How to Run an Effective Church Choir Rehearsal

You are the choir director.  You select the music, and each week it is your responsibility to prepare your choir for presenting music in the worship service.  

First, make sure you are very careful about what your choir can handle.  The selection of music is critical.  If you plan to jump right in with the Rutter Requiem, you may find yourself and your choir members becoming frustrated quickly.  I like to provide my groups with a nice variety of styles, yet also a nice variety of difficulty.  I challenge them at times, but at other times, I program something simple that they enjoy.  Choral music comes in a variety of styles and levels of difficulty.  Make sure you get a feel for what your choir members enjoy singing, and then tailor your selections to their ability levels.  

You also will want to take into account the sections of the choir.  A good-sounding choir will be well-balanced.  If you have more altos and sopranos than tenors and basses, for example, you might consider searching for SAB or Two-part music.  (SAB stands for Soprano-Alto-Baritone.) 

Once you have several musical selections to rehearse, it's time to plan your rehearsal.  In a church setting it is appropriate to start with joys and concerns of the choir members, and it's always ok to pray with your choir members.  You can then move into the vocal warmups.  

Start with very simple and non-taxing vocal warmups.  You can find countless examples on the Internet, or simply purchase a book of warm ups.  Begin by teaching your members to breathe through the diaphragm.  The air should pass through the lungs and be held in the abdomen where you can control it.  Since this is unusual for many people, have your group sit down and then reach down to grab their ankles.  As they are doing this, ask them to breathe in, and they will immediately get the sensation of a belly of air.  It's like their bellies are blowing up as a balloon would. That sensation is what you want them to do, because it will enable them to sing and control sustained passages of music.  You can also pass out straws and have them breathe through them through their mouths.  The sensation of freely moving air from the diaphragm all the way out to well beyond their bodies will help you (and them) develop a nice sound!

The next step is to have your choir members sing a three-note scale, starting on Bb 3.  Ascend upwards by half steps to around E5 or F5.  Some members of the alto and bass section may have to use falsetto to get those notes, but you are going to gradually stretch their ranges.  If they feel like they are straining at all, have them stop until you get back down to a comfortable range.  

Once you have run the choir through four or five vocal exercises, you can begin to rehearse the music.  I like to start by sharing a little about the music, such as which scriptures are captured in the lyrics.  For example, this one has the words from I Corinthians 13 even in the title!  We then read as much as we can with the accompaniment, and then work on the parts.  You can mix the parts up by rehearsing Tenors, then Sopranos, then Bass, then Alto at one point, and then maybe start with altos in another spot.  The reasoning for this is so that the choir gets comfortable in hearing other parts and then seeing how their parts fit.  

You do not have to perfect the piece in one rehearsal.  In fact, it is much preferable to dabble-that is, learn a little of the piece, and then spiral back to it at the next rehearsal.  Find something, however, to give the choir a sense of accomplishment.  An introit, a hymn, a piece from a previous year that they like will all serve this purpose.  Then go on to another piece to dabble.  You will gradually, through constant spiral review, teach the choir a repertoire of music.  When you have decided on a piece for a particular Sunday, you should be ready to refine it and polish it pretty easily if you have spiraled through previous rehearsals. Depending on the difficulty of the music you have selected, plan on at the very least six weeks of preparation before a Sunday presentation.  

Thank you for reading!  I will post more articles in this space.  For questions or comments, please visit me RIGHT HERE!


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