Picture the scene. The audience is filing in; anticipation is in the air. You have all your singers gathered, they look to you to prepare them for a fantastic performance. What do you do? In the early days of running my choir I might have said ‘run away’, but over time I’ve learnt to love this part of the process: the adrenalin, excitement and the realisation of our hard work. Here are some quick tips to lead your choir at this critical point and take them into the performance with confidence and energy.
Positive, positive, positive
At the point when your choir is about to go on stage, you need to be 100% positive. If there are tricky areas in the repertoire and you’re worried things might go wrong, now is not the time to bring it up! The performance will be what it will be and it will be much better if everyone is feeling happy and positive. Last minute instructions to ‘remember this’ or ‘don’t do that’ almost certainly won’t have the desired effect and will only serve to increase everyone’s nerves.
The first part of your warm-up session should be a cheery greeting and an assurance that a fantastic performance is about to happen. This positive attitude will work wonders for your choir. Personally, I find that giving a strong, positive message to my singers also makes me feel more reassured and positive about getting up on stage and leading them.
Time and space
I don’t generally think it’s a good idea to launch into a lengthy warm-up session just before a show. It’s rare to have suitable space at a performance venue, and being packed in like sardines to sing scales for 15 minutes will hardly be relaxing. Your singers will be full of anticipation so get to the point with two or three planned exercises. You’ll probably also find that time is tight and you don’t want to risk being rushed to get onto the stage as this will further heighten nerves.
In this situation I definitely recommend a quick stretch if space permits, when you’re full of nerves or anticipation it’s not that pleasant just to stand still and your singers will enjoy a quick stretch plus it will give them something other than getting up on stage to focus on. Next, add some gentle vocalising with some humming or slides. Make sure it’s something straightforward that everyone can do as the aim is to build confidence. Finally I would choose a teambuilding exercise that gets the choir working together and having a giggle to relax them. Tongue twisters are great, ask everyone to do a big yawn and massage their cheeks, blow some raspberries and then launch into your tongue twister. Ideally, run through it two or three times getting faster and faster until it’s so speedy it makes them laugh.
Acknowledge the hard work
Choir members tend to be a passionate lot. They care deeply about their performance, their choir and they want the audience to enjoy listening to them sing. They will probably have been working very hard to get everything right. Being in a choir involves a lot of teamwork, so remind them of what a great team they are. Thank and praise them for their hard work over the weeks leading up to this moment.
Then it only remains to get on stage and enjoy every minute!