As a choir director, your job is to shape the sound of the choir, teach the music, and evaluate and correct problems in vocal performance. We will present you with some steps to help you successfully form and lead a choir.
Part 1 of 5: Learning Body Language and Hand Gestures for Leading
Step 1. Look at other directors
Modeling your hand signals, body language, and facial expressions based on other conductors is the best way to understand the types of signals experienced singers have become accustomed to.
- Watch videos of other conductors' choirs online.
- Watch live performances by professional choirs and focus on what the conductor does and how the singers respond to each signal.
- Attend live choir performances and check out the conductor. Make sure to choose a seat that allows you to have an unobstructed view to see the director. Take notes on what seems to work very well.
- Attend a choir rehearsal and look at the conductor from the singers' perspective.
Step 2. Make some notes about the signs
Writing down the signals that you plan to use will lead to more consistency when you use them.
Step 3. Exaggerate
Most of the cues have to be exaggerated so that the singers can see them clearly, especially when working with a large choir or with children. However, try not to overdo it so much that the audience is distracted by your movements.
Step 4. Watch yourself when directing
Lead in front of a mirror or record yourself leading and determine if your signals are clear.
Step 5. Practice frequently
The more you practice using body language to conduct, the more comfortable you will be doing in front of a real chorus.
- Play your favorite choir music and pretend you're conducting it.
- If you know a choir director, ask him if he can loan you his choir (which is already trained) during a portion of a rehearsal. Then ask the singers or choir director for feedback on your performance or some advice.
Part 2 of 5: Build a Vocal Talent Ensemble
Step 1. Decide if you will organize any auditions
While it is true that organizing some auditions can help build a more skilled choir, some choir directors prefer to give everyone interested the opportunity to participate.
Step 2. Plan the auditions
Make sure to take the following steps if you decide to host some auditions. Otherwise, you can move on to the next part.
- Secure a time and place for auditions. It may be preferable to organize some auditions at the location where you will be rehearsing or performing so that there is consistency.
- Publicize auditions. Think about the types of singers you want to recruit and plan your advertising accordingly. You may want to start advertising several weeks or even a month before the auditions take place.
- Decide if you will have the singers prepare their own piece of music for the audition or sing on the spot with some sheet music. This information should be included in the advertisement for the auditions.
Step 3. Organize the auditions
Hearing each vocalist sing and taking notes about the audition will help you make decisions about who to include in the chorus.
- Rate the vocal ability of the singers against your expectations. Determine the range and quality of the singers' voices during the audition.
- You may want to develop a short questionnaire for singers to report on their experience, describe their vocal range, and state whether they can read music.
- Try to maintain a neutral facial expression during the audition and be sure to remain professional and courteous. You may hurt someone's feelings by frowning or reacting to poor hearing. Similarly, you can raise the hopes of someone who seems very pleased.
Step 4. Choose the members of the choir
Determine the number of singers you need, as well as the combination of voices you want to have.
- You can form a smaller group if you have strong and experienced singers, since those with less skills do better in a larger group.
- Make sure you have a proper balance between the vocal parts: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.
- You may have some other balance considerations. Be sure to consider the aspects of gender, age and race so that your choir is richly diverse.
Step 5. Notify the choir about your decisions
You will need to notify the auditioners that they are part of the choir. You can post a list or phone each person in the choir.
Consider writing a short note to non-choir members thanking them for their interest
Part 3 of 5: Determine Musical Selections
Step 1. Choose an appropriate music for the occasion
There are many considerations that influence musical selection. For example: is the choir religious or secular? What season is it? If the choir performs as part of a larger event, what is the tone of the event?
Step 2. Choose an appropriate music for the choir
Musical selections should be based on the skill level of the choir and should be as easy as possible to perform, but so complex as to be challenging.
Step 3. Make sure you have the appropriate permissions to advertise and present the chosen music
You can find music that is in the public domain if you don't have a royalty budget.
Step 4. Interpret and study the musical selections
It is important that you know how you want the music to sound before you begin rehearsing the pieces of music with the choir.
- Meet with the musical accompanist to discuss the music and your interpretation of it.
- Familiarize yourself with the music, as well as all the individual vocal parts, and how you will conduct it before rehearsing. Don't try to learn it in rehearsal.
Part 4 of 5: Organize Rehearsals
Step 1. Prepare a detailed test plan
Consider having an attendance policy with repercussions for missed rehearsals.
- Include the date, time, and location of each trial.
- The musical accompanist must be present at all rehearsals. However, you will not need it if the choir will sing a cappella or if you will be using prerecorded music to accompany it.
Step 2. Start testing
- Be sure to discuss your chosen piece of music with the choir when introducing new music.
- Divide each piece of music into manageable sections. They don't have to practice an entire piece of music in rehearsal.
- Be consistent with the essay format. Start with a warm-up and then do the sections you want to rehearse. Be clear about your goals for each trial.
Step 3. Perform sectional or solo rehearsals as needed
Working with soloists or small groups can be as important as rehearsing with the entire choir.
- Rehearsing with soloists to perfect their solo will make performances look more polished.
- For section rehearsals, divide the chorus into voice parts and rehearse each part separately. This way, you can spend more time taking accurate notes, and the rhythms will be correct.
- Assemble the sections and soloists when you are satisfied with their work separately.
Part 5 of 5: Preparing for a presentation
Step 1. Decide what type of clothing or uniform the choir will wear on the night of their performance
All choir members should have coordinated attire that is not distracting from their performance and that they look professional.
- Choirs in a church may have choir robes. Be sure to communicate with the church organizers about the expectations of the choir.
- Other types of group choirs, such as school or community choirs, may not have uniforms, but may wear white shirts with black pants or skirts.
Step 2. Teach the choir that details are important
While they are secondary to singing, skills like bowing together at the end (if applicable) or sitting and standing in unison can make a difference between an amateur and a professional performance.
Step 3. Publicize the presentation
Be sure to include the time, date and location of the performance, the singers who will be performing, and the organization hosting the performance. Indicate the ticket prices or suggested donation if applicable.
Step 4. Organize a short warm-up session before the presentation
Warming up will ensure that the choir is ready to sing, and you can be sure everyone is present.
- Try not to present new information before the presentation. Instead, try to refine what has already been rehearsed.
- Provide some last-minute reminders if necessary, but try not to overwhelm the chorus with too many topics that they can't remember.
Step 5. Begin with the presentation
Be sure to communicate with the event director about how and when to start the performance, as well as where the choir should sit or stand before and during the performance.
Be consistent while leading. Use the prompts, hand gestures, and facial expressions that you used during rehearsals
Step 6. Praise the singers in private after the performance
Save constructive criticism for the next rehearsal, as performance night is the time for the chorus to shine.
- Take care of diction, dynamics, and phrasing with the chorus.
- As you read and conduct the music on your own, determine the dynamics of the music and the mood you want to set when the choir sings.
- You should do some research about the history and context of each piece of music that you choose for the choir.
- It is important to emphasize good choir singing techniques in each rehearsal. Good posture, proper breathing, quality of tone, and articulation lead to a sweet and consistent presentation.
- Hold a critical session after each choir performance. Provide constructive criticism, some positive feedback on performance, and a discussion of options for correcting problems.
- Emphasize the importance of singers attending rehearsals on a regular basis. This is for the good of the group and the singers.
- Separate yourself subtly from the singers to ensure you have the authority you need when dealing with issues and problems. You don't want them to see you as their contemporary, but as their leader.