to take that away again. Also as the choir grows this can become logistically more challenging as I have indeed found.

      Great to hear your choir is going from strength to strength.

  5. Hi Christine,

    I have two rather different choirs. One, which has about 24 members, runs a 2 hour rehearsal without a break. The other choir, with about 60 members, has a 2.5 hour rehearsal but does take a break. I therefore see the benefits and drawbacks of both. One of the big drawbacks with not having a break is that topics which need discussion (announcements etc.) eat into actual rehearsal time. With a break, it is possible to say to the choir to grab their tea etc and take their place again. Thus, the information is imparted without taking up rehearsal time. For choirs with limited funds (which is most of them!) this can also be a handy fund raising opportunity. By charging €2 for a cuppa each week there is an additional income of €100-€120 per week, which is not to be sneezed at. Three or four people are allocated per month to prepare and clean up after the tea break. (This is a gender equal service opportunity!) Thus, when the full choir breaks everything is ready with minimal disruption to the rehearsal. By using recyclable cups washing up is left to a minimum also.

    Historically, the smaller choir did its socialising in the pub after rehearsal. The strict drink driving laws have curtailed this in recent years and so the social element of the group has waned somewhat. Other forms of socialising are now being tried. We have a choir walk in the woods coming up this Sunday!

    Overall, I think the raison d’etre for the choir should be a good indicator of whether or not a tea break should be used.

    Why is it that ‘water break’ doesn’t have the same ring about it?

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your reply, you have some great points and ideas. I like the idea of the choir getting a drink and coming back to listen to announcements. You also make a very good point about subs for the break.

      I love the idea of a choir walk in the woods, I’m guessing they’ll be some singing involved! Have a great time.

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