Time for a cuppa? Running an efficient break in your choir rehearsal

Opinion seems to be divided on tea breaks. Some choirs have them mid-way during a rehearsal, some at the end and some not at all.  At our Total Voice choir rehearsals, we have a break about halfway through and we offer tea, coffee and biscuits.  This seems to suit both our choirs very well, but we’ve had some trials and tribulations along the way. Here are our tips for making the most of a break and for getting everyone’s attention again afterwards.

Get organised

Make sure you arrive at your venue in good time so that you can get the room set up – chairs, sound equipment and refreshments. Lay everything out in a way that means you can create a kind of production line for your members. What really slows our breaks down is if people are hanging around sorting out tea bags, milk and sugar and blocking the next people in the queue. If you can have use of an urn, it’s definitely preferable to continuously boiling kettles. As with all situations involving hot drinks, make sure everything is safe to avoid accidents.  If the venue provides a hot water urn or kettles make sure their are well maintained by the venue and that the electrical testing is up to date.  If you are lucky enough to enjoy a larger space in your venue, you could recruit a couple of volunteers from the choir to serve drinks which will speed up the process.

Keep an eye on the time

The break is a good time for you to answer questions members may have or listen to things they’d like to tell you. It’s an important social aspect of running a choir and you must be prepared to engage with people and show interest. However, it’s all too easy to take your eye off the clock and continue talking when you should be singin. The way we keep the time in check is we ask one of our members to give a two minute warning over the microphone (which she does in a range of styles) so that people know it’s time to get back to their seats.

Use break time wisely

Use the break to get some of your admin tasks done. Again, this is better if you can delegate the job to someone as you will be busy dealing with your members’ queries.  If you have tickets to sell for performances, workshops people can sign up to or lists for performance availability, the break is a great time to deal with those things.

Let the choir socialise

Many people come to community choirs to meet people and make new friends, so the break is a really important time to give people the opportunity to chat and get to know others. By giving them this opportuunity, we find that they are less likely to chat during the rehearsal. During our breaks there is always a healthy buzz of conversation and this helps to bring the choir together as a team.

Resume the rehearsal promptly

When it’s time to retreive your singers, it can be helpful to play some music to let them know the rehearsal is starting again. If you need to get people to calm down and concentrate you can do a short exercise before embarking on the next piece even, if it’s just a few stretches and a roll of the shoulders.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, good and bad, of having choir tea breaks.

Comments on Time for a cuppa? Running an efficient break in your choir rehearsal

  1. Avatar Jane says:

    We rehearse for an hour only – so no time for a break. I encourage choir members to arrive a little early to have a chat while they are putting out the chairs! I make sure that we start on time by doing some sort of warm up, whether everybody is in place or not, and people see or hear and quickly join in. At the end of the rehearsal I can answer any questions and singers leave chatting. From time to time, I suggest we get together at the local pub for an early evening social drink. This is always popular.

  2. Avatar Lynn Irving says:

    Hi Christine and Victoria. Yes we have kids too – they bring a great energy. We either give then their own parts (sop 1), descants or put them on the melody. They have a break with biscuit and juice while we concentrate on alto or tenor. I’m glad you think a break isn’t really faesible- not just me then. Ideally we’d go to the pub after, but I have a baby in tow so not ready for that yet, maybe in a few months.
    Thanks for your website. It’s great not to be alone.

  3. Avatar Lynn Irving says:

    Hi, our practices are only 1 hr. The kids have a short break while everyone else looks at harmonies. I’m not sure we have time for a break though agree it would be valuable socially. Any advice? Thanks, Lynn

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Lynn. I agree that an hour’s practice doesn’t leave time for a break. Perhaps you could think about organising a social event that would allow the choir members to get to know each other a bit better, or perhaps encourage a bit of post-rehearsal socialising.

    2. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Lynn,

      Thanks for your message, I’m sure for you an hour with your choir must pass very quickly so incorporating a break could prove difficult. You mention that the kids have a short break whilst others work on harmonies. Do you have a mix of ages in the choir? I agree with Victoria’s comments that the easiest solution would be to arrange a social event or something after rehearsal, although in my experience of teaching children’s choirs, once the rehearsal is over with so many hobby activities available they are quickly whisked away by parents to their next event!

  4. Avatar Louise Jarvis says:

    Last year, a member volunteered to arrive early and set up tea BEFORE the practice. This encouraged people to arrive early and have a short social time. We also have a short break for announcements and since tea things are still out, can get a cup then. One simple way to get attention and start again, is to hum a single note. One at a time, people notice, stop talking and start humming, then branch into chord notes and create a lovely resonant chord.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Louise, sounds like your tea breaks run very smoothly. The hum call to get everybody back to their seats is intriguing and I might try that when we return to rehearsals in September. Will keep you posted as to how I get on!

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