Friday, February 5, 2016

Hit the Refresh Button on Your Choral Warm-ups

I don't know about you, but if there's one aspect of my rehearsals that I find I need to continuously refresh, it's the warm-ups. All too easily these wonderful opportunities for teaching and growth can become monotonous and stale. Sufficient time is set aside for score study and overall rehearsal planning and preparation, of which warm-ups should be a part, but they're are all too often an after thought (after all, I've been doing this for so long that I can just "shoot from the cuff" here, right?). As choral educators, we understand that the warm-ups are a vital component of our rehearsal, but yet the forethought we give them doesn't always reflect this awareness.

When I find myself wondering why a rehearsal wasn't as effective as I would have liked, I tend to take a look at the way it started. Were the singers engaged in the warm-ups? Did they understand the connection between the warm-ups and their music? Was there a connection between the warm-ups and their music? Were they challenged by the warm-ups, or did they just "go through the motions?" Did I just go through the motions myself?

When I start asking these questions, I know that it's time to start looking around for some new warm-ups; it's time, perhaps, to hit the "refresh" button. And, while there are a few publications that I consistently refer to (The Complete Choral Warm-up Book by Russell Robinson and Jay Althouse, for instance), I often find myself looking to YouTube for inspiration. While there is often much "wading" through that needs to be done, I have stumbled across and returned to a few wonderful videos over the years when I feel the well has run dry. These videos are outline below, and I hope that you'll receive renewed inspiration from them, as I have. Enjoy!

Here is the Indianapolis Children's Choir in action. Some great takeaways here if you're looking for exercises to energize your ensemble (I'm a big fan of kinesthetic engagement)...

If you're looking for a new ear training exercise, this one is fantastic. It presents a considerable challenge, but is also very rewarding once the singers master it.

...and another ear training exercise, this time demonstrated by Voices in Harmony.

If you're looking for a few new exercises to engage the breath, check this out...

Some wonderful examples here for activities that activate the body and mind (same awesome middle school boys choir!)...

Lastly, here is a look into a high school choral rehearsal. I've used, and had success with, almost all of the exercises demonstrated in this video. Some great stuff here.

Do you have any warm-ups that you'd like to share? Any warm-ups/resources that you find yourself returning to over and over again? Would love to hear from you, if so!

Mark is a graduate of Wright State University in Dayton, OH, having received a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in choral conducting. 
Before coming to Lorenz, Mark was the director of choirs at both Howard W. Blake High School for the Performing Arts in Tampa, FL, and Monroe Jr./Sr. High School in Monroe, OH.  Mark is also currently the director of the KCC Concert Choir, an advanced treble choir within the Kettering Children’s Choir organization. The group has toured extensively, and recently sang in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and with the South Cape Children’s Choir and various performing ensembles on a tour throughout South Africa. In the Spring of 2015, Mark also had the privilege of preparing the choir for performances of the Britten War Requiem under the baton of Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops. In addition, Mark has been the music director at his church since the age of 18, and regularly travels throughout the country giving workshops on conducting and worship leading. 
Mark is the blessed husband of Jennifer and proud father of Michael and Ellie.

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