In the performing arts, it is necessary to "warm up" your body before beginning a rehearsal or performance. This should include gentle vocal or physical exercises to prevent strain to the voice. Another part of performing is learning to open up and let go of inhibitions. For a kids' choir, the "warm up" process should include fun games and activities that encourage participants to have fun—resulting in better teamwork and a more confident chorus.
Because a singer's body is her instrument, it is important to fine-tune it before a rehearsal or performance. One way of loosening up the face is to use tongue twisters. Children enjoy this warm-up because it is silly, but it also encourages focus and prepares the facial muscles and vocal cords for rehearsal. Basically, a tongue twister is a phrase that is difficult to say, and that you repeat several times while accelerating with each repetition. Usually, tongue twister phrases will contain one repeated consonant sound. For example, have children say the phrase "A knapsack strap, the strap of a knapsack," at a gradually increasing rate. It can help to accompany this activity with a piano, playing one note at an accelerating tempo. You may also keep tempo by clapping. You can even stage competitions between participants to make the activity more challenging—eliminating any player who is unable to keep up with the increasing pace.
This game encourages children to have fun and learn to listen carefully to one another—making them more focused and respectful during a rehearsal. Have the entire chorus stand together in a circle. The choir director blindfolds one child. Next, the rest of the group is given to the count of 15 to move to a different spot in the circle. Once everyone is situated, the director silently points to another child, who has to say a predetermined phrase such as, "Can you guess who I am?" using a disguised voice. This "disguise" could range from altering the pitch of the voice to employing a fake accent. The blindfolded child has to guess who is speaking. If she is correct, she gets to choose the next person to blindfold, and the activity is repeated. If she guesses incorrectly, the speaker must say the same phrase using a different "disguise" until the guesser is correct.
The Shake Down
This exercise helps to energize children before a rehearsal, and encourages them to let go of shyness or inhibitions. Begin with all choir members standing in a circle. Then, counting backward from 10, all members "shake out" one hand or foot at a time, very rapidly. The pattern should begin with the right hand, then the left hand, then the right foot and finally the left foot. After giving each appendage 10 "shakes," repeat the process counting down from nine, then eight, then seven and so on. When the group finishes with "one," they should each jump into the air making a "Whoop!" noise. This activity is great for choir directors who want to warm up their chorus, but do not have much time before rehearsal.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.