When you’re preoccupied with the detail of rehearsing repertoire, starting and finishing a session on time can seem like the least of your concerns. I think it’s fundamental to rehearsing a choir effectively, so here are my suggestions for keeping to time.
Why does it matter?
Your choir members no doubt have other things going on in their lives: families, jobs, caring responsibilities, other hobbies. They carve out time from what might be a very busy schedule to show up to choir. Starting and finishing on time is a mark of respect for that.
You’ll also have little chance of getting through your rehearsal plan if your time is curtailed because of a late start.
A vicious circle
If your choir is anything like mine, there are usually some stragglers who arrive after the session has started. Some of those are people who’ve been caught in traffic or had some other unexpected delay. Some are people who always struggle to get to choir on time because of working hours. Others are those people who always seem to be late for everything!
Regardless of the cause, it’s important that you don’t let those latecomers force you to start the rehearsal late. If you do, you’re more likely to run on at the end or not get through the work you need to. Additionally, it’s a bit of a slap in the face for those people who showed up on time if you keep them hanging around.
If you’re used to waiting until everyone’s ready before you start your rehearsal, it can feel almost a bit rude to do so when people are still shuffling around and taking their seats. However, in my experience, the shuffling and chatting will continue for as long as it’s allowed to, so take a deep breath and crack on.
If you can’t be heard easily by the whole choir, don’t be tempted to shout over everyone. Just stand out in front, ready to start, make eye contact, smile and welcome everyone to the rehearsal. If quiet doesn’t immediately fall, keep smiling and making eye contact. Eventually, the choir will come to order (and the more often you do this, the more quickly it will happen).
Even if there are still people arriving and getting settled, start the session as planned. When someone comes in late, smile and welcome them.
Bringing things to a close
If you’ve done your rehearsal planning, you’ll know what you want to get through in each session. With experience, you get a feeling for how much your choir can cover, but even then, you’ll occasionally pitch it wrongly and run out of time.
It can be tempting to keep going and finish late. It’s only ten minutes, you’ll say to yourself. But that last ten minutes will be the least productive of the session. Everyone will be tired and, if they’ve worked hard throughout the rehearsal, more than ready to stop. Whether you’re learning new material or polishing for performance, it’s unlikely that you’ll accomplish anything valuable. Quit while you’re ahead!
It’s so much more rewarding for the choir if you can keep an eye on the time and give yourself a few minutes at the end of a rehearsal to sing through what you’ve covered, or sing something from the choir’s existing repertoire. That allows the rehearsal to finish on a high, and not with people leaving the room muttering under their breath about finishing late.