Programming Tips

By  GALA Expert 

 June 27, 2023 

How do you manage your 30 minute chorus set? How do you decide what programming to bring to Festival? Learn answers to those questions and many more.

A stylized line drawing of a bird made from a treble clef, and staff paper


Programming Tips

  • 30-minute set for Choruses: includes entrance/exit time and all stage transitions.
  • 15-minute sets for Ensembles
  • Plan for about 23 minutes of music as a chorus, approximately 12 minutes for an ensemble; less is better than more. Applause at a GALA festival takes a measurable amount of time. Plan for it!
  • Pick something familiar/comfortable to open your set to get the jitters out and help your singers relax.
  • Choose programming that presents a distinctive identity for your chorus; something mission-related.
  • Choose a piece that will be new to the GALA community —a commission or arrangement or newly discovered piece. However, be sure to try a new piece out at home first to make sure it “works” before bringing a new commission to Festival.
  • Select the right amount of challenge – something that keeps singers on their toes but that they can ultimately perform beautifully.
  • Something humorous or light.
  • GALA staff will check for duplicated songs in chorus programming and will let you know if multiple choirs are performing the same song.

Collaborations and Themed Sets

  • Consider inviting another chorus to join you on stage for a song or two. Or request back-to-back sets and collaborate as a unique 60-min combined set.
  • Join with 3-4 other choirs to design a “themed” concert set for an entire 2 for 2.5 hr concert block. These collaborative chorus blocks will receive special promotion at Festival. Contact Jane RM to organize a themed concert block:

Concert Flow and Staging

  • Make sure there is flow, balance, interest, and a variety of emotions conveyed.
  • Be attentive to the weight of the songs, text-related flow, similarities and contrasts, key colors, tempo.
  • Plan a few segues without applause.
  • Keep the audience in mind: they are being deluged, their ears are overfull. Pace the set in a way that will allow them to stay tuned in. Imagine yourself as a member of the audience and design a satisfying and engaging flow.
  • Consider ways you might engage the audience with participation: sing-along, body percussion, etc.
  • Minimize your talking from the stage; keep it concise and premeditated.
  • Give the audience a distinct sense of who you are in your presentation/visuals as well as in the programming.
  • Movement should enhance the music, but not overshadow.
  • Program music that works well in the hall where you are performing: utilize the organ at Central Lutheran, or the side access to the audience from the MCC Stage.
  • Stage set-up includes a grand piano, music stands, drum set, ample microphones, monitors. View the stage diagrams and video guides for each venue.
  • Video is only available for your opening 1 min intro. We may have one video block designated. Choirs would need to arrive a day early to tech.
  • Require all singers to be present for tech and final rehearsal.

Instrumentalists and ASL

  • Keep instrumentation simple; better yet, sing a cappella or only with piano.
  • Rehearsal room space will be available at Festival in two-hour blocks. Reserve this in advance.
  • Prepare for significant and scary unknowns in amplification/sound reinforcement.
  • You may bring your own instrumentalists or work with a Minneapolis instrumentalist manager who will contract union musicians.
  • A list of certified ASL interpreters will be available in March 2024. ASL interpretation is not required.

Copyrights and Permissions to Perform and Record—due April 2024

  • Be sure to attend a copyright webinar to learn about the process of submitting your song list for Festival.
  • Published music: you provide title, composer, publisher and length of each song.
  • Unpublished compositions: in addition to the information above you must provide documentation from the copyright holder indicating your rights to perform and record the work July 10–14, 2024.
  • Start working on your permissions well before the deadline. It can take months to get copyright permissions.
  • Learn more about copyright for festival here.

Festival Attitude

  • Leave ego and competitiveness at home or banish it forever! Prep your chorus to come with anticipation of being blown away, not of blowing everyone away.
  • Be prepared to experience the love from the audience. Their applause and appreciation will be powerful.
  • Help your singers prepare for the psychological challenge of performing at Festival after listening to all the choirs ahead of you. Festival is not a contest. Challenge your singers to identify what they can learn from other choruses in terms of repertoire, programming and performance style.

Motivating and Preparing your Singers for Festival

  • Incorporate weekly stories and “testimonials” about past Festival experiences into your rehearsal to get singers excited to attend. Find resources for promoting festival here.
  • Festival is a tremendous external motivator; challenge singers to a high musical standard with emphasis on the basics: singing in tune and with strong vocal quality.
  • Set up your rehearsal season so your singers are exceptionally well-prepared, yet not stale.
  • Perform your entire set for an audience before arriving at Festival.
  • Bring in a vocal coach or local director you respect for feedback on your set.
  • Plan ahead to create a way for you to communicate with your chorus at Festival (text, daily email).

More questions? Drop a note to:

Kathleen Hansen, GALA 411 Artistic Advisor

Jane Ramseyer Miller, GALA Artistic Director