A Pre-Performance Checklist for Choral Directors

Tori Cook May 20, 2019

Learn more: artistic development


How is it even possible? It seems like just last week you were finalizing your chorus’s concert repertoire and making sure there was enough sheet music for everyone. And now - it’s showtime! Are your singers ready? Just as important: are YOU ready? Here is a helpful checklist any choral director can use to prepare for a successful concert.


1. Own your repertoire.


There’s a reason behind your repertoire, isn’t there? Maybe a song was performed by your chorus years ago and it’s a special tradition. Or, perhaps one of your pieces is by an inspirational, up-and-coming composer.

Your audience would like to know the background information, so make sure to add these details into the program. Better still, share some of these stories live with the audience. They’ll feel more connected to you, your chorus, and the music.


2. Sell the story to your chorus.

This goes hand-in-hand with owning your repertoire. Your audience wants to know about why each piece matters. But, it’s absolutely crucial that your singers know what they’re singing about as well.

If one or more of your selections is in a foreign language, get a word-for-word translation. If a song has historical or cultural significance, share the story with your chorus. Your singers won’t leave an impression unless they can tell the entire story of each and every song on the program. There’s so much more to a memorable performance than just “sounding pretty.”


3. Challenge them with new vocal warm ups.

warm ups

Have you been sticking with the same old, tried and true vocal warm ups for as long as you can remember? Now is the perfect time to mix it up. Considering using warm-up sessions as more of a challenge for your singers.

Try some exercises that incorporate ear training skills. For example, perhaps some scales sung in Lydian mode, or a blues scale. This will come in handy if you are tackling more modern, complicated repertoire.


4. Keep performance anxiety in check.

Keep in mind that some of your singers may be new to this. Even if they aren’t new to performing for an audience, for some - it’s never easy! Stage fright is actually a common obstacle even for experienced singers.

There are lots of things you can do to ease your chorus’ fears. One is to start every rehearsal with relaxation activities. You can try some simple Qigong moves together, as well as meditation and deep breathing exercises. The video below has some great ideas as well.



In fact, making these exercises part of your regular routine is very beneficial. Remember to do some relaxation activities with your group on performance day too to help them calm their nerves.


5. Dress to impress.


If you want your chorus to truly impress (and appear professional), it’s important that they look as good as they sound! You may need additional help here, especially if your group is quite large.

To make sure there are no surprises about concert attire, be sure to go over the specific requirements with your singers. If they’re not provided with attire, be detailed about what is acceptable and what is not. If attire is provided, do let them know how items are to be cared for, when and where they should be returned, etc.


6. Ask for help if you need it.

This step simply cannot be stressed enough! The good news is that you’re bound to find lots of cooperative individuals to help lighten your load. Section leaders have a specific responsibility in your chorus, so why not create smaller committees for performance-related tasks?

You can even create separate groups for concert attire and transportation, especially if you are smaller group without paid administrative staff.


7. Build the excitement.

They know their music and they sound fantastic.Their attire is cleaned, ironed, and ready to go. Now, it’s time to get everyone pumped to sing for an audience! This is a necessary final step for all choral directors.

Even if there is one bored face amongst your singers, it will make a difference. Remind them daily why they are there: it comes down to the pure joy of music and building a feeling of community.

Start your rehearsals with a joke or two! Get a little zany in your warm ups. Laughter will ease any lingering tension, grow smiles, and create a wonderful energy within your chorus. If you do this well before concert time, they will be in an excellent place to really deliver.


There you have it! This handy checklist will help you prepare for any upcoming performance. Remember, when it comes down to it, your chorus just needs positive energy. Did we miss anything? Let us know if you have any additional tips to share!

This post was contributed by the team at TakeLessons Live. 


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Tori Cook

Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection, an active board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium, and a soprano with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro-Musica. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.

Tori Cook