Rehearsal & Concert Practicalities

Arriving at rehearsals

Rehearsals are in the Chapter House unless otherwise announced. The way in is from Pitt Street. Rehearsals start at 7.30 prompt and the door is locked then.

The door is unlocked again for five minutes at 8.30 for those who are unavoidably detained or urgently have to leave. If you’re leaving, don’t wait for the rehearsal break because it may not be at 8.30.

Please sign in each week on the sheets by the door. There’s also a column on these sheets to say whether or not you intend to sing in the concert. Please fill this in as soon as you can; it’s vital for planning the seating on the stage.

All members are expected to take their turn in watching the door during the term – see the rota and instructions. Please be mindful of your personal security and that of your vehicle.

First rehearsal of term, music hire, and GCS folders

Please arrive early at the start of term so that you have time to collect your music. The cost of music hire is included in your subscription, although we occasionally ask members to buy copies of short pieces, and we ask everyone to provide their own copy of Messiah (Watkins Shaw Novello edition). Most music does not belong to GCS but is borrowed from other libraries and therefore it must be returned promptly at the end of each concert, or beforehand if you are not singing in the concert. Libraries will only accept a full set of music back and we can be fined for late returns. Marking of music is acceptable with a soft pencil (B or 2B), but please avoid writing any other non-musical information on the music, eg personal information or reminders. We can be fined if we return copies with too many marks.

A red GCS folder will be issued for the duration of your time in the choir, to be used for all concerts. There is no charge for this providing that the folder is returned on leaving the choir. Members need to pay for any lost or damaged folders.

Missing rehearsals

It’s important to sign in each week because otherwise it will be assumed that you have missed the rehearsal.  The Thursday rehearsal in the week before any concert is now compulsory unless you have prior permission to miss it. Permission will not be given lightly, because this rehearsal in the cathedral is vital to the final performance. The Saturday afternoon rehearsal is compulsory in all circumstances. Permission to miss the Thursday rehearsal can only be granted by the committee (in consultation with the Director of Music).

The Director of Music has the final say on who can sing in the concert, and will require people who have missed too many rehearsals to sing for him before he makes this decision. We call this a concert-specific audition (CSA). Even if you have permission to miss it, the Thursday rehearsal counts in the total number of rehearsals you are allowed to miss and still sing in the concert:

  • For November, December (non-Messiah years) and March concerts, anyone missing 3 rehearsals must take a CSA. Anyone missing 4 or more rehearsals will not be allowed to sing in the concert.
  • In years where we do Messiah in December, nobody should miss more than one rehearsal.  Anyone missing 2 or more will not be allowed to perform. There is not usually a Thursday rehearsal for Messiah.
  • For the next summer concert, there will be 6 rehearsals.  Missing 2 will trigger a CSA.

Anyone who misses more than the number above is not allowed to sing in the concert regardless of their reasons or of how well they know the music. This is because rehearsals are about learning how the piece will be interpreted in this particular performance, not just about learning the notes; and because the balance of the choir changes when people attend some rehearsals and not others.

If you know you’re not going to sing in the concert for any reason, please try to return your music to the librarian ( before the day. If you have to drop out unexpectedly, please think about how you can return your music promptly and don’t wait to be chased for it.

If you know you won’t be attending rehearsals for a while, please let us know by emailing so we know not to expect you.

During the rehearsal

Please bring a B or 2B pencil to rehearsals.

Have a look at the noticeboard each week. We can’t announce everything in the notices (or it would take up the whole break) so some things are just put on the noticeboard. And feel free to add any notices you’d like, including posters for other musical events.

The loos are on the opposite side of the cloisters to the Chapter House – only one side of the cloisters is lit, so turn right to get there.

At the end of the rehearsal, please stack your chair with the others at the edges of the room. Please only stack chairs on top of others of the same colour.

In the week before the concert

We usually have at least one evening rehearsal in the cathedral in the week leading up to a concert. For these rehearsals, enter by the usual door and then go into the cathedral from there. The signing in sheets will be out in the cathedral, so don’t forget to fill them in if you haven’t already.

Taking our seats on the staging always takes time, so please arrive a little early. The seating plan is very carefully worked out; please listen to the organiser and follow their instructions, even if it means you’re not sitting quite where you’d like or with whom you’d like.

If you have a special need to sit somewhere easily accessible, please let the organiser know in advance – mark it on the signing-in sheet, or have a private word with them if you’d prefer.

Please only go up and down the staging by the steps at the sides, not by climbing up the middle. This is for health and safety reasons. So if you are sitting on the end of a row, please move promptly at the start of the break or the end of the rehearsal, so that you’re not blocking other people from getting down.

Take as little as possible with you onto the stage. Bags are easy to trip over, and if they fall below the staging it can be dangerous to retrieve them. On week nights (but NOT on the Saturday) we have exclusive use of the building so you can leave anything you want on the chairs in the body of the cathedral.

When on stage, even before a rehearsal, please don’t talk. If you want to talk to someone in the break, please leave the stage.

If you’ve not yet got a red GCS folder, the librarian will hand them out in one of these rehearsals.

On concert day – afternoon rehearsal

We rehearse with the orchestra on the day itself. We usually need to be seated by 12.45, but times will be confirmed beforehand. Please arrive in plenty of time. Anyone who misses the concert day rehearsal, for whatever reason, is not allowed to sing in the concert.

The cathedral is open to the public while we rehearse. Because of this it is NOT SAFE to leave any personal possessions on the chairs; in the past we have had several thefts from under our noses. So, to keep the staging clear, bring as little as possible with you.

Programmes are on sale to choir members at a reduced price for 30 minutes before the Saturday rehearsal, one per member. They are not available in the break or afterwards. Look out when you arrive for the person selling them, who is usually towards the front of the chairs. Programmes are available for the full price on the door in the evening – there is no discount for members then.

Concert dress

So that we present a professional appearance and don’t distract the audience, we wear simple, consistent, unadorned clothes on stage:

All black

A simple long black skirt or plain black trousers, with black hosiery and black shoes. The top half needs to be black too; long sleeved (unless advised otherwise, perhaps in hot weather), not shiny or sparkly, and not too revealing, i.e. no plunging necklines or bare shoulders. For warmth you may want to wear a plain black jacket or a smart, plain cardigan or jumper. Please avoid sparkly jewellery, which is distracting; even matt jewellery can catch the light and dazzle the conductor. If you need a hair ornament it should be black. If you wish to take a handbag on stage it too should be black and small enough to be worn over the shoulder or under the arm.

Or Black Tie

Dinner jacket and dress shirt; if it is likely to be hot enough for a shirt sleeve order, trousers should be without braces. Bow ties and, if worn, cummerbunds should be black. It is easy to hire a dinner suit and dress shirt if you do not already own them.

On concert day – the evening

GCS concerts start at 7pm. We warm up in the Chapter House – usually at 6.40pm but this will be confirmed on the day. The cathedral’s main door is open from 6.30. If you arrive before 6.30, you can enter via the Dean’s Door: with your back to the main cathedral porch, turn right and it’s the further, smaller door in the west front. Please don’t bring audience members in through that door, though.

The Chapter House is locked during the concert so you can leave coats and bags in there. It is also used by the orchestra, who change there, and for setting out for the party, so be prepared for it to be busy.

After the warm-up, please go to the transept quickly and quietly and line up to go onto stage. Which transept you go to depends on which side of the stage you are seated. The dividing line will have been explained at one of the stage rehearsals.

Aim to carry your folder in your right hand with the lettering away from your body, spine uppermost. Of course if you need to hold the banister with your right hand when moving on or off the stage, then swap the folder to your other hand, and return it as you turn into your row. To applaud others put the folder under your arm.

Please don’t talk, turn round or point when you are on stage. We are very visible and need to present a professional image. Please don’t take water on stage for performances.

Once on stage, stay standing until the designated leaders standing by the front pillars signal to sit. After that, stand and sit with the leader of the orchestra unless you’ve been told otherwise.

If there is an interval, we leave the stage in reverse order. There will be a bell rung or an announcement over the PA system to mark the end of the interval. When you hear this, please return to the transept and line up again to go onto stage.

Aide memoire: the eight Ss to remember on stage

These apply to both rehearsal and performance.

  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Scores (how to carry)
  • See (the conductor)
  • Sing
  • Smile
  • use the Stairs
  • remain Silent other than when singing

On concert day – after the concert

Immediately after the concert, please put your music in the boxes at either side of the stage. Our librarian has a huge job to sort and check it all and return it in time to avoid any fines, so please don’t make her job more difficult by taking it away with you.

There is a private party in the Chapter House after the concert for members and their guests. Alcoholic and soft drinks are available at no cost; however a donation towards the cost would be appreciated and there is basket for this. Please bring some food (suitable for eating with your fingers) – leave it on the tables in the Chapter House before the concert.