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Church choir rehearsal schedule

Due to an accompanist change at our church, I need to rethink our rehearsal schedule.  Currently we rehearse on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings between 1st and 2nd services.  Our new accompanist is not available on Wednesday evenings.  I have thought of three options: keep the same schedule and rehearse without an accompanist, move to a different evening and lose a few singers, or eliminate our week night rehearsal and rehearse on Sunday mornings only.  I would appreciate any insight into these or other rehearsal options.
on January 3, 2011 12:50am
Forgive my bluntness, but it seems to me that being available for the set rehearsal time would be a requirement for the job.  That being said, you gotta do what you gotta do.  If you're comfortable rehearsing without the accompanist, and have confidence in this accompanist's ability to be a team player at the last minute then that would be my first preference.  
on January 3, 2011 2:03am
I conduct a small church choir and our rehearsal is 1.5 hr. before service and 45 min. after service every Sunday.  Works but does create some "What are we going to sing in 4 weeks" problems.  Planning is important in this format.  The Church only has one service. If you have two, this format may not work. 
Gary Ross
Arcata Ca.
on January 3, 2011 1:06pm
Paul - Didn't have exactly this problem, but something else that contributed to a change.  While in Germany directing a military chapel choir made up of active duty, civilian, family members (and a few retirees), we used to rehearse on a Tuesday night - end result after a bit - only 4 people would show up.  On Sunday a.m., though, we could have up to 20 people at Mass.  Reasons for the no-shows?  Travel, emergency leaves, etc., etc. - this WAS, after all, a volunteer group with a real-world set of jobs and requirements (to include taking care of kids while spouse is away doing HIS or HER job, etc.).  Finally, my wife suggested that we hold rehearsal immediately after Mass on Sunday morning.  This caused a bit of a logistical nightmare (it was a military chapel and we did share the space with the incoming Protestant Sunday morning service) but, because we had a basement (this was in Germany), we were able to use the Catholic chaplain's office (which he was more than gracious to allow us to use - he loved music and was willing to do just about anything to help it along!) for an hour after Mass - and it worked.  (We also rehearsed for about a half-hour before Mass).  Made for a long Sunday morning, I agree; but after we got going, attendance was hugely improved, and everyone had the rest of the week "off" without feeling guilty about missing rehearsal.  Think about this solution:  it may require some sales technique on your part (emphasize the positive aspects of it) but once people try it, they may actually start liking the idea that the rest of the week is theirs.  I agree with Gary on this part, at least:  planning is supreme in this situation.  As he also fairly points out:  if the choir sings once on a weekend, okay; if you're committed to a second morning service, it ain't happening.
Should THAT occur, then try to do the unaccompanied bit (does anyone in your choir at least feel comfortable enough to sit at the piano and go through the respective parts' musical line?).  Even having a good piano student who is willing to do the "monkey work" of that kind of help will go a long way to helping your choir get through it until they can hear everything come together on Sunday mornings.  Again, personal experience:  in a bad church music situation a number of years ago, the parish administrator (pastor-in-training) refused to hire a rehearsal accompanist (that's how far things had deteriorated between the choir and him).  I was acting as the director while he was supposed to be hiring one.  I do not play the piano; I play at the piano.  However, I can figure things out well enough to help the choir get through the rough stuff.  As a result, we started doing our prep for the most part a cappella.  Ended up, over time, we formed an a cappella sacred music service choir (The Living Water) as a consequence of the choir actually hearing their voices together, instead of being drowned by the organ.  They loved it!  In a sense, you have to see the glass as half-full, not half-empty.
The last option, assuming that you are not TOO tied to your current accompanist, is looking for another one, if none of the suggested solutions work.  But if you and the accompanist and the choir make beautiful music together, that may not be a viable option - and in any event, not one you would care to explore.
Good luck - let us know what happens.
Ron Duquette
Director of Music, Catholic Community
Ft. Belvoir, VA
on January 4, 2011 11:35am
I have found that Sunday mornings are so busy at church, either before or after service, that getting in a clean, focused rehearsal is impossible.  Also, people are late and/or have other church meetings to attend.  So, I would stick with a week night and would never choose to lose singers.  I agree with the sentiment expressed by someone else that being available for week night rehearsal should be a requirement for the job, however, if that is impossible, I would also opt for a rehearsal without an accompanist provided you or someone could help out with parts playing, etc.  It would definitely add to the choir's musicianship as sometimes an accompanist can cover up a myriad of musical flaws.  It's a tough situation you are in - good luck.  I accompany my own rehearsals and most performances and that also brings about many problems. 
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