Quick pre-performance warm-ups for community choirs

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.

Which warm-ups?

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!

Comments on Quick pre-performance warm-ups for community choirs

  1. Avatar Moch Burton says:

    Thanks for the advice. I agree with you Christine, last minute do’s and don’ts don’t actually always serve the intended purpose, instead the choir is only left with doubts leading to a poor performance.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Moch, thanks for your message. Here’s to not being last minute with instructions! :)

  2. Avatar Dianne says:

    Very useful and timely advice. Thank you.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Dianne, glad the article was helpful for you.

  3. Avatar Helen Marlow says:

    Yes, it’s just soooo tempting to give little ‘last minute reminder’ messages, but very wise advice from you here – thank you! My group is just loving the ‘Swingle Bells’ we got from you a few months ago, and really looking forward to performing it this Sunday for the first time. Such fun!

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Helen. I’m so glad you like Swingle Bells. My choir has been singing it too and we all love it. I think there’s something so satisfying about a familiar song that’s just a bit different.

  4. Avatar Lorilee Bajema says:

    lorilee39@icloud.com I love this idea of KEEP IT POSITIVE. Our choir members often reflect whatever we are channeling. I wonder, have you heard of the pre-performance exercise “1 – 50”? It apparently involves singers slowly counting both up AND down, 1 up to 50, alternating with 50 down to 1. I wonder if anyone else is using this It’s a good focus tool that also allows the inevitable build up and excitement of reaching “50 – 1” at the end.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      I haven’t cone across that before Lorilee. Is it spoken or sung?

      1. Avatar Joshua LaFond says:

        Similar to the sung “1, 1-2-1, 1-2-3-2-1, 1-2-3-4-3-2-1…”, I reserve a count up to 40, then back down from 40 alternating the top number 40, as pre-performance jitter dissipation. This we do spoken, with very soft pallate. It is soothing, uses some critical thinking which directs and focuses brain activity to be present to the moment, and is totally in unison. Some members fluctuate their voices, but more just random range, as if they are telling stories to children. This exercise really helps pre-performance. Glad to see someone else does it!

  5. Avatar Tess says:

    Helpful and timely advice Christine, thank you and hope all your festive gigs go well!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Tess, you too, hope you have a great festive season with your choir.

  6. Avatar Kate Sinclair says:

    Thanks for this helpful article especially coming up to many performances this time of year. Great!!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      You’re welcome Kate, glad you found the article helpful. Good luck with all your festive performances.

  7. Avatar Timothy David says:

    I find this to be quite informative. keep it up. will surely try it with my choir

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Timothy, glad to hear you found the article useful.

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