The holidays are the time of the year when larger productions are being put on. With these larger scale services, it is important to establish a rehearsal plan.
It’s essential to start early working with all the different groups involved. Many times Christmas services are comprised of choirs, dramas, and large worship bands with more vocalists. This requires separate group rehearsals before the technical and dress rehearsals even occur.
Separate Group Rehearsals help vocalists and choirs workout their parts without taking time from the band or production crew. The lighting and video team should walk through the service together, making sure lights are complimenting video and that people who need to be seen are not standing in the dark. These types of one-on-one rehearsals help save time and allow for a smoother technical rehearsal.
Technical Rehearsals are a critical step in the production process that often times get overlooked. They are choppy – and that’s okay, they should be. Lights are adjusted, microphones moved around, and new camera angles tried. For years I have experienced Christmas Eve service rehearsals that are just a copy of the typical Wednesday night run-through. During these times, the band gets a chance to rehearse, but no thought is given to the production side of things. As ministry staff members we have to remember that while we have dreamt about this event for weeks (possibly even months), the volunteers and musicians may be seeing/hearing everything come together for the very first time at rehearsal.
Final run-through/Dress rehearsal should be conducted just as it will be for the service. Practicing it exactly the way it needs to happen, especially the transitions, helps solidify it in everyone’s mind.
As someone who has been through more Christmas productions than I can count, here are three things I stand by when it comes to rehearsing.
Rehearse early enough to make changes. Even the dress rehearsal should be done several days in advance. In school, our dress rehearsals were always the day before our event … I can only assume it was because the teachers were afraid we’d forget everything if we had a day off. But this isn’t an elementary school Christmas program – production at this level is intense, and “going dark” (to borrow a theatre term) the day before a performance gives everyone a chance to calm down, allowing for a smoother performance. The other thing this provides is a day to make any necessary adjustments. While I do not approve of changes after the run through/dress rehearsal, sometimes they cannot be avoided, and this downtime allows for that.
When working with volunteers, the worst thing you can do is waste their time (well I guess you could kick them in the shin, but I digress). Have music, flows, and all other required materials printed out and ready to go ahead of time. Also, consider staggering arrival times for your teams. It doesn’t benefit the choir to hear the band warm up and sound check. At Northview, a typical non-Christmas weekend rehearsal schedule looks like this:
12:00pm – Staff
1:00pm – Volunteer Sound and Lighting operators
1:30pm – Band
2:30pm – Vocalists
2:45pm – Camera Ops
3:00pm – Service run-through
Know when it’s “Good Enough”
It hurt typing that.
I know as a creative, good enough should not be in my vocabulary; but at some point we have to force ourselves to stop tweaking, step back, and say it is finished. Always remember you’re working with real people, most who have a day job that has nothing to do with what you’re asking them to do during the service. Sometimes the camera shakes, and the lyrics come up late; or a vocalist forgets to turn their microphone on (why they turned it off in the first place, I’ll never understand). These people are giving their time, and their best for Lord, and we need to accept their offering of service and know when to end the rehearsal, so people can get home.
Last Christmas I wrote a post about adding tech rehearsals to Christmas Eve services – check it out here.
Also, be sure to check out the Christmas Resources Page.
How do you approach rehearsals? Join the conversation and share below.