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Need quick input! choir rehearsal length.

We only have 45 minutes for church choir practice... it just doesn seem like enough. Can you quickly answer these short questions? 
  • How long is your rehearsal?
  • How many members are in your choir?
  • What instruments rehearse with you?
  • Do you feel like you have enough time?
  • How much time is TOO MUCH time? 
on January 8, 2016 6:01am
I have eight singers (on a good day). I rehearse for approximately 90 minutes, twice what you do. I've tried working only for an hour, but honestly, my one singer with Alzheimer's slows us down. I don't usually rehearse with instruments unless the score calls for them. Typically, I only use violin, as I play. I would prefer having 2 hours, but generally have good fortune with 90 minutes.
on January 8, 2016 6:04am
90 minutes (at all 3 churches that I have worked at)
piano or organ when used - I have a person who plays for me
The length of your rehearsal really depends on how you pace rehearsal and how old your singers are.  At least half of mine are over the age of sixty.  The one thing we have changed is making rehearsal earlier.   We start at 6:30 now.
on January 8, 2016 7:44am
60 minutes
piano for teaching and recorded orchestration for performance
Attention spans dictate, IMO. I used blocks of 15 minutes or less for each aspect of rehearsals
on January 8, 2016 8:17am
  • 2 hours weekly, plus an occasional extra rehearsal on Saturday before big events
  • 15-20 singers
  • piano or organ, other instruments on occasion
  • our choir sings two anthems every week, plus sometimes psalms, descants, or other liturgical music, and occasional concerts, in addition to big works for Christmas, Easter, etc. 2 hours is enough time, but not lavish
  • "Too much time" is when the singers get too tired to concentrate.
on January 8, 2016 8:52am
  • weekly-2 hours; 2 annual Saturday "workshops" (with lunch) and sectionals introducing major works-7 hours each; 4, 3 hour dress rehearsals with orchestra for festivals/concerts
  • Average attendance 100
  • piano/organ accompaniment; brass/orchestra for festivals/concerts
  • yes, most of the time ;-)
  • the answer to that is very subjective-depends on so many variables; I think we are at the average for the ability, repertoire, frequency, number of pieces in average service, and expectations of the singers and congregation; all the church choirs I've directed have had 90 min to 2 hour rehearsals
  • We also have a select ensemble of singers (6 per part/SATB) who sing about every other month-they come with "notes learned" to two, one hour rehearsals for two selections in worship
on January 8, 2016 9:06am
1 1/4 hours usually, 1 1/2 when a big event is approaching. (We start at 7:15 and run to 8:30.)
Piano for rehearsals, Sunday morning practice in the sanctuary is with the organ.
1 1/2 is our limit. We start at 7:15 and run to 8:30.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 9, 2016 6:47am
Fpr 31 years our rehearsals were 90 minutes.  Now they are 60 mintues and we get just as much accomplished, and choir participation increased.  I think 60 minutes is best for the volunteer church choir.
on January 9, 2016 7:49am
2 hours
12-15 members, most of whom read music to some degree
Primarily pipe organ, rarely piano (because our repertoire mostly calls for organ)
It seems to be enough time, as long as there is not too much chitchat at the start of rehearsal. That said, the social time can be very important time for some, who are sometimes sharing important events in their lives (or that of their families), so I use my judgement about when to curtail the visiting. We never start more than 10 minutes late, and usually on time or close to it. It is extremely rare that we need extra time - usually right before Christmas or before some performance outside the usual Sunday morning schedule.
We finish 15-30 minutes early sometimes, depending on needs. Many of my choristers are elderly, and others have "day jobs" and get up early, so if we've done all that we need to, I let them out early. They expect the full two hours and plan on it, but I know at least some appreciate an early dismissal on occasion. However, I know that they would prefer to work the full two hours if it is necessary to do a good job on Sunday.
on January 9, 2016 9:49am
We rehearse an hour and 45 minutes.  Used to do 2 hours, with a short breat at about 70 minutes, but they never got back with it after the break.  So everyone agreed going home early was a good idea!
Twenty members - 7 paid.
Piano is our rehearsal instrument, organ usually our performance instrument, although at times we use small string or brass ensembles, too.
There is never enough time.  If I had this same amount of time three or four times a week, it would be wonderful.  But that only happens in places where there are Choir Schools like the English Cathedrals or at St. Thomas in New York City.  That is just too expensive for most parishes.  But having used and hour and 45 for many years ... it is enough to get the job done if you use the time wisely and don't allow time for dawdling.
Too much time is when singers are just beat after a full day's work and give you a couple hours and are just at the point of inability to concentrate.  This can come earlier on occasion, and on those rare days, I actually just dismiss early unless there is just no possiblity because of performance committments.  Just watch them.  Figure out if they get restless because the rehearsal drags, or it's just because they are tired and can't do any better!  
on January 10, 2016 6:41am
I'm not the choir director, but what I experience is this:
The choir is 20 to 25 members usually.
Choir rehearsal is held Sunday morning prior to worship service
Rehearsa normally runs 65 minutes with time for the choir to robe and be in place for the start of service.
Two Friday evening potluck dinners and rehearsals are held to begin rehearsal for Christmas Eve and Easter
Rehearsal time must be well organized to accomplish the needed practice and prepare the choir well.
The choir is mostly advanced age but is unusual witha strong group of singers who read well, and no paid section leaders.
There are times when choir rehearsal runs extra and the choir feels pressure to get in place for worship service, also may have the choir rehearsing in the sanctuary while parishioners are arriving in the sanctuary (not a good thing).
on January 11, 2016 6:03am
My answers:
1. 1 hour
2. 35 singers - all volunteer - rehearse Wed. evenings
3. piano - sometimes organ
4. never enough time
5. 2 hours w/ volunteer choir - 90 min is pushing it.
on January 11, 2016 8:12am
1.  90 minutes on Wednesdays; 25 minutes Sunday a.m. (or before special service, e.g., Christmas, etc.) just to remind folks about certain things.  Sunday a.m. rehearsals ARE necessary because who we have on Wednesday isn't necessarily all we'll have Sunday a.m. for Mass!
2.  14-16 singers (depends on what's going on); 4 paid section leaders; remainder volunteers, ranging from can't read at all (but with good ear) to good sight-reader.
3.  Organ during service; keyboard during rehearsal
4.  Have learned to structure things to cover the essentials for each weekly Mass and still have time to prepare special music by doing it two week's worth at a time:  i.e., one weekly rehearsal will prepare two weeks' worth of Masses' music; the next weekly rehearsal looks ahead at special music (e.g., for Holy Week and Lent), so that when needed both sets of music, when blended, are basically prepared well enough in advance.  With the way we do Sunday a.m. rehearsals, this works.  Otherwise, it'd be too hard.
5. Anything over 90 minutes, especially with volunteers at a certain age.  When and if I do, it it HAS to be for a very special reason - and always done with trepidation.
on January 11, 2016 9:02am
  • How long is your rehearsal? - 90 minutes Wednesday nights, 40 minutes on Sunday morning before service.
  • How many members are in your choir? - 12
  • What instruments rehearse with you? - Piano, subsituting for organ
  • Do you feel like you have enough time? - most of the time, yes.
  • How much time is TOO MUCH time?  - two hours without a break is really pushing it for my volunteers. It's really tough to keep the concentration up, for everyone, really.
on January 11, 2016 1:08pm
I'm sure that every church choir "culture" is different, depending upon many factors.
  • 2 hours on a week night; 30-45 minutes pre-service prep (usually 30)
  • 75 (Sanctuary Choir); 22 (chamber choir; most of whom are in the S. Choir)
  • piano
  • yes
  • I've never experienced this.
on January 11, 2016 1:23pm
1) Rehearsals are 90-min. in length, extended to 2 hrs. 6-8weeks prior to Christmas and Easter, when we do concert performances.  An additional 2-3 hour rehearsal takes place the Saturday before a concert.
2) Anywhere from 8 to 16 members in the choir
3) Usually piano - we have an excellent accompanist who is also a concert pianist
4) 90-minutes is usually plenty of time for us: we sing one anthem and a choral introit at each worship service.  I usually start practicing the anthems about six weeks in advance of the service in which they will be presented.
5) 90-minutes seems to be plenty of time to accomplish what we need to accomplish.
6) Too much time is difficult to gauge and needs to be assessed by each director for each choir.  I would suggest that if you are going for two hours, you may want some sort of break in the middle.  Additionally, it depends on whether your choir consists of volunteers, whether they all read music, etc.  My experience is there are usually a fair number of choir members who learn by rote, so that can take some extra time.
Best of luck and happy singing!
on January 12, 2016 10:06am
90 minutes is ideal; 15 members; piano; it's enough time.  But, in the past, I have had 45 minute rehearsals, and thrived; that time was part of a full schedule of Wednesday night activities including Bible study, committee meetings, children's and youth activities, prayer time, and - most important - dinner.  It's more important you use your time wisely.  Make sure your rehearsals are well-planned and start on time.  Have a sheet or marker board with the rehearsal agenda and announcements.  Set music out and train members to pick it up when they arrive to avoid spending time passing stuff out.  Always have a couple of quick anthems in the folder that can be prepared in 5 minutes.  Try using hymn-anthems - 1st verse unison, 2nd verse parts, 3rd verse whatever - to save prep time or to introduce unfamiliar hymns for both the choir and congregation.  Consider using soloists some Sundays so you will have a bit more rehearsal prep time.  When you send your weekly email (you do send a weekly email, right?) include links to demos, not only to review for Sunday, but to new music so singers can be familiar with it before rehearsal starts.  Bi-monthly or quarterly rehearsal retreats are useful to introduce and 'woodshed' a lot of music; then you can spend your 45 minutes reviewing and polishing.  And, finally, make sure your rehearsals are well-planned and start on time.  I've seen some directors get more done in 15 minutes than others in 90!
on January 13, 2016 3:48am
Two hours for rehearsal and fast paced.  12-15 amateur singers at rehearsal.  I only use a pitch pipe to rehearse.  A wise director knows their talent and plans accordingly.  Two hours for a church choir is max.  When I sang with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, three hours was the norm for professional musicians.
on January 14, 2016 10:17am
Hello Daniel!
Our rehearsal is 90 minutes
9 people
One pianist
I could go all night!  I am more of a night person and I always want to stay much longer than the choir members do.  Plus, music is MY thing!  The one thing I most love to do in life.  Some of them get droopy eyelids pretty quickly.  It's hard because many of our members need to social part and that slows us down some, some of which I allow because I believe in the small group ministry aspect of a church choir.  I know some of my singers don't like that.  You can't please all the people all the time.
I could not go longer than 90 minutes, though, because people get tired.  I like 90 minutes.  Allows time for chat and warm up and getting things done.
It's hard for me to get there by 7:00 because of dinner with family.  Oh well.
 - Brenda
on January 14, 2016 6:04pm
Ideally, 90 min.on Thursday evening plus 30-45 min. before liturgy on Sinday
Currently 10 if all can make it (not always the case).
A cappella. We use a keyboard to give pitches and give some rehearsal support.
I've used 2 hours, with a break, in the past.
I'd like to be able to do more, but people's lives don't seem to allow that these days.
on January 15, 2016 4:34am
We meet for half hour before church starts to review, warm up and sometimes work ahead on other pieces. We rehearse right after church because some of our members are older and live out in rural areas and they don't want to drive in again on Wednesday night. It gets dark, sometimes there's bad weather, and there's always the threat of hitting a deer. But being after church means that people get hungry and restless so I can't really rehearse more than 45-55 minutes after church. Not ideal but its working.
Me on the piano.
on January 15, 2016 6:48pm
Hi, Daniel, I hope this isn't too late to be useful.
75-90 minutes starting 7:00 PM every Wednesday; 20-25 minutes Sunday morning ending in time to go up to church. 90 minutes-two hours on Wednesdays in Lent and Advent (no break). Dress rehearsals, two hours on the Saturday mornings before Christmas and Easter (sometimes also before Palm Sunday).
10 volunteer singers, ages 20s-80s. SATB (4) professional section leaders for Christmas, Palm Sunday, Easter, Pentecost.
I direct rehearsals from the piano, and accompany on piano or keyboard up in church. Instrumentalists join us at dress rehearsals; we don't sing anthems with additional instruments very often, just the weekly hymns (5), Psalm, Gospel Acclamation, and liturgy. The instruments rehearse these separately on Thursdays. (It works for us.)
Yes. The choir receives frequent positive reinforcement from church members and staff (especially me) that it sings a wide range of enjoyable/meaningful choral music well, and leads the assembly confidently. Some will never feel sufficiently prepared (especially me); this helps them contextualize that feeling.
Too much = more time than your volunteers are able/willing to donate. Raymond's plan, above, for a 45 min. rehearsal is wise and workable. Ask for the time you want and negotiate for what you need. Then select music to fit the available rehearsal time, based on what your singers can learn and how quickly. For volunteer singers, singing what they've learned (performing for you and one another) is more fun than learning it.
Whatever time you have, be there with your singers every minute. After they've forgotten everything else, they will remember you for that.
Bill Hively
on January 16, 2016 4:44am
1. 90 minutes per week with the member arriving an additional 30 minutes early for warm ups and last minute instructions - on major seasons, we may extend the rehearsal... Also, cantors will stay an additional half our to review their psalms and Gospel verse
2. We have 67 choir members plus the accompanist and me (director)
3. We have piano, organ, guitars, electric bass, flute, trumpet, light percussion, strings, brass and timpani at additional major feast days
4. Yes, more than enough time.  
5.  (jokingly) the week after Christmas and Easter (that is when we take a break from practice though we still lead the music at the Sunday liturgies)
on January 21, 2016 9:12am
90 minutes of rehearsal on Wednesday evenings.
between 15 and 20 singers depending on the week.
No instruments at rehearsal unless I am adding a special instrument part to an anthem.
Yes we have enough time.
I think 90 minutes is good. By the end I can tell my singers are getting tired out; but I do work them hard!
I USED to have a group that was singers plus instrumentalists (guitar, bass, drums, flute, plus me on piano). In the fall of 2014 we restructured our program, and that included separating the instrumentalists into a separate group, and then combining the vocalists from that group with another choir. I am MUCH HAPPIER now with separate rehearsals for singers and instrumentalists. Our singers lead worship every week, and the instrumentalists join them approximately once per month. (prior to the restructuring, the singer/instrumental group led its own service weekly; we restructured our worship schedule as well and went to a combined blended service). Before the restructure, I always felt like I was struggling to give enough attention to both the singers AND the instrumentalists during our weekly 90 minute rehearsal. Now we can do much better music than we used to do, both because of the way we restructured the groups, and because I can focus the rehearsals more.
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