Monday, December 12, 2022

10 tips for singing outdoors in the cold, dark, damp winter

It’s that time of year when choirs get asked to sing at all manner of Christmas events. 

Htm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some of those will be outdoors. How best to deal with the challenges?

I’ve already written about singing outdoors. I’m generally not a fan.

But singing outdoors in the winter is even worse. There is the cold, the dark and the damp to contend with too.

As well as the usual tips and tricks for performing outdoors, here are a few more that might help you survive outdoor singing in the winter. Some more obvious than others!

  • wrap up warm – obvious really, but you need to make sure you dress warmer than usual since you’ll be standing still for long periods of time.
  • insulate yourself from the ground – this is where the cold can really creep in. Wear an extra pair of winter socks and/ or make sure your shoes have thick, insulating souls. Even with that, the cold can creep so try to separate your feet from the ground in some way if possible: stand on a piece of cardboard or carpet, get onto a plinth, stand on grass rather then concrete.
  • breathe through your nose – it is important, when you can, to breathe through your nose rather than you mouth (read Breath by James Nestor). Especially so when it’s cold outside. And the air you breathe needs to be warm, so you need to …
  • warm the air you breathe – in these days of mask-wearing, you won’t look at all silly if you wear a mask to sing. It doesn’t need to be effective against viruses, so could be loose or even a scarf. This will warm the air going into your nose. Recent research has shown that the reason we catch more colds in the winter is because when your nose is cold, its innate immune response is lowered.
  • wear suitable gloves – if you’ve got lyrics, make sure you can manipulate pieces of paper easily with your gloves. It’s not good wearing big, warm, chunky mittens if you can’t turn the page!
  • be prepared – when you set off, it might be dry. But as time passes, there might be rain or snow or ice on the ground. Have a small plastic poncho or hooded top with you. And make sure your shoes have good grips.
  • make sure you can see – can you see your sheet music or lyrics? Can you see your conductor? Hopefully your choir leader will place the choir somewhere that is illuminated. But if not, you might want to bring one of those small head torches along.
  • have a little jiggle – try to move around as much as possible to keep warm, even if it’s just jiggling on the spot.
  • keep hydrated – when it’s really cold, the last thing we want to do is drink cold water. But it’s easy to get dehydrated when singing outdoors, especially when it’s cold as the air can be quite dry. If cold water doesn’t appeal, take a small flask of something hot (not alcohol!).
  • just say no – if singing outdoors really doesn’t appeal in the winter, you can always opt out. Don’t simply soldier on because everyone else is. You know your own limits.
  • what do you think? – I’d love to hear if you have any more useful tips for singing outdoors in winter.

other posts

You might find these older posts useful too:

Outdoor gigs: how to cope when audiences aren’t interested

The joys of outdoor singing

How to care for your voice over the festive season

To mic or not to mic? – that is the outdoor choir question

Chris Rowbury


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