This is a guest post from choir director Chris Rowbury. He has a website called From the Front of the choir http://blog.chrisrowbury.com/ where he muses about all sorts of choral related topics. This one caught my eye since here at Cantala we love singing-and performing- in a circle, especially when the audience is in the middle. Chris discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of this technique. Enjoy!
Rehearsing in a circle: the pros and Cons
Many singing groups work in a circle when learning and rehearsing songs. There are some advantages, but also downsides. Let’s look at the pros and cons. Singing groups and small choirs often work in a circle. It seems a natural way for a smallish group of singers to stand: you can see and hear everyone clearly. But it doesn’t work for all groups and has a few downsides too.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of singing in a circle.
every singer can see and hear every other singer clearly
there is a single row so each singer has only the two singers either side to rely on – they’ll need to take more responsibility for learning their part
every singer can see the choir leader easily
there is no sense of hierarchy
every part is next to two other parts, no part is on the end – allows the harmonies to be heard more clearly
the choir leader can see and make eye contact with every singer easily – there is nowhere to hide!
it is easier to move singers around without disrupting the overall structure
you can dance more easily if required!
with big groups, the circle can become large and unmanageable – the choir leader will have to shout to be heard and singers on opposite sides of the circle won’t be able to hear each other
it’s easy for the choir leader to end up addressing one half of the circle without realising those behind her can’t see or hear what she’s saying
having got used to singing in a circle, the transition to a different choir formation for performance might throw up a few wobbles
newer singers won’t have the benefit of more experienced singers in their part singing from behind them to reinforce them (see Why you should stand front and centre if you’re not a confident singer)
if your choir is not used to singing in a circle, your singers might feel very exposed at first (although it won’t take long to overcome this)
singing regularly in a circle can become too inward: singers begin to forget that they will be communicating outwards to an audience when they come to perform
it’s harder for a choir leader to conduct in a circle as they need to keep turning on the spot (however, being in a circle is a great way for singers to learn to work without a conductor and to really focus on each other). Many singing groups work in a circle when learning and rehearsing songs.
If you have thoughts on what your experiences have been with rehearsing in a circle, please share! I would enjoy the discussion. And don’t forget to check out other blogs from Chris at http://blog.chrisrowbury.com.