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Warming up your choir on concert night

This is my second year at a new school.  Last year I went with the flow.  This year I would like to see if I could get a few things change.  One thing is particular that I am wanting to change is when I warm up my choir the night of the concert.   If I warm them up a half hour before the concert and then we all go and listen to a half hour or 45 minute band concert then I feel that they have lost their focus and are not warmed up any more and probably should be brought back together before we go on to get refocused.  The big thing for the band director at my school is that they hate dead time. I don't want any dead time during the concert (got parent complaints because I kept the kids a few minutes after the stage was ready just to sing a few notes.  Probably a total of 6-at most 10 minutes) but I also want my choirs focus on the task at hand.  How do you all warm up your kids the night of a concerts when/if you are always/sometimes second on the program.  I need some good ideas if ya got them.  
I just want my kids to do the best they can.
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on October 19, 2013 7:27am
Others on here might disagree with this approach, but it's one that I've found useful with my current choirs. (I am in a similar situation at my school - concern with dead time and all.)
I've always wondered why it is acceptable for bands and orchestras to tune, warm up, etc. on stage but not for choirs. Last year, I decided that the risk of doing something outside the norm was worth my students being focused and sounding their best. I found a few nice, 'sophisticated sounding' warm-ups, including a simple scale sung in a 4-part round and chord-tuning progression at the end, and used that during warm-ups in class. We always spoke about making them 'more than just warm-ups' and I always encourage them to make them as beautiful as they can. At the concert, after the choirs took the stage, they would sing this from their positions. It helped to focus their minds on the literature they were about to do rather than the portion of the concert they had just completed (many of my students were in the band as well) and got their singing voices going again. I even had the students use the Curwen hand signs. I found that I received little negative feed back and some of my students even reported being asked by their parents, 'What were those hand things you were doing at the beginning?' This lead natrually into the students sharing with their parents about the Solfege work we do every day in class and even helped to reinforce that we don't 'just sing' in choir. 
Like I said, I'm not sure eveyone would agree with this approach but it worked well for my program and I will be doing it again this year. I'm sure there are other ideas out there as well.
Applauded by an audience of 7
on October 21, 2013 8:24am
YES! Even witrhout the situation you mention, I've included a sort of warmup--sometimes including hand signs-- to show the audience that singers are also musicians.... definitely continue to to do.... and it's not DEAD TIME because they are making music.  I've also done "warmups" with audience participation, so they to can share in the joy of singing!
on October 19, 2013 7:50am
Is there somewhere for your choir kids to meet and warm-up just for a minute or two while the band is performing their last piece so they're focused and ready to walk right in and sing?
Another thought - it's fairly typical for bands/orchestras to tune when they walk on stage, but not choirs. Either you could suggest that the choir goes first, or (I've never done this, but I have friends who have) you could show the parents what their students are doing in class each day...sight-reading! A lot of parents don't understand what goes into choir singing, so I've had friends who explained what sight-reading is and then they throw up a sight-reading example from a projector so the audience can see. Then, the students attempt to sight-read it for the audience. Not only would this focus your students and get them singing, it would also show the audience just how hard your students are working and how wonderful they are :)
Good luck!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 19, 2013 10:05am
Last night I attended the Montana All-State Band, Orchestra, and Choir concert. The choir sang last on the program, and the conductor (Axel Theimer) addressed this exact issue. He mentioned how bands and orchestras always get to warm up on stage but choirs don't, and then he directed the choir in several physical warm ups--movement and breath--and a few short singing exercises. I don't think anyone in the audience minded a bit, and it made perfect sense. I say, if he can do it, so can you!
Applauded by an audience of 7
on October 20, 2013 7:54am
Zane, why must the band be on so long!  Does the band perform and then the choir?  Why not have an opening work by the band and then the choir and so on?  We did this at our school and we also had the orchestra.  If causing this to happen would be detrimental to school politics, then you are well within your rights to re-warm-up on stage in front of the audience.  Now, I am supposing that your warm-ups are designed to teach quality vocal production and, in some way, tie into the music being learned (being performed).  What an interesting opportunity to hold a "PTA/Open House meeting!"  At these events, the teachers have the opportunity to relate the course's contents to the parents.  You should take the opportunity to do similarly.  While performing your warm-ups, BRIEFLY explain what you are attempting to achieve, that is, explain what the choir is doing.  These exercises should be fun for the students to perform and interesting for the parents to hear, but most assuredly exercises that lead to a pointed result.  I am the Guest Conductor currently of a middle school Honors Chorus and I am using the warm-ups that I always use as they lead to a pointed result, are relatable to the music, and fun for the students.  The district has afforded me a staff of five choral arts teachers who have gained a degree of respect for these warm-ups.  I am sure that parents have as well in prior experiences.  If you would like a copy of these warm-ups, write to me.  But, yes, the other writers are quite correct: go ahead, warm-up in front of the audience.  If the band director takes offense with your warming up the choir, remind him that he does similarly and that your choir members also have atmospheric sensitive instruments, and perhaps more so.
on October 22, 2013 6:22am
Whenever my Glee Club performs, we always start off with our Singer's Greeting (ECCE CON BONUM).  It is a 4-part hamony piece lasting 25 seconds and gives us the tuning that we need.  So find a small piece and make it your singer's greeting.
Marty Edelman
Past President
The Mendelssohn Glee Club (of NYC)
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