Below are responses from my inquiry regarding a Choral Cabaret:
David Stephenson--Choral Director--Pelion (SC) High School
We do a Cabaret Night every October as a fundraiser for the choir trip.
Students are chosen by audition and judged as they are seen at the
audition. This means little rehearsal time for the directors. We sell
tickets in advance and students receive a % of their profits. They
receive 100% profit if they work on a committee. This includes
performing, set up clean up baking, and waiting tables.
We set up the cafeteria with table cloths and some autumn decorations. We
made a big felt back drop that we use each year. We set up lights and a
sound system with electronic keyboard. The waiters take dessert and drink
orders, and parents help in the kitchen getting their orders on trays.
Parents also help with tickets at the door.
My chorus just had a cabaret/auction event. We made over $2000. By
combining an auction and a cabaret, no one got bored and nothing lasted
too long either! We had no theme - just let everyone do their own thing,
and it worked out just fine. We had a very funny auctioneer/emcee who
kept everything moving.
My high school choir students (about 50) have held a Valentine's
Dessert/Concert the past few years. The choir performs a few selections
based on love and then anyone in the chorus who wants to do so is
encouraged to work up a solo, duet, or small ensemble. The only
restriction I make is that it has to all be live, and we only use
acoustical instruments for accompaniment----it's not a time for the local
garage bands or for karaoke performances. I still want some evidence of
good vocal production.
We charge just enough to cover our costs and families who don't wish to
have dessert can sit in chairs towards the back of the room. My school
doesn't have an auditorium and all of our other performances are with the
band in a very dead, large gymnasium. This one concert is just vocal and
we sing in the very live cafeteria which works just fine with serving
food. The school's home ec teacher and I get together and make the
desserts that are served. Ideally, the home ec students would be doing
this but sometimes it's just easier to do it ourselves and after the first
year, this is the direction we've chosen to go.
The parents love this concert and whenever I talk of doing it only every
other year, I get so many complaints, I always back down. I think we all
like having just the choir for a change and the audience enjoys sitting in
chairs rather than bleachers. Food is always a good thing too. The kids
serve the desserts and beverages and get to sit around mingling with the
audience before the music begins. At the end, everyone including the
audience members, helps clean up the mess. It makes a nice change of pace
in the middle of winter.
I have done Cabarets with my chorus for the past four years, and this is
always the best concert of the year.
Our theme has always been music from various musicals. The students have
so much fun with this style of music, and the audience loves it. I have
the chorus do at least three longer arrangements from different musicals
and then have the rest of the selections as solos, duet, trios, etc.
As far as food is concerned, I have all my students bring in one or two
items each. This works very well. I have food and drinks set up on one
side of the room (the audience can serve themselves anytime throughout the
We always perform the cabaret in the cafeteria. I ask students and
parents to help set up a couple hours before the show. We decorate with
table cloths, candles, balloons, musical ornaments, etc. This would not
be possible without help from students and parents! In the back, I have
spotlights shining on the students that I purchased at a music store.
This adds a lot to the atmosphere. We set up risers in front of the
tables and I have a pianist who brings his keyboard, sound system,
microphones, etc. This is very helpful!
I have two Cabarets per year. Our "Fall Showcase" is a vocal arts evening
geared towards art songs, and billed as such. Our attendance for about 15
students was no more than 50, but the purpose was there. We also had, and
will have again, a Spring "Cabaret". This event saw about 150 in
attendance, and students presented their own works, as well as a broad
spectrum of broadway music.
In both circumstances, students handled all of the production, billing,
and preparation. I served only as a vocal coach and accompanist. We chose
a theme "1980's Broadway" and tried to focus everything around that theme,
working in a small plot and some dialogue, with about 15 songs. The
audience was very receptive and was mostly formed from students, with some
parents and faculty. Light refreshments were served on each table, along
with Bios about the students.
The preparation was great, but the benefits are clearly lasting. Several
students used the opportunity to overcome their fears of solo singing and
have been motivated to study voice privately.
I started a cabaret format at my high school in 1974. The purpose was a
chance to expose my choir kids to "GOOD POP MUSIC" and to expose their
talents to their peers. The previous two years, we were basically a
traditional and "classically" type choir.
THEMES: We always selected a theme, done with my kids and myself ....
and done early! One year it might evolve around dance, another "Broadway"
shows, patriotic, etc, etc. Early counts, for both scheduling and
ordering the music. And we wished to educate both kids, parents, and
guests as a side-product.
FOOD: I learned (after the first 2 years) how and what not to serve.
Foremost, include all food in the price of admission. Advertise and
emphasize "FREE FOOD & BEVERAGES". We tried chips and pre-bagged
commercial snacks. Don't ever do peanuts in the shells ...... the cleanup
mess was horrendous and the custodians almost filed a grievance. Rent a
coke machine and various types of beverages. We tried canned pop, placed
on ice, in very large containers. Was great, but throughout the concert
we heard pop caps all the time, and when the ice melted, it took a cast of
ten to remove the heavy containers filled with water. FOREMOST, have food
available only before the show and during intermission. Later, we had
parents handle the goodies end, and all went well! We even graduated to a
wine-type event (Not real wine, mind you) but cheese, fruit, crackers, and
juices. The audience loved it!
HUMOR? Use lots of it, and in fact, have various kids (seniors) announce
selections and develop a personal persona with the audience.
GIMMICK? Twice, we invited a good adult big band to play with us, and
then opened up the floor for a dance following the concert. Adults and
kids loved it. The other, we invited a local rock band to do the
same ...... great evening.
REWARDS: After 2 years, we had to "do" the show 2 nights to accommodate
the crowds. Our school (9-12) had about 1300 students ...... we had
capacity crowds each night in the neighborhood of 900. AND BOY,
RECRUITING FOR CHOIR BECAME MUCH EASIER.
SETTING: Audience was seated at tables. The choir kids really enjoyed
preparing large 6' x 8' banners, 6-10 with each showing either a cover of
the octavo music we were using, or their own creativity. All were
suspended from the ceiling either in the room or from the top of the
stage. Concert dress was casual, with obvious guidelines, yet freedom for
individual expression. And the whole thing was pop-music oriented,
accompanied by usually a mixture of GOOD student and area adult
musicians! Each show went 2 hours, with a 20 minute intermission.
I say, go for it! We always did good literature, but it was fun to show
that we were human. And believe me, I always found kids who were
previously "shy" about soloing, more than willing (and definitely able) to
shine for that program.
Our Cabaret concert does not include a meal. Our parent support group,
F.A.S.T. (Fine Arts Support Team) sells pie and coffee during the event as
a fundraiser. We call it a Cabaret, because we have the concert in our
cafeteria, set up lights, mics, video feeds, etc...
For us, it's basically a choir concert + a showcase of some of our
talented vocalists. I audition solos, duets, trios, etc...to be included
on the performance interspersed among the choir selections. I usually
select about 10 solo performances for the show.
We also have a theme every year for the show. Last year was Hollywood.
Previous themes include: Caribbean, Western, Decades, Jazz lounge,
etc... The kids take the opportunity to dress up for the show. The music
doesn't necessarily fit the theme but I try to find lighter stuff from
Broadway, pop, & jazz for the show.
We have some pictures on our website www.lhsmusic.com of previous Cabarets
if you are interested in taking a look. Good luck in planning. Ours is a
fun event that the kids enjoy participating in.