Most choirs rehearse once every week. What is a good structure for such an afternoon or evening? What is a reasonable number of songs to work on in a meeting?
A good start for rehearsing is to do warm-ups. In this the choir members sing exercises to loosen the voice and to focus on the choral sound. The singers get a chance to focus on the group. Warming up is very useful. But it shouldn’t take too long, because it reduces the time of the actual rehearsing. Ten to fifteen minutes will mostly suffice.
The first song to rehearse should not be too vocally demanding. The voice is not fully warmed up. So, choose a piece that shouldn’t be sung too soft, doesn’t have too long lines and isn’t too complex harmonically. Leave the difficult repertoire to later. After half an hour, the voices are loosened and the concentration is good. That is the time to work on the challenging repertoire.
What amount of time should you focus on a certain piece? What is a good attention span in a rehearsal? If you start working on a song, it takes some time before rehearsing is best. The singers need some time to get into the key and the tempo of the song, and realize the vocal issues of the arrangement. After some ten minutes the concentration will be highest. However, after twenty or thirty minutes, the concentration will tend to decline. In sum, an attention span of 20 to 30 minutes seems to be a good length to work on each song.
The end of a rehearsal should be fun. You don’t want to conclude the evening with rehearsing notes. Before separating, people want to sing freely and not be concerned with difficult musical aspects. So, you probably want to use the last fifteen minutes of the rehearsal for doing songs in full. For the choir members this will be closest to ‘real music making’.
In singing through songs a lot of things may go wrong and the choir may sound far from ideal. But at this point you should not make any remarks and let the singers carry on. In the next rehearsal there will be time to refine the singing once again.
Suppose you are studying five pieces: Auvergne, Bourgondië, Cevennen, Dordogne en Elzas. And suppose the choir knows the parts of the first three songs. A rehearsal from 8.00pm to 10.30pm might look like this:
|8.45||Work on Cevennen|
Creating a good rehearsal is not easy. And after you have planned everything in details, probably things will go different than imagined. As soon as you notice that the rehearsal is not working out, don’t stick to your planning, but rather improvise and follow your intuition.