Oh I know. I am really stretching your patience mixing those lines in the title. I just couldn't help it. You see, I LOVE to talk. I don't even need an audience. I can talk until the wallpaper curls.
I do remember many years ago as a student music teacher, after my first foray into the classroom, the music specialist asked the classroom teacher to give me some pointers. She looked at me and said, "For Pete's sake, stop talking and get at it." Apparently, she was onto me. I spent WAY too much time explaining and not enough actually doing. So how much talking should we be doing before we sing?
I love to learn information. I am interested in people's jobs, ideas, history, geography, science - how the world works pretty much. When I have that information, I really feel it is important, nay, my duty to share it. So, I need some guidelines about how much is too much or too little.
1. Get at it - Whether it is with people at home or in choir, when you start a project, don't talk it to death. If you start a warm-up, give them the chord, or a listen to the sound you expect and then direct them to sing. When you have a new song, you can present it with a recording of another choir singing it (it could be a recording of a great or poor performance) and let them follow. Sometimes, telling them too much about the music before you start can build a wall of resistance or an expectation of difficulty that doesn't actually exist.
2. Share as you learn - For sure, you don't want them singing a piece and getting into bad habits. No slurs in wrong places or extra long notes or indeed, wrong sounds. But singing something through and allowing them to find the tricky bits will make them have a reason to listen. For instance, if you are singing Rutter and they hit one of his famous time changes 4/4 to 3/8 to 2/4 to 4/4 all in 10 bars, they will notice something just didn't work out there. Now, they are ready to hear what that is. If you had spent time before they sang talking, talking, talking, it wouldn't have made as much sense and you would have ended up saying it again. Yup, I have done it. That's how I know.
3. Praise, criticize, praise - Find something they did well, then point out the part to improve. Then, tell them what was right about their effort. Always, start with the positive. Always!!
4. Ask them for input - Guess what? You aren't the only one in your group who knows a thing or two. I am amazed that once I stop talking and ASK, there are some amazingly astute ideas from our singers & of course Kristy who is just - well brilliant. Sometimes, others come up with suggestions I hadn't thought of for tackling a tricky bit or an interval or harmony. Use the experience of your choir. Now, if you are wont to be positive, they will feel they can share.
5. Sing - I reiterate. Stop talking and get at it. Way more fun and the learning curve is much faster.