What It Takes to Put On a Concert

What we do when we sing is a lot of work! And putting on the actual concert is no different. A show in the Lincoln Center can be surprisingly complicated to do!

Not all members are equally available or able to help out, but every member needs to know what it takes to put on a concert. So this page gives a breakdown of what all goes into it.

  1. Picking a concert date. This is no small task. When’s the right time in the season? When is Lincoln Center available? If it’s not, what then? When are the members available? What other events are we competing with for any given date?
  2. Planning what to sing. How many do we have this semester? How well-balanced are the sections? Who’s in the tenor section this semester—can they sing low tenor, or high only? Does the song require accompaniment? Does it require special PA accommodations? Does it require soloists? Do we have lots of styles represented, or only a few? Have we been singing this song too much, or too little? Are the altos strong enough this semester to sing melody on a Barbershop tune? The tenors? How advanced are the singers we have this semester? How difficult a piece can they learn?
  3. Purchasing or composing/arranging the music. If we buy it, it costs money. If we make it ourselves, it costs somewhere between 8 and 20 hours of labor per song to get the music printed and the rehearsal aids made. If we buy the sheet music, we still have to create the rehearsal aids. And who’s going to keep track of all this sheet music? And where will it be stored? And whose job is it to make sure that everybody has a copy?
  4. Rehearsing. Somebody’s got to acquire a rehearsal hall. Then we have to pay for it. Then we have to set up and tear down every week. Then, of course, there’s the actual rehearsing of the music. And what about an accompanist? And at how many rehearsals do we need to bring in special gear like instruments and PA equipment?
  5. Rehearsal load-in and load-out. Who’s going to bring in all the gear and set it up each week? And who’s going to break it down and put it back in the Pelham’s SUV?
  6. Deciding on the show order. This may sound simple, but there are lots of considerations. And then what’s going to happen when we cancel a piece (for whatever reason)? Does the whole show have to be reworked?
  7. Technical Design of the Show. What are we doing for PA: sound reinforcement? Recording? Lighting design? (We’re currently working on just getting that dark stage lit, but in the next few shows, we’ll also work on getting it lit artistically. Are we using a piano? Where does it go? Are we having emcees? Where shall they stand? is there any skit or special production? Are we having guest ensembles? Where will they sit? How will everybody be miked? All this has to be decided far in advance.)
  8. Business Model. What’s the business model of the show? How are we paying for it? Are we selling tickets? If so, how much? And how/where do they buy them? Is this a benefit? If so, for whom, and how does it work?
  9. Advertising. How are we going to get the word out, and who’s going to see to it that it happens? How far in advance do we need to get started? Is 100 in the audience suitable for a chorus of 25? How many chorus members are actively inviting people? How many are sharing on social media? Who’s in charge of all this? What if it doesn’t get done well?
  10. Show Programs. Somebody has to design the show programs–and that’s very hard to do it excellently. Lots of details. And how many shall we print for a hall with 1,636 seats? 100? 1,600? And who’s going to print them? And where does the printer live? And who owns it? And who pays for the paper and the toner?
  11. Pre-show/Post-show gear loading and storing. We have a growing amount of gear that’s required for a concert, and most of it is stored (at no charge) in the Pelhams’ basement where it is efficiently arranged for safe keeping between shows. The day before a show, all this gear needs to be loaded (in 3 large SUVS). Given what all else is going on before and after a show, this is much too much work to expect the Pelhams to do alone. And if it’s not all wrapped up quickly, it can end up being a considerable hindrance to life-and-business as-usual in the Pelhams’ studio space, presenting an unfair burden to them.
  12. Show-Day Load-in and Load-out. On show-day, all the aforementioned gear needs to be loaded into Lincoln Center first thing in the morning. Then after the show, it needs to be loaded out to the vehicles it came from. The slower this is done, the more time it takes for technical set-up to be completed.
  13. Tech setup and tear-down. These tasks require special training. A master needs to be in charge of lighting with two or three helpers (at least). One needs to be in charge of PA (with at least two helpers). One needs to be in charge of the stage/auditorium/lobby overall. with at least two helpers. How much time do we have? What do we do if something goes wrong? If something gets broken, or doesn’t work right?
  14. Technical Crew. It simply will not do to turn on the lights and the PA once they’re set up, without having someone to run it all. We need at least one PA technician and one lighting technician (plus a spotlight operator) present during any dress rehearsal we have, as well as during the show. Obviously, these people cannot be members of the choir. Further, they need to have been to several rehearsals, so that they are very familiar with what will be required for the show.
  15. Food for cast and crew. If this is a big show, and especially if it happens mid-day (like Montana Christmas!), we’re going to have to feed the cast and crew. Who’s going to plan all that and set it up and keep it running and take care of everybody? How many tables do they need? Who’s going to pay for it?
  16. Stage Manager. The more complicated the show, the more necessary it is to have someone directing traffic before, during, and after the show. It is not best to have the choir director trying to do this. Nor can it be a choir member.
  17. Cleanup. When the show’s over, the lobby, house, and stage all have to be left at least as clean and neat as when we found them.
  18. Historian/Social Media Publicist. We need records of what all went on each year. How many in the audience? How many in the cast? What did we have to eat? Saving some old programs. Notes about what went great and what we’d better fix before doing it again. Photos of cast and crew before, during, and after the show. Rehearsal photos. Posting to our Facebook page.