A Choir Halloween Rehearsal can be festive and productive even when fully remote, hybrid, or live and masked.
In fact, I believe our students need Choir Halloween more than ever. It’s something to look forward to and can be one of the most memorable rehearsals of the year.
If well-planned, this special rehearsal can be productive, creative, and serve as a way to infuse energy back into your program. As we search for ways to unify our ensemble during this complex time, we have an opportunity to draw upon a popular tradition and use it to create a special rehearsal.
While some teachers may choose to avoid Halloween altogether I think this year it will be especially effective to bring some cultural normalcy and excitement into our rehearsal.
These suggestions are intended to work in virtually all situations: live singing with masks, hybrid (some in class and some remote), and fully remote situations. The goal is to take a traditional, spirited community event and use it to strength the bond of our group while improving the musicianship of our singers. Think of Halloween as an opportunity to exhibit creativity to the choral experience we are providing.
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. This year, I would suggest either making the Friday before Halloween or the final rehearsal before Halloween a “Choir Halloween”.
I hope these 9 activities will spark creativity and give you and your students an extra-special Choir Halloween!
Here are 9 activities that can make your choir’s Hybrid or remote Halloween Rehearsal memorable, special, and uniquely productive:
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1. Change the ambiance of the rehearsal (in school and remotely)
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 ambiance for a different feeling in the room. If you are currently rehearsing in the auditorium, perhaps a different mood lighting could set a different tone. If students are fully remote, create a festive or spooky visual backdrop for them, and encourage them to be creative as well with their home cameras. If you are asking them to do this, this could be something that is suggest in advance of the Halloween rehearsal. If your students are in a hybrid setting, an at home decorative backdrop could give the remote students something to connect to, as the students in class are experiencing the mood lighting.
2. Have a virtual pumpkin decorating contest
If students are remote, they can each present real-life or virtual pumpkins from the comfort of their own home. If some students are home and some are live, they can submit their photos in google classroom as the entire group can collectively vote.
Perfect Star-Spangled Banner Arrangement for SAB (SATB) – easy to learn – .99 per copy! – now available for SSA!
3. Remote Costume Contest
If your students are fully remote, inviting students to dress up is quite easy to do; Of course, you could easily dress for the occasion in school, which will go over equally well for students at school or at home. If you have a hybrid schedule with students in person and remote, the remote students can dress up and the students who are in school can submit photos into google classroom.
4. Begin the daily warm-up in minor
Most of us are guilty of using warm-ups that are only 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. An easy transition is singing from “la” to “la” and then raising the “sol” to “si” to create the harmonic minor scale.
5. Teach Aural Training in Minor
Aural training is a useful tool for developing the ear of our singers. By isolating the aural development from reading and rhythm, students develop each skill to a higher level. I advocate for using a specific exercise in the blog post, The Best Aural Training Exercise You Will Ever Use. From there, I use both a major and minor sheet. On this day, I use the natural minor exercises. And will ask the singers to modify the “sol” to “si”.
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. If using Sight Reading Factory (use code: Choral Clarity to save 10%), it’s quite easy to have sight-singing generated in minor; you can set simplified parameters to ensure it is attainable for your singers (for example, key of Am, only from A-E, etc)
7. Teach a Halloween round
It 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.
Teaching a song by call and response over the internet can be effective when students are muted. If you wanted to engage their effort, a simple Flipgrid submission could be sent back to you to ensure they are responding to what you are teaching. 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 #9 below!
Sight-Singing Developmental Rubric – for developing students who lack the underlying sight-singing skills
8. Change a section of your current repertoire from major to minor
Take a section from one of your current pieces 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. If this is not possible due to virtual-only learning, this could be a written assignment where students are looking at their music and learning what make a “major” sound turn to minor. Again, all it would take is sitting at a piano and demonstrating with their sheet music in front of them.
9. 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.
Some Bury Last Words:
Cultivating a choral community is essential to building a fine, sustainable choral program. Consider Choir Halloween as an opportunity to foster bonding, reinforce specific skills, and create a memorable rehearsal that students will look forward to year after year! Making that extra effort to create something special during this uncertain time will not go unnoticed by your singers.
I wish you and your singers a festive, productive, and happy Choir Halloween!