How to start and finish every choir rehearsal on time

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.

Getting started

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.


Comments on How to start and finish every choir rehearsal on time

  1. Avatar Andre says:

    Hi Victoria,
    I found your web 2-3 months ago when i searched for warm-ups.
    Then i subscribed to your web.
    Until now I found that your web very helpful for me.
    You shared almost everything about your personal experience.
    Oh ya, I’ve started blog-traveled to your posts. So i hope you dont feel weird when i leave a comment in your old posts.

    I just want to share, just like you.
    I came from Indonesia, North Sulawesi, Manado.
    Now I am leading for a choir of our church. We made the choir last year, at November 2017.
    The purpose of this choir is only to compete into the competition from diocese of manado.
    After the competition, we continue to maintain the choir for serving Mass at the church then we got the chance again to compete another competition from the diocese.
    and, one of the biggest problem is always “Time”

    after reading this post, I got inspiration and enlighten.
    Ya, you’re right about their personal live, but also still want to join.

    i love your point of view when you said : “Smile and not to shout at them”

    After all, i love reading your blog.
    Thank you for your sharing.

    Hope God always bless you and your choir.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Thank you for your kind words Andre, and for telling us about your experiences.

  2. Avatar Imani Hekima says:

    Hi Victoria, I’ve just found your site, and this article is very helpful. I wondered if you have a Facebook page? It would just be easier to access in addition to your site.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Yes we do Imani. Search on FB for Total Choir Resources, or go to this link:

  3. Avatar April says:

    Definitely agree with ending on a high note. The energy when they leave a rehearsal is super important to keep them excited about coming back!

  4. Avatar Joan says:

    Hello Arthur, I lead a choir of high school singers. They are all home educated, but come to classes one day/week in the fine arts. We are a Christian organization, and do include many spiritual songs in our repertoire, (but not exclusively). we have a tradition of closing rehearsal with a short devotional and prayer, prepared by a member of the senior class. These are some of the quietest moments of rehearsal, as the students all are interested in what their fellow singers have to say. We sometimes also start rehearsal with prayer, especially when I’m aware of a serious need among the students. These times of shared devotion combined with making beautiful music together, provide a deep bond in the choir.

  5. Avatar Shelagh Rogers says:

    I’m one of those people who really struggle to arrive on time and I have to plan very carefully exactly how long everything I have to do will take if I am to manage it. Playing for services, for example, at 0900 – I need time to get up, shower, feed dog, feed birds, feed me, walk dog, get car out of garage, drive to church, park, get my music organised, switch on the organ – all before I actually start playing. Other people would probably arrive at a quick and sensible estimate of the time it would take, but I have to do it item by item and arrive at a getting-up time that way. I don’t know why I don’t have a sense of time passing or how long things will take, but it does make life difficult, so I’m always relieved if I’m welcomed even when I haven’t managed the time thing properly. I have the same problem at the other end of the day – there is always one more jobbie I could do, one more programme to watch, one more – – – I’m doing quite well tonight; you might just as easily receive this comment at 3 a.m. But I still have to heave the digital piano downstairs and out into the van – – -. I am grateful to all those who have accepted my chaos calmly over the years.

    1. Avatar Gabrielle, Hull says:

      I am really sympathetic to Shelagh Rogers as I also have struggled with timing all my life and have to go through a similar process to her. It’s a constant struggle that I can never give up on or relax about or it will slide. It’s good to be reminded how important other people’s time is to them and I need to avoid that temptation to fit another thing in..! Is there such a thing as ‘time dyslexia’ and is there a remedy?(I doubt it!)

      One of my choirs meets half an hour early to meet and greet at 6.30pm and I always try to be singing with by 7pm,but I am going to try and surprise them next week by getting there and starting earlier! I think all the above is good advice!

      1. Avatar Arthur (Cape Town) says:

        Hi, just a question….do these choirs sing Christian or spiritual songs? I see many choirs start with breathing, etc. which is perfectly right, but no one actually mentioned that they open or close with a prayer or devotion???
        Just wondering.. Any response????

  6. Avatar Dan says:

    This is just as true in middle school (grades 6-8). Although the tardy bell gets them in the room on time, they will socialize as long as allowed. I also start with stretch and breathe. They especially calm down when I do count up breathing: breathe in 5 seconds, out 5 seconds, then 6 seconds on up to 10 seconds. It really calms them down.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Dan, a great tip. Breathing which calms singer’s down is a great way of geting them to focus on the task in hand.

  7. Avatar Marcy Hostetler says:

    I start every rehearsal with breathing and then stretching exercises. It gets my choirs instantly ready to focus and I never have to yell. And they seem to enjoy it! Thanks for your suggestions.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Marcy.

  8. These are excellent points – I think the more you start on time, the more some people will realise that they’re walking in late. It’s also good, I think, to educate them about why the warm up part is so important (I think some people come late as they don’t think it’s something they need to do!). The warm is effectively where you set the rehearsal going, and this includes teaching important vocal techniques and signposts for the rehearsal to come!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Richard, some great points. Educating our singers about the benefits of warm-ups is in my experience more sucessful with some than others. I always make sure my warm-up sessions are fun and engaging so that the singers look forward to them. That way they are having fun but also developing and taking care of their voices at the same time.

  9. Avatar Sheenagh says:

    Yes! These are matters every choir leader struggles with, and the advice is very good. I take a late rehearsal with adults, in a school where the caretaker arrives at the exact finishing time, and ‘stands over’ us (with a face like thunder!) just as we’re trying to finish up. This makes it hopeless trying to make any more points. Although stressful, it has been an excellent discipline – I aim to be rounding up before he arrives now, so that all I have to say is ‘thank you all and good night!’.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Thank you Sheenagh. I think you’re right – the caretaker is doing you a favour, despite the face of thunder.

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