As we search for ways to unify our ensemble as well as opportunities to change-up the monotony of the daily rehearsal, alas, we have Halloween.
Some teachers avoid Halloween altogether; other teachers make it into a fun day. This post is intended to rethink ways in which we can use Halloween to benefit our program as a whole.
Since every choir director has different goals and visions, I have listed many different approaches to cultivating a special rehearsal. I do believe we should find a way to make they rehearsal equally special and effective. Additionally, the collective preparation for our special “Halloween” rehearsal can be just as rewarding as the rehearsal itself.
Suggestions on this list vary from being technical and/or musical while others are just straight-up fun. The “fun” activities serve as ice-breaking social activities that promote community and create a special experience for a unique annual rehearsal.
There is a fine line between wasting valuable rehearsal time and making use of a cultural tradition in order to build community within our program. I hope these 11 activities will spark creativity and give you and your students an extra-special Choir Halloween!
Here are 11 activities that can make your choir’s Halloween Rehearsal memorable, special, uniquely productive:
1. Have a Halloween Decorating Day
Prior to Halloween, have an after school block of time, maybe an hour, where students can come and decorate the room. This activity will build community. Have some aspect of the decorations only appear specifically on Halloween (special lights, or a skeleton, etc). This event requires no rehearsal time disruption and can become an annual tradition.
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2. Turn the lights off to begin the rehearsal
Change up the vibe in the room. If it isn’t too dark and some of the decorations bring some added light, a unique lighting effect could change the ambience for a different feeling in the room.
3. Have a pumpkin picking activity
Student officers can lead an activity of pumpkin picking. This can be a voluntary social experience that does not involve us. Officers can set up a meeting time at a local pumpkin patch and all choir members would be invited. These pumpkins can be used for the next activity.
4. Pumpkin decorating/carving contest
Whether they went pumpkin-picking or went to the local supermarket, the students can bring in their own decorated or carved pumpkins, along with a name for their pumpkin. Number the pumpkins and have the group view each pumpkin, followed by a blind vote, or a ballot vote, etc. It will impact 10 minutes of rehearsal time, but it will bring the group closer together.
Perfect Star-Spangled Banner Arrangement for SAB (SATB) – easy to learn – .99 per copy! – now available for SSA!
5. Begin the daily warm-up in minor
Most of us are guilty of using warm-ups that are in major keys. We can take all of our regular warm-ups and make them “spooky” for the day. If using solfege, it’s a great opportunity to introduce minor syllables.
6. Sight-Sing in Minor
It is great to contrast the same major sight-singing exercise with a minor exercise. Since most of us predominantly sight-sing in major, this is a great opportunity to teach an exercise in major and then modify it to minor.
7. Teach a Halloween round
It’s can be of great impact to take a break from the regular, long-term repertoire and infuse some quick, fun, and short-term rounds. A round can change an entire rehearsal dynamic whether taught by rote, sight-read, or spoon-fed. Even a fine high school can appreciate a simple round. Here are two rounds that are perfect for Halloween:
- Have You Seen The Ghost of John and Pumpkin Eyes. The lyrics for this “Halloween round” have been changed from “Ah Poor Bird”.)
- Trick or Treat – Halloween Round: This round uses holiday festivity to teach articulation. For more on the educational value of this fun round, see activity #10 below!
8. Have a Mummy Wrap Contest
Plain-old fun. Each section has a volunteer mummy as the entire section has 2 minutes to wrap the mummy with rolls of toilet paper. At the end of the two minutes, the entire section backs away from their mummy, and everyone votes for the best mummy. It’s a 5 minute break, possibly at the end of class, but these 5 minutes bring the group together, make for great photos, and create a special moment.
Sight-Singing Developmental Rubric – for developing students who lack the underlying sight-singing skills
9. Change a section of the music from major to minor
Take a section in one of your current choral repertoire and have the students sing their part in minor. If this it too difficult, modify the ending chord of the piece, teaching them how major chords can change to minor.
10. Tuh-rick or Tuh-reat
One of the most commonly mispronounced connecting consonants in America seem to be “Tr” and “Dr”. Most Americans pronounce TR as CH. Chrick or Chreat is what it sounds like. Tuh-rick or Tuh-reat is the correct way. Use Trick or Treat as a way to teach them the proper Tr and Dr sound. For “tr” and “dr” the lips should not move; only the tongue moves. It also helps to put an “uh” between the T/R and D/R. Here is a fun exercise to practice with:
(we Americans say: Chrick or Chreating on the Chrain Chracks, Chrust Me, Chrouble!)
(proper singing/speaking is: Tuh-Rick or Tuh-Reating on the Tuh-rain Tuh-rack, Tuh-rust me, Tuh-rouble)
Apply that T-R and D-R to all the lyrics in the songs with those connected consonants: drive, dry, drain, draw, try, trail, travel, trial, etc)
Here is my Halloween Trick of Treat Round that focuses on this most common singing and speaking issue:
Click here to listen to the Trick or Treat Halloween Round and view the sheet music.
11. Have goodie bags when students leave
This is an officer-thing, not a teacher-thing. Officers can make their group feel special by giving out a small bag of candy or handing out candy as students leave.
Some Bury Last Words:
Cultivating a choral community is essential to any fine choral program. Consider Choir Halloween as one of our opportunities to foster bonding, reinforce specific skills, and create a memorable rehearsal that students will look forward to year after year!