Sunday, March 18, 2012

First choir rehearsal is great, then it’s all down hill!

It’s the first week of the new choir. Everyone is having fun, songs are being learnt at a cracking pace, the whole room is in tune with each other, things are really cooking!


© Copyright Peter Ward and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Then the following week everything goes pear-shaped and things fall apart. It’s as if everyone has lost their way, has forgotten how to sing and can’t remember any of the songs! What’s going on here?

the first time is always the best

I’ve had this experience many times, whether it’s a new choir, the first hour of a one-day workshop or the first session of a new project.

People arrive not really knowing what to expect, not knowing the rest of the group, everyone a bit nervous. They’re happy to go along with whatever I throw at them and they begin to enjoy themselves.

Before they know it, a whole song is up on its feet and it sounds glorious. Everyone is happy and wants more.

The first time is always the best. It usually exceeds expectations because people don’t know what to expect. Then the second time arrives and the doubts creep in.

  • will it be as good as last time?
  • will I remember all the songs?
  • will I have to make conversation with people I don’t know?
  • what if I’m not as good as I was the first time?
  • did those songs really sound that good, or did I get carried away in the excitement?
  • what if I’m not able to keep up?
  • come to think of it, I made a couple of mistakes last time – will the tutor remember?

thoughts start to get in the way

Before The OK Chorale rehearsal this week I was remembering how things were when we first started. I taught some difficult songs at a cracking pace and people kept up. They learnt well and fast and performed the songs sensitively to a high standard.

But over the last year the learning seems to have slowed and singers have become more hesitant and under-confident.

It’s the same group of people and the songs aren’t any harder, so what’s changed?

I think it’s to do with people’s thoughts getting in the way.

When you do something for the first time, you have no expectations. When it works out, you’re pleased. But slowly your brain gets in the way and starts to ask questions. That’s when the doubts set in.

sometimes the more you do something, the worse it gets

I used to play squash rather badly, but I enjoyed it. When I stepped on the court after a break I was amazing and managed to return most shots. When I played regularly, I slowly got worse.

When I sang a new song at my singing lesson I didn’t do too badly. But then we worked on it again and again and again and I slowly got worse. There were so many things to focus on, so many elements to consider. The lyrics stopped meaning anything and the tune became boring. Rather like when you study a book at school and it takes the reading pleasure away.

you know it really, just trust

You need to get your head out of the way. Most of the time you know the song perfectly, but your doubts take over. Just trust in the process, open your mouth and 9 times out of 10 it will come out right.


Chris Rowbury's website: