Monday, August 12, 2019

Stopping singers from zoning out when saying something important for the hundredth time

Nobody likes to hear the same old stories and jokes time and again.

photo by James Brooks

It’s the same with instructions you give to your choir. How do keep stop people zoning out, even though you need to say the same thing week after week?

Liz Garnett wrote an interesting blog post recently: On replacement cycles.

In it she mentioned that the average time that a professional comedian keeps any particular joke in their act is seven years. They need to balance freshness with well-honed material that can be relied on.

The same can be said of a choir’s repertoire. There will be a steady stream of new songs added whilst you retain some of the old favourites loved by both audiences and choir members. The length of the “replacement cycle” will depend on how often the choir performs and how often new members are taken on.

In a similar vein, the instructions that a choir or workshop leader gives to their singers will evolve over time. Some of the old jokes will be refined or replaced; some imagery will become stale whilst other imagery always seems to work particularly well.

The difficulty is when you need to repeat things that cannot have a replacement cycle.

There are some things that always need to stay the same: where the toilets in your rehearsal space are; what time your rehearsals start; that singers need to work within their own limits when warming up; to remember to stay relaxed when singing; and so on.

It’s possible to keep these thing light and make little jokes, but that will soon go stale over time. It’s like the safety announcements on an plane – it’s easy to zone out and stop paying attention if the format is the same each time.

There are no simple answers to this other than to stay aware and try to phrase things differently each time. You can use different contexts and different imagery too.

Just stay aware or your singers might stop listening!

You might find these other posts useful too:

How to keep your warm ups and singing sessions fresh and engaging

Keeping it fresh: 5 ideas to keep regular choir attenders engaged

I’m only going to say this once

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Chris Rowbury




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