World Choir Games Flanders 2021

Looking after yourself in a busy concert season

  • [A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    For many of us, this time of year is just one concert after another. It’s great to be doing so much singing, but it can have its downsides.

     

     

    If we overdo it, we can get ill or lose our voice. How can we take care ourselves during a busy concert season?

     

    busy, busy, busy!

    It seemed like a good idea at the time: four concerts back-to-back to celebrate the season, a long drive each day and an overnight stay (what larks we’ll have!). But now it’s here, maybe it was a bit too much to take on.

    Everyone was loving the weekly choir sessions, but now it’s all got rather stressful and people are looking tired and anxious. What happened to the fun?

    You’ve sung out loud and proud for three concerts in a row, but now your voice has gone weird and croaky. How can you cope with the concert tomorrow?

     

    handy hints to help stop burn-out

    Here a few hints that might help you avoid burning out in a busy concert season – whether you’re a singer or a choir leader.

     

    • don’t be over-ambitious – when you’re signing up for a run of concerts, the temptation is to say “yes” to them all. When they’re months away, it’s easy to take on far too much. Be realistic and remember the last time you did it. You might want to say “no” to some of them.
    • stop at the first signs – if you’re starting to feel tired or stressed or ill, then take a break. Don’t just soldier on hoping everything will be OK.
    • pace yourself – if you know you have a run of concerts coming up, don’t give your all to each and every one. Pace yourself during rehearsals and save yourself for the big concerts. Remember: less is often more.
    • don’t share bugs – at the first signs of a cold, don’t drag yourself to choir. You’re not doing anyone a favour, but may well bring everybody else down with your bug. Be responsible. Missing a concert is not the end of the world.
    • wash your hands – most of us are aware that germs can be spread by coughs and sneezes, but it’s amazing how long bugs hang around on door handles and other objects. Wash your hands well and often during cold season.
    • short and sweet is good – a concert doesn’t have to last all evening. When planning a season or individual programme, do the occasional shorter concert or get someone to share the bill with you. Always leave ’em wanting more!
    • look after yourself – rest well, get a good night’s sleep (you don’t ALWAYS have to go to the post-concert knees-up), eat well (don’t live on snacks), drink lots (of water, not too much coffee, tea, alcohol, etc.), lie on the floor for 15 minutes, meditate, don’t always be on ‘go’.
    • not taking part can be good too – singers almost always opt for the singing option, even when they’re ill and rarely get the chance to see their own choir perform. Take the opportunity.
    • keep things in perspective – it’s only a concert. It’s not THAT important in the wider scheme of things. Try to remember this when you’re beginning to get stressed and tired.
    • have a back-up plan – if you have an important role to play (e.g. conductor, soloist), make sure you have a back-up plan if you’re not able to attend a particular concert or rehearsal. Find a substitute. Once you have this in place it lets you off the hook a little and you won’t feel so much pressure.
    • just say “No” – you don’t HAVE to perform to enjoy singing with a group. Maybe try one year without concerts for a change.
    • don’t force your voice – obviously make sure you are singing and speaking from the right place and using your breath properly, but if you do find yourself losing your voice: STOP. Don’t take spurious over-the-counter remedies to just “get you through” you will be masking any pain and may damage your voice. Rest your voice, don’t use it, don’t whisper, just take time out.


    One option is to not get on the treadmill of the concert season at all. I’ve chosen not to do Christmas concerts with my own choir. It does relieve a lot of pressure. Ironically, I got a nasty stomach bug to coincide with our end of term and have been in bed for the last three days. At least I’m not having to miss any concerts!

     

    further reading

    You might find these earlier posts of interest too:

    Taking care of ourselves as choir and workshop leaders

    Singers should spend more time in the audience

    Little voice (on trying to lead a choir with no voice)

    Don’t stress about things you can’t control

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

     

    website: chrisrowbury.com
    blog: blog.chrisrowbury.com
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