Monday, September 29, 2014

How to get your choir to pay attention to you (and stop chatting!)

At the beginning of each choir session it’s as if the singers have not seen each other for years. They’re chatting away having a fine time of things.

showing off
photo by barçalunacy

Trouble is, you’ll have to put an end to that in order to get started. How do you get their attention with all that noise?

Lots of socialising and chit chat is a sign that you have a really cohesive group (see If there’s too much talking in your choir, something must be right) and such socialising should be encouraged.

But there’s a time and a place for everything (tea break? pub afterwards?) and you need to get people to pay attention to you in order to start the session.

I must admit I’m not very good at it! I usually resort to shouting (with good vocal placement of course so as not to strain my throat), often in a foreign language. That’s not the best way of doing things though and often not everyone hears me.

Here are some other ideas:

  • make a loud noise – don’t shout, but use an object: bell, percussion instrument, whistle, clap
  • stand in silence – and wait. Be very visible (centre of the room?) and just focus.
  • just start – begin with a song or warm up exercise involving those few people nearest you, the idea will soon spread.
  • hum quietly – people nearby will pick it up and begin to copy until the whole choir is humming. It’s not possible to hum and chat at the same time!
  • delegate – if you have section leaders for instance you can get them to bring their section to attention.
  • do something unusual – anything novel or not familiar will attract people’s attention. Make it something out of character and it will be even more noticeable. e.g. stand on a table; run about the space madly; put on a loud CD; turn the lights out.
  • begin a dance or physical warm up sequence – rather like Simon Says people will soon begin to copy and by having to pay close attention they won’t have space for chatting. Make it repetitive and interesting but not too long a sequence.
  • use hand signals – or some other pre-arranged sign. Agree with your choir beforehand that when they see such a signal they must copy and come to silence.

I’ve tried pretty much all of these – sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t!

I’ve stood like a lemon with my hand in the air and nobody has noticed. I’ve started a gentle hum or simple song and nobody has joined in. I’ve done strange things, but if you do something unusual too often it becomes familiar.

I’d love to hear how you or your choir leader gets everyone’s attention, especially if it’s something that’s guaranteed to work!

Chris Rowbury




Chris Rowbury


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