Stage fright, butterflies, Lampenfieber in German (literally light fever!), adrenalin: we’ve all suffered from it at time to time, whether it is for an interview, a presentation, audition or performance. Often it seems worse when you know you will be the only one in the spotlight. But singing surrounded by others doesn’t necessarily prevent those butterflies returning. And hopefully, even though you’re not alone, you’ll still be feeling a little bit nervous because you’ll want to put on a really good performance. So what can you do about the nerves and how can you best prepare for a choral concert, be it your very first or 31st?
Please note that these tips have been gathered from amateur singers and performers (I’m most definitely not trying to teach professionals how to prepare for a performance!!). Borrowing from the Royal Navy’s famous 6 Ps, here are our top 6 hints:
Sort out the logistics of the day well in advance. If you have a family, make sure they know you probably won’t be around much (and also that they have bought their tickets!). Don’t try and cram in too much. I invited everyone for a meal before my first concert but had to dash off half-way through, leaving my long-suffering other half to ferry them all down the high road on the bus…and do the washing up!
Things like your clothes (make sure you know what the dress code is, if your choir has one), where can you leave your bag and a bottle of water if you need one. Does your choir issue folders for the music? If so, put your music inside, in the right order, preferably before your last rehearsal. It’s no fun jiggling loose sheets, prising off post-it notes or desperately tugging out a sheet of music that has tucked itself into the wrong place!
I don’t know if this just applies to me but find I am easily thrown by sitting in the wrong place. Too far back, can’t see the conductor, too far forward, can’t hear my section. Too near the bass section, don’t even go there (no offense meant!)! Try and sort out where you are going to sit within your section (chat to your fellow singers) at the beginning of the dress rehearsal, if not before, so you’re not frantically swapping seats at the last minute.
The beauty of being in a choir is that it is truly about the whole, not the individual, but that doesn’t let you off the hook! It is really worth listening to your pieces over and over again (on the way to work, at work, running round the park, walking the dog or cooking in the kitchen). Practise tricky bits on your own or in a sectional. Or just sit down with a cup of tea and just go through the music, reminding yourself of your conductor’s notes on breathing and dynamics.
This is probably obvious. If there is a dress rehearsal, you’ll be there. But think about “how” you will be there. Are you focussed? Concentrating on the music? Follow your conductor’s advice on when not to sing out, to save your voice for later. Stay hydrated. A tip from a soprano that I can’t recommend highly enough is hot water and honey. Drink lots of it! If you must have cough sweets, no wrappers and be discreet!
I am running out of Ps now! So this is possibly a bit obvious. We don’t perform that often so a concert is fun but a big deal! Give yourself the space and time to focus on it and ultimately enjoy it. Getting to the venue on time so you can get ready, have a last look at your music and take some deep diaphragm-filling breaths will mean that ultimately you will enjoy the concert so much more.
And that brings me to my final point! Enjoy it! You’ve done all the hard work. Watch your conductor, trust them to lead you and just sing!
With thanks to Radek Grzybowski (Unsplash) for the sidebar photo.