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The singers also should become accustomed to standing on the risers for extended periods of time. Instruct the students not to let their knees become locked, as they stand, but to keep their legs free and be able to flex the knees occasionally. This will help prevent fainting. There are often one or two people who have a history of fainting and who must be watched closely. It is usually apparent who these people are. Tell the singers to sit down on the risers if they begin to feel dizzy. Do not talk too much about fainting because there are people who are subject to that suggestion.

This alone will cause some students to become slightly ill. Be sure to give the choir a break during the rehearsal and get them off the risers for a short time. There are several areas of concern about which a director should be very conscious in these last rehearsals. This does not imply that they have not been important up to this point, but that now they carry a special significance.


Intense, busy rehearsals up to this point may have allowed the dynamic level to climb, creating a dynamic level of loud and louder. Remember, all dynamics are relative. They can change for the same piece according to the type of hall in which the work is being performed. Listen carefully to the dynamic levels of the choir and be certain that they represent the volumes that were initially sought.

Attacks and releases

Ragged beginnings and endings of phrases can contribute to an undisciplined and unmusical concert that is not satisfying to anybody. The responsibility for this precision rests solely with the director. The choir members, regardless of how hard they try, cannot begin and end the phrases together without the aid of a conductor. A renewed interest is necessary at this point in the rehearsals.


When a choir steps on risers the balance can change somewhat. The problem of the back two rows, usually the tenors and basses, has already been mentioned. Where, in a long series of rehearsals, a full fortissimo has been the goal, a director may now have to hold one specific section back in order to balance another section whose fortissimo does not reach the same level. For the sake of balance some section dynamics may have to be scaled down and a few scaled upward. It must be remembered, if an alto section, for instance, cannot reach the fortissimo level of the rest of the choir, the director must scale the other section dynamics down to meet the altos' best effort. It is impossible, but often tried, to bring the alto volume, in this instance, up to the rest of the choir. The range of dynamics must be geared to the section that has the least amount of dynamic range. Trying to raise a volume that cannot be raised with a good singing tone will only result in yelling. Acute listening by the students will also help in this regard.


Extra attention to text should be given at this point also. If a choir will now make a renewed effort toward communication of the text, it will greatly aid the attempt at sensitive phrasing. Although the director has been working on choral diction in previous rehearsals, it is easier now with the notes learned, to concentrate more on the text. The good choral director has worked for a vocalization of the text that takes advantage of the syllabic stress. This stress is important to musical phrasing. Allow the words to be linked together smoothly in lyric, legato music. At this point it is beneficial to call attention to expanding each vowel, stretching each one to its greatest possible rhythmic duration, and utilizing crisp, short consonants. Note that consonants such as "m" and "n" can be elongated slightly to aid legato singing.

It has been too often observed that many choirs place equal weight on each word or syllable regardless of its importance. It is recognized that, on occasion, some phrases are meant to be sung with the same heavy accent on each note with no indication of syllabic stress. This is a choral effect that is not the norm, however. Most choral music demands that few notes receive the same weight. If the director will call attention now to the stressed and unstressed words and syllables, the complexion of many phrases will change.


Sensitive phrasing is the one item most often missed in amateur performances. In the struggle to learn pitches and rhythms, choirs too often sing in a mechanical way that is quite unmusical. The artistic re-creation of a composer's score demands nuances of shading that involve a constant give and take to form a musical phrase. Music is in a constant state of flux. It is always moving and is never still.

Tone quality

In these final rehearsals a director must reemphasize the importance of a warm, vibrant quality. Sometimes singers will be expending so much energy trying to meet the demands of the director that their attention to the vocal quality itself slackens. Keep the singers constantly listening and trying to improve the quality of the sound. Now is the time for refinement of text, phrasing and choral tone, creating the beauty of choral singing.

Questions & Answers

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in general
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Source:  OpenStax, Choral techniques. OpenStax CNX. Mar 08, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11191/1.1
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