Increasing Energy in rehearsal
Thanks you for your wonderful suggestions on ways to increase energy
during rehearsals. Here they are:
This is nothing earth-shattering, but I've always found that moving
around the rehearsal space as much as possible helps my HS kids. Stand
in sections, stand in circles within your sections, make a big circle
around the room, mix up if they're ready, front two rows stand and face
the back two rows, back row sit in front tonight...etc etc. Pretty much
endless possibilities. I hardly ever run a full 50 minutes without
having the kids take at least one alternative singing position
Yes, I have discovered that there is a huge difference in energy level
between a morning and an evening rehearsal, especially as singers get
older. I don't think I could ask my singers to do regular morning
rehearsals, however, because that would mean rehearsing on a Saturday
morning, and they preciously guard their Saturdays. But I HAVE
discovered that afternoon concerts...such as Sundays at 4, are better,
both for our sound and for the audience, which is also getting older.
Sunday afternoon rehearsals might work, too.
quick, staccato warm-ups
accelerating warm-up tempi (like for tongue-twisters)
stand-up/sit-down for different sections of the piece - do very quick
switches for younger folks
FAST games of Simon Says
5.5) any silly improv game - but your choir must be comfortable around
each other and willing to take risks...
Have them stand up as much as possible. It helps breathing &
Keep the pace moving, inject humor, get your (church) choir to move
around to different places in the rehearsal room/church to sing. I
always start warm-ups with some sort of physical activity--I'm always
seeking new warm-up techniques.
alternate standing and sitting - move around the room, mix up the
seating every so often, take a short break midway or do announcements
mid rehearsal and not at the beginning, break out into sectionals if
possible/helpful, inject some humor, perhaps someone in the group other
than you is trained/competent to lead warm ups - a different voice/face,
alternate tempos of selections rehearsed
The best help I know, which you may already do, is to hold back my
remarks about the music to a minimum and hop from one selection to
another. Also -- to involve all sections in drills, i.e. have all parts
sing the tenor line if they need to drill, and so on. This means
everyone needs to pay attention at every moment and be ready to jump in.
To work quickly and keep everyone involved helps the energy. I used to
be guilty of going into long descriptions of WHY I was asking the singers
to do something -- I try to leave those out, or make an explanation VERY
brief. Start on time, on the dot! I don't say a word. I or the
accompanist just begins playing an opening song as a warm-up, something
they all know, so that wherever they are -- walking in late, hanging up
their coat, etc. -- they can join in with music. This says MUSIC is the
(pleasant) business at hand and we're getting down to business NOW!! It
also helps late comers arrive earlier in the future. All of this feeds
the energy of the rehearsal. When the warm-up song ends, I say hello and
take half a minute for a friendly greeting...
I"m wondering what day you rehearse. We switched from Monday to Tuesday
and it was like a new group.
This is a non-musical help--yet it truly adds something. We ask singers
to volunteer to bring snacks--yes, snacks! We take a break and there are
snacks in the back of the room--can be as simple as last night's: peanut
butter and celery sticks; some bring elaborate fruit trays; sometimes
cookies; anything that allows for our singers to intermix in a more
social way... they often come back from breaks rejuvenated for the last
We rehearse 2.5 hours and take an approximately 10-15 minute break one
time.... I tend to take the break about an hour and a quarter into things
so that the last portion is shorter. Then *I* really keep my pace up in
the last portion and do the more polished works and/or the peppier ones.
All the grueling/grinding work is done in the first portion.
My most assured way to infuse energy in the rehearsals is to distribute a
detailed plan - a rehearsal crammed with music, planned to the minute, in
increments from 6 minutes to 15 minutes depending on the length of the
piece/movement. Then I have to move fast.
I also don't drill notes very much. My choirs understand that note
learning is up to them. Our rehearsal is to make ensemble, shape phrases,
and develop the art.
I find with my church choir and community choirs in the past, that using
the warm-up period well is important. If people are chatting or
organizing their music, I ask (nicely) for them to put everything else
aside and focus in, and I start with sighing and move into gentle humming-
-partly as a way for folks to shift their energy from their work days and
start listening to each other and their own bodies. I try to make room
for humor. Both my own if it's appropriate, and choir members. I'll
reign folks in if they're going on, but I encourage an atmosphere where
people can toss off one-liners that get everyone laughing. Letting the
choir "breathe" in this way has been immensely helpful for creating a
positive atmosphere. I end with an upbeat song, or something maybe more
mellow but that the choir is feeling good about. I watch my own energy,
of course. Looking back at my suggestions, I think the first may be the
most important when thinking about the rhythm of people's days. Give a
time to decompress, shift gears, and mark the beginning of a new part of
Ben J. Legett