Planning and directing a great choir rehearsal is more of an art than a science. It takes a sense of pacing and tone, and requires enough musicality on the part of the director to make it beneficial and interesting for the participants.
I’ve had good ones, and I’ve had awful ones. Along the way, I’ve learned to avoid certain rehearsal “killers.” Maybe these can help you too.
- Wasting Time
You might think the most important investment your people make is of their talent or money. Not so. The most precious thing your people give you is their time. Don’t waste a second of it. Start on time, even if hardly anyone is there. (By the way – if you will consistently start on time, your people will adjust and be on time.) And, end when you say you will. Don’t waste time during the rehearsal looking for music or setting up a microphone. If you have musicians setting up to play, ask them to come early enough to be set up BEFORE your singers arrive. Don’t make your people have to wait on the players to get their “ears” on. Prepare as much as possible to guard every minute.
Be consistent with this and you will earn the appreciation of everyone who is sacrificing their most prized commodity – their time. And they will reward you with their presence.
- “Rehearsing” with Demonstration Recordings
I put the word in italics because when you are singing along with a recording, you are not really rehearsing. You may be getting the feel of a song, but your choir does not have to sing well when they sing with a demo, so they won’t. It’s okay to play demos to introduce a song, but when you are learning how to sing something, nothing beats playing the notes and singing without the full sound of the demo. The obvious exception is when you have no instrument or person to play it. But using the recording to rehearse with should be the last resort – and just being lazy.
- Filling the rehearsal with all new material
If there is never a moment for the choir to “cut loose” and remember what they sound like, they will grow frustrated. Every rehearsal should include some new material. But also make sure there are strategic moments when they have something they know well and absolutely love singing. Then release them and let them soar.
- Filling the rehearsal with the same old songs
If week after week, you sing the same songs, over and over again and never have anything fresh or exciting to learn, very soon your choir will know their presence is not needed. They’ll show up on Sundays and sing the “sugar stick,” but they won’t make the investment to come on Wednesday nights because they know its not necessary. Then you’ll be tempted to say, “I want to teach new songs to the choir, but they won’t come to rehearsals.” And it will be YOUR FAULT.
Also, don’t always sing the same types of songs with the same level of difficulty. Some should be easy, some moderately hard, and at least one piece should be challenging and something to stretch the choir. Also use varying styles, tempos, and accompaniment. If you don’t, choir rehearsal will begin to be boring over time.
- Taking the Fun Out of It
Sometimes the pressure of preparing and presenting music can make the atmosphere of rehearsal tense. The personality of the leader sets this tone. If the rehearsal becomes a “life or death” drama week after week – where heads get cut off and the accompanists cry – well, it’s stopped being a discipleship oriented organization. At that point, you need to stop and ask, “What’s the point?”
Look for ways to make choir spiritually uplifting, encouraging, meaningful, and yes, even fun. Learn to take a joke and enjoy the banter – within reason. You’ll get a lot more done.
More could be said about all this. I wonder, what are some things you have learned about rehearsal that have helped you? Please share them!
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.