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.
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.