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Dress rehearsal length

The community choir I conduct has been discussing the length of pre-concert dress rehearsals.  The need for adequate time to rehearse the entire concert repertoire in our performance venue on concert week, including extra time on any pieces with instrumentalists (who come to only one rehearsal), is offset by the discomfort of choir members of a variety of ages, some of whom find it tiring to have a longer-than-usual rehearsal.
 
How much time do you generally allow for your final rehearsal(s) on concert week?  Do you do one long rehearsal, split it up into two rehearsals, or some other arrangement? 
 
Any feedback you can share would be much appreciated.
 
Susan Korstanje
Replies (2): Threaded | Chronological
on December 20, 2013 10:04am
I direct a good, women's, community chamber chorus. The week of a concert, we have our regular 2-hour midweek rehearsal, a 2 1/4 hour dress rehearsal in the venue the day before the concert, and  a call time 1 1/4 hours before curtain.  Ideally, the dress rehearsal would be a full run-through, but rarely is.  This is because I start the dress by rehearsing the pieces which involve our instrumentalists because I don't want to keep them the entire rehearsal if they are playing only one or two pieces.  I do try to run sections of the concert in order.  Also, I will take the time on those pieces which need it most. The day of the concert, I'll touch on those sections of pieces which seem to be causing the most anxiety (for me or the singers ;-)).   Occasionally, this means I won't have had a complete run through of all our repertoire in the venue before the concert, but this hasn't been a problem.  I recommend against having an overly long dress rehearsal or especially early call time because it can be so tiring for the singers, especially if the time isn't used well.  I prefer happy, well-rested, alert singers, even if they might be a little under-rehearsed.
 
Kate Thickstun
Pacific Women's Chorus
San Diego, CA
on December 20, 2013 2:06pm
Thanks for your input, Kathryn.  It sounds like your strategies regarding instrumentalists and giving time to pieces which need it the most are similar to mine.  It probably helps that you have your regular rehearsal in addition to the dress rehearsal on the week of your concert.  Our major concerts are always on Wednesdays, which is our regular rehearsal night, so we lose our regular rehearsal that week and have only the one dress rehearsal (plus a half hour on concert night before we open the doors for the audience.)  We schedule our dress rehearsal on Monday instead of Tuesday, to help those who find two nights in a row wearying.  We also welcome stools at dress rehearsal for those who find standing the whole time difficult.  Some singers have expressed that they would be nervous if we didn't sing through all the repertoire in the concert venue, since the sound and spacing of the singers are quite different than in rehearsal.  I will be presenting several alternatives to my choir executive.  One of them will be the possibility of adding one more rehearsal on concert week, thus having two shorter rehearsals instead of one longer one.  We currently average about 3 1/2 hours for a dress rehearsal, so two rehearsals could actually give us more usable time.  But then, the extra night would mean another commitment for the singers, and I'm not sure if they would end up any more well-rested. . .
 
Susan
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