We’ve talked extensively about the importance of planning rehearsals for your choir. Not only does it ensure that you look professional and feel prepared, it also helps you to cover repertoire in ample time for a performance. However, it’s inevitable that sometimes things won’t go to plan. What do you do when problems or distractions arise? In the first of a two-part article, I give you some example situations with tips for getting things back on track.
Situation 1 – distracted singers
I tend to find that this problem often occurs in the week after a performance. There’s lots of excitement, people are keen to catch up with their friends and there’s a distracted buzz in the room. Also, the prospect of learning new repertoire after weeks of perfecting existing songs seems to create a slight reluctance to focus in my choir. On the other hand, as a choir leader, you’ve probably come to the rehearsal all geared up with new music, very focused and keen to get on. In my experience the mix of these two elements can make for an unsatifying rehearsal. Here’s how I handle it. Firstly, grab your choir’s attention with something new, perhaps start with a tongue twister or a clapping game; something that requires their attention and isn’t what they’re used to. Have a few of these little exercises noted in your rehearsal plan so that you can throw them in should noise levels elevate. You can also try mixing people up at different points during the evening, giving your singers a new perspective and splitting up any noisy groups.
Situation 2 – new repertoire
It takes time for your singers to feel confident about new music. When you introduce a new piece, particularly after a recent performance, it can be challenging. Think carefully about how you plan to teach new pieces. Look for repeated sections or easy melodies that might be a good place for the choir to start learning. If, while you’re teaching what you’ve planned, you start to feel that the choir is resistant and unresponsive, don’t just keep going, you’ll probably only make the atmosphere even worse and the choir won’t remember what they learned anyway. Have a break, sing something else or do a quick exercise to relieve the tension in the room. You can return to the repertoire later or in a future session. If you provide rehearsal tracks for your choir suggest they have a listen to that piece or section for next time to help them become more familiar with it.
Situation 3 – interruptions
Interruptions for questions can be very distracting and throw you off-plan. They can also be distracting for other choir members. Of course, you musn’t simply dismiss or ignore questions, but it’s perfectly okay not to deal with them that instant. If someone brings up a point that’s on-topic and that you can assist with quickly, that’s fine. If the disruptions start to confuse you or throw your focus, just politely thank them for their query, say you need to look at whatever it is and come back to them. Or if someone is continuously interrupting suggest they come and chat with you at the break or after the rehearsal so you can run through things with them. I find that most of those queries will end up being answered in the course of the session anyway, and that questions are often just keen members anticipating what I’m already planning to say or do. Most singers, particularly the enthusiastic ones, don’t like to feel unsure about the music, which is often why these interruptions occur early on in the learning process.
Next time – what to do when time rushes away with you, and how to be spontaneous, even when you have a plan.