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Standing up - yes, standing up

I am a member of a large 160 voice choir in Maryland. In addition, I am also a member of a 30 voice Chamber Choir - a sub set of that group; I am also a member of a smaller women's ensemble [12] a subset, yet again of that group. I just performed, in the following order, the Rutter Mass of the Children, Jenkins Requiem, and Lauridsens Lux Aeterna.  As a result of my multiple combinations of singing I was "on" for all but (a)20 measures of those pieces combined. So, we stood - those of us in all 3 ensembles for a very long time. It would be wrong to say I'm a spring chicken, yet I'm only 52. The concert was in a venue where a complete intermission wasn't possible. Guess the question is - anyone have sure fire, go to shoes, inserts, tips for backs/shoulders/arms/feet? 
Thank you
I've recovered now :)
Replies (13): Threaded | Chronological
on April 24, 2013 7:41pm
Hi Phyllis,
Does your chorus uniform require you to wear heels?  I, personally, wear flats to conduct in.....and have three or so, very cute pairs of black flats.  Early in my career, I wore a very nice pair of three inch heels (what was I thinking?) that made my legs look fabulous and wore them to conduct a 90 minute concert....and had to conduct it without a break.  During the first piece, I TWISTED MY ANKLE and had to conduct the rest of the concert in terrible pain.......all the while vowing (and silently swearing) I would never conduct in heels of any sort again.  I tell my singers to always be comfortable and if that means black flats, do it. 
I am crazy about shoes---I probably have at least 100 pairs--and just bought a really cute pair of black, suede pumps with  2 inch heels......they are sooooooo comfy I am tempted to conduct in them still a little leery.  They are by Ros Hommerson and I bought them on Amazon.........RH shoes are fairly reasonably priced and fit my really narrow foot.
I feel you pain......all women conductors and singers feel your pain......and when more than one of us are gathered together, we talk about singing/conducting shoes or concert dress! Every once in a while, there is just this sort of posting here on ChoralNet, so check out the archives.  The men around here roll their eyes but let them try singing or conducting in heels and see what they say!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on April 25, 2013 9:28am
If I want to look nice, I will wear my comfy charactor shoes, but if it doesnt matter - I wear my Swedish wooden clogs.  Most comfrotable shoes to walk in and stand in.  I too have had to stand during long concerts, and that is usually after all day teaching while standing.  I find, standing on my tip-toes, wiggling digits, stretching calves (discretely of course) helps a lot.  I am 53 and will not give up singing.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 30, 2013 7:15am
Very good question.  I am also not a spring chicken - will be 55 soon, but I feel your pain.  I understand the need for standing to promote good posture and make sure participants are 'on' to do their best.  However, in any group where there is a wide range of ages - the 25 year-olds can stand for hours without a problem, while we may struggle to stand and perform well for much shorter periods of time.  I think it boils down to the director being thoughtful and aware of this issue....
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 31, 2013 7:04am
I wear Dansko clogs almost exclusively. Doctors and nurses wear them. They are on the expensive side, but they last for years. You can find less expensive pairs on, on sale at, and my husband now has a habit of searching for them on (which is fine by me!). They have chunky clogs, but they also have more discreet and dressy shoes as well. I broke my foot in college, and discovered these were recommended by the American Podiatrist's Assocation. There are also Sanita's - I believe they are Dansko's original manufacturer and then they broke away. They really are the best shoes I have ever owned.
Good luck!
on July 31, 2013 11:21am
Custom orthotic inserts could help. My health plan, BCBS, covers them for me. You need a perscription. My orthotics and very good shoes to start with, have made a HUGE difference.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 1, 2013 12:55pm
Thank you, Stephen, for sharing that good suggestion.
I think it is possible that will help for some people.
I post the following, not so much as a response to your post, but a suggestion for what men conductors (and singers) might not be aware of:
It seems that, for women, depending on the individual case, it might be different.  Many of us carry the majority of our weight in our hips, which are, obviously, directly over the legs.  Standing, without ever shifting this weight, is tough on the feet; it exerts continued pressure in the same place.  (Heels exascerbate the problem, since they push the weight toward the toes. Some people "grab" their muscles to stay balanced.)  So many women - even those in their 20's -  suffer from varicose veins, which can also be aggravated by this pressure.
Worst of all, there is the "trouper" factor - "I will not be a diva.  I will not complain - even if it is medically unwise to do so."  We see this same tendency in fashionistas - at the mall, at parties, etc.
Gentlemen, you can help!  :) Compliment a woman when she is wearing sensible flats.  Try to refrain from giving too much visual attention {some call it "oogling" ;) } to a woman in ridicously high heels.  Encourage conversations among each other, "I would not prefer to date...take into my choir... stand next to .... a woman with high heels."  "I'm glad my wife/girlfirend wears shoes that encourage a natural happy expression, rather than tense pain, on her face." :)  [ Lucy, in her graceful and happy flats, exits the soapbox now. ;)]
Thanks again, Stephen, for your sharing.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 31, 2013 11:22am
Thank you for raising this issue, Phyliss!  It's a complex and important one.  Doctors/chiropractors tell us that our feet, their placement/stance/shoes are the basis of our posture, walk, our breathing - and our breathing effects all that we do, including thinking/singing!
As to shoes, we should all look carefully at our individual feet.  When I shoe-shop, I place the opposite shoe bottom to the bottom of my foot (i.e. pick up the left shoe, and place my right foot onto the sole of it. ) If my foot, especially the toe area, is bigger than the shoe at any point - allowing room for stitching, lining, etc. , I don't buy it.   Heels are out, unlees it is a basically-straight wedge, with a wide toe-area and great arch support.   {Not sure what type of (deranged!? ;) mind initially created heels and decided that women had to wear them to look "dressed up".    I'd like to speak with this person!   They have hurt many, and helped no one, except perhaps the bank accounts of physicians! }
Also, many women have arches that are higher than the shoe's arch.  This can cause compensation (foot-leaning),  and pain.  I have bought/gathered some fabric and sawdust, to see if I can make my own quilted arch.  When I manage to get it done and try it out, I'll report to Choralnet. :)
I've had good luck with Michel M shoes.  Good arch support - not just inside, but underneath/part of the sole. {If there's nothing to support the support, it is no good.}  Available at Shoe Deptartment
Again, I think this is very individual, and we need to closely examine the shape of our foot, and request [demand!? ;) shoes that work with our shape.
Addressing arm/back tension: I buy light-weight black folders - the school report style.  (Walgreens, Office Depot) When singing a cantata from a thick score, I simply cover it with black fabric, and use sticky-on-both-sides tape to keep the fabric on the book.  I will sometimes split the concert's sheet music into 2 folders, and keep one under my chair/at my feet.  I don't like binders - the weight of that added metal, and the fixed position,  aggravates whiplash tension (I  have been rear-ended [while waiting for a light to turn green] more times than either of us wish to count or think about.. ;/ )
Allow your shoulders to completely relax.  Continually, as you can, while singing, think of letting them drop - not forward, or course, just straight down.  Hold your music where you can see it and the director without a lot of up-ping and down-ing of your head/neck - top of folder level with your chin works for most folks.  Your eyes can "flick' up and down.
Develop ways to move fluidly while you are singing - this can be done without concert-distraction.  Circle shoulders, "snake" your backbone, float your chin around.  Let your feet rock slowly forward and back.  If you think the phrase, you can naturally coordinate these - and that is relaxation/exercise/artistry combined!  :)  At first, It will require practice at home, but eventually it will come naturally.
People with obvious challenges (such as wheelchair-bound singers) are always allowed to sit.  I do belive that it is time for directors to research and be sensitive to the fact that fibromyalgia, lupus, Celiac disease, whiplash, and suchlike are "hidden" tension-producers.  They make it very difficult for affected folks to sing, especially to stand for long periods.   And some folks just have the type of body that carries tension.  And yet, these folks really need the spiritual release, the breathing, and the social opportunites that choirs bring.  A fine soprano sang next to me for several years - she rarely sat, despite having surgery on several leg issues.  Now the problem is aggravated to the point where she has given up singing :(  - even though her sound is still good, and she has valuable clear, high notes.  She and the choir miss each other greatly.
Sitting while sinigng is no crime.  It is quite possible to sit in the same posture that we stand - the only difference is the position of the legs.
A middle-school choir-student once asked me if they could stand for part of the class.  I realized that, while we as directors, naturally move about, our singers are limited.  We need to give them permission and room to move a little, to emote and to relase physical tension - the result will be better performances, not to mention healthier, happier singers.  This is true at any age!
Best Wishes to all for  tension-free singing!
"Cain't have much soul without a good sole!"   "I sing because I'm"  
on August 1, 2013 1:25pm
I am trying hard to be sympathetic, Lucy, given your interesting contributions elsewhere on Choralnet, but gracious, you must be female to write all that about shoes.   And on the other hand, I appreciate the information, because as a guy I basically prefer to stand continually to sing.
on August 2, 2013 9:07am
Thank you for the "sympathy". :)
It is gender-related insofar as basic differences in bone structure.  However, I think a person's comfort-level with standing long periods  - aside from shoes - is mostly related to how they stand, sit, hold their folder, respond to tension, breathe, etc.  This can vary quite a bit.  As David and I discussed, the preparation/evergy-level is also a key factor.
An (in)famous Spring concert by *young people occurred in this city years ago - at Symphony Hall.  {Rep included a Schubert Mass, I think, and Britten's  The Golden Vanity. }  During the 2nd section of the concert,  several choristers fainted -  bodies straight, hit the risers with a disconcerting BLAM!  Audience gasped at the first one, they began concerned whispers at the 2nd, and at the 3rd, one man stood and shouted, "Stop the concert!"   Finally it was paused for a moment, someone came from backstage and asked, "Is there a doctor in the house?", and a doctor came forward to address the situation.  They continued with the concert...naturally the spirit in the hall was dampened and distracted.
Discussions later (and, as I recall, a major newspaper article dealt with some of this) included:  1. The long, daily rehearsals at which the choristers were required; their level of fatigue coming into the concert.  2. Some of them also were involved with baseball, etc. in addition to school.  At this age, (7 - 13) how much activity-choosing and concert-week-discipline is is necessary, or reasonable? Were parents over-programming them?  3. Were they trained to "lock their knees" ? (Never a wise procedure - can cut circulation.  I understand that even the military discourages this.)  4. Why robes over clothes?  Lots of heat trapped in hard-working young bodies.  4. Could the lighting have been cooled somehow?
* Having changed directors more than once since this event, this was the world-renowned Atlanta Boys Choir.    I have not heard of, or seen, this happen with female SSA(A) or mixed groups.  And I don't think it ever happened again with the ABC.
Wisdom seems to have infused most organizations in that water bottles are allowed nearby,  sometimes instrumental numbers are planned,  shoe support, and breathability of fabric are considered.  On the other hand, it is rather amazing that we do this choral concert "thing" the same way it has been done for centuries - except for air-conditioning. ;)
I hope it will not require such drama to help us make plans - both individually and as director/managers for groups - for outfits, shoes, rehearsal schedules, and weight of sheet music that keep us healthy and in top form.  :)   Shouldn't singing, for us, as well as the audience, [without negating one iota of serious discipline, emotional range,  and artistic expression] still be fun? !?  :)  I think so !
"I sing because I'm happy; I sing because I'm free!"
on August 1, 2013 8:56am
Perhaps part of the problem this poster gives is a music director who may be, shall we say, out of touch. No one should ask a choir to stand for hours and hours without a break. In big oratorios and passions, etc., there should always be seating available during the long stretches of solos. Even tougher is the type of conductor who insists on a long standing dress rehearsal right before the performance (a separate ill). Perhaps we need to propagate some friendly reminders, suggestions, and guidelines to conductors about this.
David Avshalomov,
(Lifelong chorister who actually *prefers to stand for a good part of every rehearsal and sings better standing . . . but also no spring (or Summer) chicken, more of an Autumn rooster . . . )
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 1, 2013 1:06pm
Yes, David!
The sensitivity to immediately prior dress rehearsals also needs to be carried out in concentrated events, such as All-State Chorus.   In most I have observed - and I've done it for years - the students sing better during their rehearsals, and have a slightly lackluster quality during the performances.  I don't think that this is simply nerves (they had to auditon; that's much harder!), or peaking too early.  It is body and vocal fatigue.  It is a difficult situation, as the Specilaists/Directors are brought in, generally, for a weekend.  However, I have been impressed with the directors who varied the sit/stand position, and encouraged some movement during rehearsal.  Movement can be memorable education in regard to phrases, rhythm, etc.
on August 1, 2013 3:44pm
I wear Crocs exclusively for concerts.  We wear long dresses and the shoes don't really show very much.  They are the only shoes I can wear and stand for long periods of time.  BTW, your conductor should be drawn and quartered (just kidding)!  NO one should be forced to stand for that long, it's an accident waiting to happen.  I've almost fainted from standing for more than an hour.  Have a conversation with your board about this issue.
on August 10, 2013 3:28am
Standing (or not standing) falls into two different categories, those of the conductor and the chorister.
As a conductor, I can easily stand for two hours.  My community choir baulks at it - and so would I.
The difference is that the choral director has the liberty to shift position from time to time.  The chorister is wedged into a line, that must look good at all times.  As I am now jusut over the hill into my 70s I still have no problem standing to conduct for long periods.  But as a chorister I am no longer able to do so without the static position causing physical pain.  A sensitive choir director will trim his cloth to the required measure.  So, although standing is better for singing, it can ultimately make for a less than comfortable choir, and that is not good for voice production.  So, where possible, choirs should sit until they are required to sing.
A final point, it is unreasonable to have a 'dress' rehearsal' immediately before a performance, expecially if both require the choir to stand for the duration.  It can simply bnring on exhaustion.  Choral singing is supposed to give enjoyment to singer and audiencde.  It is not an endurance test.
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