Enter The Matrix – For Choir Rehearsal

Image of the Rehearsal Matrix for Chancel Choir

Organization is high among the traits of an effective choir and worship leader. The singers attend expecting to have fun — but also to be adequately prepared. How is it, then, that we are to go about the business of getting the work done? How do we make music happen? How many pieces are you to practice in one rehearsal? How long does the rehearsal last? How do I take into consideration the massive amounts of music I must prepare and yet move from piece to piece, effectively teaching of the parts?

Enter the Matrix. Not the movie . . . but the rehearsal matrix.

After some analysis, I came to the conclusion that it takes about six rehearsals, on average, for my choir to effectively master an anthem or the movement of a work. Based on that figure, I began to work on an effectively plan for each of my selections to get the required time in rehearsal. I read many things about meeting and project organization for businesses. I also reviewed teacher lesson plan software to see if that aided in my work. I soon discovered that many project managers use a matrix plan to get things done. So, why not use this in rehearsal?

To make this work for me, I began working my way back from the anthem’s offering date in worship and effectively work back six weeks until I got to the starting rehearsal date. Lo and behold, rehearsal matrix.

Now, I can easily gage the movements of choral works and anthems that I can get into in one rehearsal.

I hand this out to each singer in the choir. I then follow this rehearsal plan as closely as I can. Let me be clear — I don’t rehearse the entire anthem each week. I analyze the spots the choir needs work on and detail those out in rehearsal plans – the micro-plan. But, the matrix gets me an overall structure and plan for the longer term preparation – the macro plan.

A matrix plan also allows the choir to adequately review the material and prepare from outside the rehearsal. They can see for weeks what is coming up. I use quality rehearsal CD’s (that I pay for and get licenses from the publisher or a site like Part Predominant Recordings – http://www.partpredominant.com). The choir members can then put the material on at the office or in their car prior to that evening’s rehearsal and have things in their collective musical ear.

Of course, I do have to adjust — singers get called away for a work project or someone gets sick and I can’t do that particular movement or work on difficult anthem. I simply adjust, as needed, but I don’t give a new one out to the singers. I e-mail them following rehearsals with any extra adjustments or tell them to mark the adjustment on their matrix.

And, it becomes fun for the choir to see if I stick to the schedule. This is a time in which teasing and personal challenge can ensue:  “Yeah Robinson, we will see if you can stick to this thing . . .”

I’ve found this to be a very effective tool for teaching and preparing choirs for execution in worship — something that wasn’t taught to me in college music courses.

How do yo plan and execute the appropriate number of pieces in a rehearsal?

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