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Choir Retreat ideas

Here is a compilation of fall choir retreat ideas. Thanks to all who responded. Our
retreat is scheduled for 27 September, and I now have a good handle on what we'll
be doing.
Susan Marrier

One thing that I have found that works as a demonstration to build team
mentality and positive attitudes in rehearsal is what I call the: Pink
String Talk.

It is only named that becuase I use a florecent pink string that can be
found and Lowes or any hardware store for about $2.99, and then the Talk
part comes from me.

I just explain to my students that however the come into the rehearsal
effects the others around them. Much like a stone that is dropped in a
calm body of water, sends a ripple effect through the rest of the lake. It
is the same way with a choir. Positive attitudes are important.....etc.
etc. (Insert whatever motivation words you want)
But then the demo involves the pink string.

1 Select at random a handfull of volunteers who are seated in the choir or
who stand up and come up to the front.

2 Then weave the string through at random. Each member holds the string
with a single finger.

3. They pull the string tight, the teacher flicks or taps on section of
the string. Each member should feel the vibrations.

Morale of the story: We are a team, and all connected together. Let you
positive attitudes spread. Don't bring a negative attitude into the

Good luck. Have fun.
Let me know if you need any other ideas.

Eric Wilkinson
I'm not sure what age singers are involved but I have run such a retreat
at both the High School and Collegiate levels. We have typically included
some team building activities to "break the ice" and then split into
sections and gone through 20-30 minute "stations". One of those stations
is with me where we get to know one another's voices in the section, work
on some basic tone production and singer placement. At the other stations
they do various activities intended to begin the process of eliminating
barriers --- taking them a bit out of their comfort zone to open them to
new experiences as well as building trust within the section. A couple
1.5 - 2 hr rehearsal sessions are put into the schedule as well. We take
a lunch break and have usually had some parent volunteers in high school
prepare the meal(s). With college students we had the meal catered
through the University food services or purchased a large sub sandwich.
The event has always been a very positive beginning for the year. Good
luck with yours! Steve Dresen Director Bonneville HS Choirs

I have done a fall retreat two years in a row with my High School Mixed
choir and I have found it to be very productive in many ways and a lot of
fun for everybody involved.

We actually don't go to far away becuase we use our money for stuff later
in the year, but I still call it a retreat. They don't mind.

We work Friday after school for 3 hours and I always end with 15 minute
chat on teamwork, postitive attitudes etc. Then on Sat. we rehearse 10am
to 4:30 with a break for lunch. At 4:30 we have a social time (food,
music, games) and then the kids go home at 8pm.

I have found it to be a great time to learn new music, build new
relationships with the kids, and get a jump on the Fall schedule. You
should deffienately do it.

If you want ideas on skits, games or demonstrations let me know I would be
happy to give you some more details.

Eric Wilkinson
Sumter High School Choir Director
Sumter, SC
We, Monadnock Chorus, just had our first retreat 10 - 4 on a
Saturday. We had a social time, coffee 9:30 to 10:00. Singing from 10-
12 spending some time about a half-hour on vocal production and the rest
of the time on introducing the new music to them. Lunch(potluck always
great) 12 - 1:00. Discussion groups 1:00 - 2:00. We divided up the
people into small groups and had a board member facilitate each group.
We asked questions such as what are you satisfied with now and what are
you dissatisfied with? Where would you like to see the group go? etc.
Then we sang again for about another hour. We had a wonderful venue in a
Waldorf School which had a nice piano and rehearsal room, plus picnic
tables to gather around for food and discussion. Our season doesn't
begin until Sept. 3, so we didn't have the attendence we would have like.
We decided that having it after registration we would get me people so we
will have it later next year. It was good to have a chance to introduce
the Fall concert of Latin Am. Christmas music, play a few recordings of
some of the music and get people enthused about it. Anyway, good luck.
I hope this is helpful. Carroll

Dr. Carroll J. Lehman
Director of Choral/Vocal Activities
Keene State College
Keene, NH 03435-2402
Ph. 603-358-2179
Fax 603-358-2973
Music Director and Conductor
Monadnock Chorus
What you may want to do is before going on the retreat have the choir
elect a small group of people to be a choir "board." They can then help
you plan some of the fun parts of the retreat (not that the singing isn't
fun, but ice breakers and games are very important). This way members of
the choir will take some ownership and it helps to have someone else do
the nitty gritty stuff while you work on the music.

Another thing that my college choir always did was to have everyone arrive
about 15 minutes early and make name tags out of colorful construction
paper, glitter, etc. This is especially good since you said this is a
new choir.

As for venue, look into finding some 4-H or YMCA camps in your area. We
were able to stay out in the country on a beautiful lake. The relaxing
feeling of the place helped with the intensity of learning alot of music
at one time. It also meant that most cell phones didn't work so we were
able to really "get away!" Most organizations will rent out the main
lodge or cabin and they usually have kitchens attached. This will only
work if you are able to bring a keyboard with you. Also, many of these
places have extra cabins which allows for some sectional work.

Hope some of this helps, good luck!

Alison Noworatzky
It has been my experience that successful retreats are equally scheduled
with work and fun. If volleyball is available, you can do that for
example. Also a good time to get to know each other can be accomplished by
sitting in a circle and having each girl introduce themselves and tell
everyone a little about themselves, what they can offer to the group, etc.
Regarding food, have them bring water because successful singing is done
with a moist throat, especially with extended rehearsal time and fall
weather which can still be hot at times.

Please let me know if it all helps.

Brian Nutson

Susan Marrier
Director, dulcisono women's choir
Thunder Bay, Ontario CANADA

on January 2, 2004 10:00pm
I agree that having "fun" activities is essential to a successful retreat. I try to hold our retreats (with either kids or adults choirs) at a location in the country, and we have included outdoor sports, sleigh rides, BBQ's, campfires, horseback riding, hiking, etc. HOWEVER...ALWAYS have a "plan B", in case of rain!!!!

I have heard of other choirs who move into a hotel ($$$) for the weekend, and use the pool and fitness centre...

Often, the activity doesn't have to be expensive to be popular. A big hit with my kids choir a few years ago was decorating a plain cloth bag in which to carry their choir music: we borrowed a set of cloth-paints from a artsy-craftsy grandparent! We only had to buy the bags! The kids sported those bags proudly all season! The same idea could be used for choir folders or tee-shirts, too.

Another time, we baked cookies together, and enjoyed them at our afternoon break time!

Blend these fun activities with some solid singing (we average about 4 hours a day), and you have a recipie for a great retreat! Enjoy!

Linda Crawford, Ottawa, Canada

on December 20, 2005 10:00pm

While I agree that younger singers like a balance of fun and hard work, the most important thing for most groups is that they leave feeling like they've accomplished something. My community men's group of 70 singers, for instance, this year decided to give up its evening recreation time at our retreat in the mountains in order to finish up a difficult section of staging we were working on. I think we sometimes forget that young people and inexperience singers do like to be challenged, and do like to work hard. If rehearsals are well-paced, interesting, educational, and productive, they won't even think about the clock!

An idea for a fun activity: Divide the group into smaller groups (5-10), and give each group a bag of random items. Give them 10-15 minutes to prepare a mock TV commercial which promotes your group or your school's performing arts program. The commercial can be 2 minutes long, and everyone has to have a role. Oh, and every item in the bag must be used. You can come up with other guidelines, as you see fit. This activity is fun because it lets them bond in small groups, promotes creativity and ingenuity, and provides a lot of laughing. Oh, and it develops esprit de corps by promoting your group or program. Of course, the more random the items in the bag, the more fun the commercial will be. I've used wigs, fruits & vegetables, kitchen utensils, toys, clothing name it.
on September 1, 2007 10:00pm
my choir is not a professional choir. we are together to enable the parishioners participate better in the liturgy. we do not have a choir master ,all of the members cannot read music and all are adults.

i want to have a retreat with them to enable them to understand their role in the liturgy and to build positive attitude within the choir.

i want to retreat to be spiritual more than entertaining, though i intend to use some of the fun activities shared.

please help!