Performance Readiness

What does it mean to be ready to perform? 

How do I go about becoming performance ready? 

Who can help me? 

How long does it take? 

What kinds of performances does the chorus do? 


These and other questions will be answered in this section. You may click on any section to learn more about that area of our performance-readiness process.

Learning Music
12-Steps to Learning Music
Learning to Perform
Attendance Guidelines
Chapter Shows
Regional Conventions/Competitions
International Conventions/Competitions

Learning Music

Chorus members learn their music in many different ways.  Although our musical leaders provide tools and experiences which help us learn, ultimately it is up to each of us to make the learning happen. Regular attendance is an important factor in learning our music.  It is at chorus rehearsals that our director helps us learn the interpretation of the new song.

Before a new song is introduced, members are given the sheet music ahead of time.  Some members like to study it or play it on a keyboard. If you do not read music or do not play an instrument, never fear!  CD’s of the song are usually available, recorded with your part predominant.

When it is time to learn a new song – be ready!  Carry a pencil with an eraser in your chorus bag so that you can mark the breathing places and make notes about dynamics on your sheet music.  Bear in mind that the interpretation may change as the chorus progresses; be flexible…and don’t write those marks in ink!

Section rehearsals help our four-part harmony develop.  When a song is new, section leaders often teach individual sections to “sing the part smart” using techniques particular to the voice part and giving attention to troublesome areas.

As a new member, you will have many songs to learn. Be patient with yourself.  All of us understand the dilemma, for we remember going through it, too.  Take advantage of small group sessions, use your tape and your sheet music, and realize that it normally takes six months to a year to learn the whole repertoire. Most people find that concentrating on one song at a time works better than trying to learn several at once.  Ask your section leader or the director for guidance about which songs to learn first.


Twelve Step to Learn Music

This is just suggested until you find a process that works for you.

The success of this program is contingent upon the effective listening skills of the learner — much more than upon her musical background or ability to read music.Any of the twelve steps may be repeated before continuing on to the next step. But remember . . . each step is important to the overall successful results of learning all the right notes, words and timing of the new song.

Do not eliminate any of the steps because they may appear to be insignificant.            

  1. Listen to the music on the master tape while you close your eyes. (This will familiarize you with notes and timing and general flavor of the song.)
  2. Watch the notes on your music while you listen to the tape. Do not sing yet!
  3. Again, watch the notes on your music while you listen to the tape. Do not sing yet!
  4. Watch the words on your music while you listen to the tape. Please, no singing yet!
  5. On a separate sheet of paper, write down all the lyrics to the new song. Now, watch your own paper while you listen to the tape. No, not yet, don’t sing please!
  6. Watch the notes again while you listen to the tape. Remember, no singing!
  7. Watch the words on your music while you listen to the tape. Be careful, not a sound!
  8. Try to write down all the words again on another sheet of paper without looking at the printed music. If you have trouble, listen to the tape again. Watch the words and then try writing them again without looking. Stay on this step until you can write down all the right words without looking back at the printed music. Now proceed to Step 9.
  9. Hurray! Finally you can add your voice! Watch the notes on your music while you hum along with the tape. Hum . . . hum! Singing is next!
  10. Watch the words on your music while you sing along with the tape. Can you believe this? You’re really going to sing this song for the very first time!  If you have any difficulty, circle the spot on your music as you go all the way through. Then go back and listen (don’t sing) to those parts again. Happy singing!
  11. Put a clean practice tape in your tape recorder. On this tape, record as you sing the new part all the way through without looking at your music. I’ll bet you can hardly wait to hear this step!
  12. VERY IMPORTANT STEP. Watch the music as you listen to your own tape to see if you sang the notes correctly. You should be wonderful. But, should you have any doubt, go back and check your part again on the master tape.  Concentrate on listening to the parts you circled earlier to be sure you have made corrections.


With a little bit of luck plus all your hard work, you are now the proud possessor of one more selection of music made beautiful by your addition of all the correct notes, words, and timing! 

Learning to Perform

If you’re like most of us, one reason you joined the chorus is because you want to perform. Performing barbershop harmony requires teamworkWhen we sing, we try to present a musical story to our audiences, involving ourselves emotionally in the message and delivering it in a unified, coherent way.  That unified approach takes many hours of practice.  First, we have to understand the story as our director has interpreted it.  Then, we must communicate it through our music, facial expressions, and body language.  Other aspects that enhance communication are: costumes, choreography, make-up, staging and scripts.

Learning to perform the music is another reason why regular attendance is essential.  Although individual practice at home is necessary, practicing as a whole group helps us become a performing unit.  Together, we learn the nuances of emotion embedded in the musical story, we develop the skills to deliver that musical message, and we experience the “goose bumps” of the ringing chords.

Each member must pass each song before it can be performed in public.  You will have several opportunities to meet this standard, and your section leader will provide advice on what needs to be corrected before you are “passed,” so don’t worry.  This is simply the method for keeping Song of Sonoma Chorus in top performance shape.

Attendance Guidelines

 Although each of us finds it necessary to miss rehearsal now and then, barbershop music relies heavily on regular attendance. New members often ask, “What happens if I have to miss a rehearsal before the show, or before a contest?  Will I still be able to perform?”  The answer is, “It depends.” You, your section leader and Director will decide together.

First and foremost, you must be performance ready in order to participate in a show, contest, or community performance.  Mastering your music and choreography, obtaining your costumes, and acquiring chorus make-up come only from regular attendance. Songs are often refined and reinterpreted long after they are first taught.  Songs you passed long ago need to be practiced regularly to remain vibrant.

The chorus Performance Policy and standing rules in this handbook contain additional information about attendance requirements.  These rules have been developed to help us present the very best performances possible.


Just as you probably had fun playing “dress-up” as a child, we think you’ll enjoy wearing chorus costumes onstage!  Our costumes are designed to present a visual image that will enhance the musical product.  Sometimes they are glitzy, sparkly gowns that make us feel glamorous.  Other times they may be period or character costumes, or simple, informal outfits that unify our appearance as chorus members.

The Visual Manager and her committees will work with you to help you obtain wellfitting costumes. Each member requires a complete chorus wardrobe so that she is ready to perform in every type of venue. Sometimes the chorus’ inventory may contain the costumes you’ll need.  Other times, it will be necessary to create a new costume for you.  The committee will provide you with complete instructions about obtaining your costume, and will provide ready assistance.

Costuming costs are handled in different ways.  Sometimes, the chorus treasury pays part of the expense; other times individual members pay the entire amount.  In either case, the committee strives to create reasonably priced costumes. Information about new costumes is communicated well in advance of construction so that members have time to plan for the expense.

Chorus costumes should only be worn for performances, or as directed by the Visual Manager.


As witth costuming, chorus make-up helps us feel glamorous onstage.  However, the real purpose of wearing stage make-up is to allow our faces to carry the message of the music to the audience.  Under bright stage lighting, our own coloring fades. Faces are pale, eyes and lips disappear.  Even our hairstyles seem to shrink in size.

Barbershop harmony requires us to “sell” the songs, using facial expressions and body language.  If the audience cannot see our facial features, the musical message is less meaningful.  Stage make-up helps us enhance the music.

Our make-up chair and her committee will help you obtain the materials, and will provide whatever help you need as you learn to apply it.  A list of specific make-up requirements will be provided to you by our make-up chairman.

Chapter Shows

Chapter shows allow us to introduce ourselves to our community once again, and to sing our songs in a package we’ve designed especially for the event, complete with colorful costuming, stage sets, and a script to tie it all together.  Shows require months of planning, and involve the help of many people.  As a new member, show planning is a time when you can help with a myriad of tasks.   We welcome your assistance and value the chance to get to know you.

Being performance ready for the show means that the music has been mastered, choreography learned, and all costume and make-up requirements met.

Regional Conventions/Competitions

Each spring, our chorus participates in a regional convention.  If we are competing in the regional contest, we will sing two songs, an up tune and a ballad. Many of our rehearsals will be devoted to preparing for this performance. Performance requirements are the same as for other chorus performances: mastery of notes, words, breaths, and choreography in each song, with appropriate costuming and make-up.

You will probably feel as excited about competing as the rest of us; it’s great fun!  However, please know that it is a challenging time, particularly for new members who are working on learning an entire repertoire.  If you decide to wait a year before taking part in the competition, please know that it is okay.  Please plan to go along with us to the convention.  We’ll be anxious to share the fun with you!

International Conventions/Competitions

 International convention is held each fall.  Choruses are eligible to compete in International competition a year and a half after winning regional competition.

Regional chorus champions prepare for many months at regular chorus rehearsals, as well as at weekend retreats. Sometimes extra rehearsals and coaching sessions are scheduled.   Regular attendance at rehearsals helps members develop stamina, better vocal production skills, and the artistry and finesse needed for excellent performance.  The end result is a product that the chorus is proud to present to all audiences, not just the contest attendees.   In fact, the most important reason for competition is to hone barbershop skills that produce better choruses.  Performance requirements are again the same.

Some of us attend International Convention, even when we are not competing, for its funfilled educational activities. It also provides another opportunity to learn from watching other great choruses.