Some small to medium sized choirs rehearse in a circle, whilst others rehearse as a block with the choir master in front (just as if they were performing in front of an audience), but which is better or doesn’t it make any difference?
Pros of rehearsing in a circle
There are clear advantages of rehearsing in a circle, not the least of which is that each singer can see all the other singers and the choir master at the same time. This can make it easier to sing in harmony and to feel happy while singing, simply because any sense of hierarchy no longer exists in a circle.
Harmonies can also be heard more clearly when singing in a circle, because there is no sudden end to a line of singers (which happens when singers rehearse in rows). The choir master can also move singers around more easily when they are in a circle (there’s no bobbing in and out of other singers), and the choir master can see everyone, eye-to-eye easily – there’s no hiding when you sing in a circle!
Cons of rehearsing in a circle
Whilst there are clear advantages to singing in a circle, these benefits rapidly decrease as the circle enlarges. Large choirs require large circles, which can become increasingly unmanageable! Singers may be unable to hear singers on the opposite side of the circle and the choir master may need to raise his or her voice to be heard by all singers.
Many singers will also be standing behind the choir master, which in small circles isn’t really a problem, because everyone can hear their voice, but in larger circles it can definitely hinder communication; choir masters can become dizzy from constantly turning in a circle!
Also, rehearsing in a circle prevents novice singers from relying on more experienced singers who would usually stand behind them, causing them to falter more often and feeling too exposed. Some singers can also feel intimidated when they finally sing in front of an audience, because they are used to singing to each other in a circle.