World Choir Games Flanders 2023

Getting ready to go back to choir: 5 ideas to help singers and choir leaders

  • [The views expressed in this blog are from my personal experiences from 25 years of leading non-auditioned community choirs in the UK, as well as adult singing workshops. My focus is on teaching by ear using a repertoire of songs from traditions across the globe. Your experiences may differ from mine, so do feel free to leave a comment and let's begin a conversation! A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    Many choirs start back in September after a long break.

     

     

    Here are five things you can do to prepare yourself for a smooth re-entry, whether you’re a singer or a choir leader.

    If you’re a choir member, you may not have sung a single note over the last couple of months.

    If you’re a choir leader you may not have given rehearsals a second thought.

    In which case, it might come as a shock when it’s time to go back to choir.

    Here are five things you can do to help you get ready.

    choir members

    1. sheet music – if your choir uses it, this is a good time to sort through it. Make sure everything’s in order. Are any songs missing? Do you need a new choir folder? Are there songs you can archive?
       
    2. rusty voice? – if you’ve not sung at all for a while, you might be worried whether you can still do it (see Has your voice gone rusty over the summer?). Of course you can still sing, but it might be worth doing some simple vocal warm ups and exercises to get your voice back in shape. Just go through some of the warm ups you remember from choir. Be gentle when you start though.
       
    3. song revision – this is a great opportunity to re-familiarise yourself with songs in your choir repertoire, especially those that you know you’ll be revisiting. Listen to recordings, work through sheet music, sing to yourself in the shower.
       
    4. re-evaluate – many of us end up going with the flow and never reflect on whether we really want to be doing what we’re doing. Going to choir may have become a habit – it’s what you do. Before you go back, take some time to reflect on why you go to choir. What do you hope to achieve during the next choir season? Maybe set yourself some goals (see What single thing will make you a better singer this year?). Are you getting what you need from your choir? Maybe it’s time to find a new one.
       
    5. try something new – we all get into bad habits over time. Maybe you always stand next to your friend in choir, or always sing the alto part, or never manage to get to choir on time. The start of a new choir season is the perfect time to make changes (see Re-booting your choir: shaking things up for a new season).
       

    choir leaders

    1. clear the decks – I don’t know about you, but I always promise myself to tidy up at the end of each choir season. But looking at my music room two months later, it’s still a mess! Time to sort music out, find new repertoire, archive old material, file things away, and generally tidy up (see Putting your house in order or how to clear up after a busy choir season). It’s much easier to start a new season with a tidy desk and mind.
       
    2. same old, same old? – starting a new choir season is a great time to shake things up. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Think about what you want from your choir and how you might achieve that (see Re-booting your choir: shaking things up for a new season)
       
    3. plan, and plan again – it’s never too soon to plan. You might already be thinking ahead to your spring concert next year. Or even have a five-year plan involving choir exchanges and big concerts. Whether it’s the next rehearsal or your grand vision for the choir’s future, you’ll need a plan (see Planning for a new season).

      But don’t plan every single detail or there will be no space for creative surprises (see Planning ahead: leave space for the unexpected). And remember, you can’t plan for every eventuality (see Best-laid plans – dealing with the unexpected in singing sessions)
       
    4. ease singers in – the first rehearsal of a new season is different from all the others. There will need to be time for a lot of social catching up. Singers will probably have got rusty over the break (vocal range and quality, remembering songs, etc.). Basically you’ll be trying to get everyone back to where the were when you last met. For me, the most important element that will need refreshing is listening to each other. See The most important thing to do when choir starts again after a long break.
       
    5. don’t panic – like many of your singers, you may feel that you’ve gone rusty over the break. Can you remember how to teach? Will you be able to conduct effectively? We often doubt our own abilities (‘imposter syndrome’). Not having done something for a while will certainly make us doubt whether we can still do it. But don’t panic, we’ve all been there. It will come back to you. Having doubts and feeling nervous about going back actually mean that you care and you’re being conscientious (see If you don’t feel nervous before a concert or singing workshop then something’s wrong)



    I’m sure I’ve missed loads out. Do let me know what helps you ease back into choir after the break. I’d love to hear from you!

     

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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