Rehearsing at home

We tend not to spend much time learning notes in rehearsals, and move quickly on to singing technique, dynamics and interpretation. However, ‘note bashing’ at home, either using a piano or a rehearsal track, makes for rapid progress and ensures that all members of the chorus can sing with confidence and begin to address the more technical aspects of singing to the very high standard we expect.


  • Get to know the score. Are there solo parts, does a particular voice part stop at any point, does the music divide at any point? Go through and make sure you know exactly which line you should be on, and mark where it isn’t clear.
  • Clearly mark repeats and where they go back to a previous page; use a tab to easily find it.
  • Have a look at where your note comes from for a new entry and join it to yours.
  • Put tabs in for different sections of the piece to make them easier to find.
  • Use paper clips to close off any sections that are going to be missed out.

During rehearsals

  • Always bring a pencil. It is important to mark your score during a rehearsal,  and especially to record all the points provided by the Music Director.
  • Mark all breaths.
  • For staggered breathing take a whole beat out to take a proper breath. Mark where you are going to take it so you do it in the same place each time. This will help with learning.
  • Make a note of any section that needs a little more work. Don’t rely on your memory.

At home

  • Focus on the sections that you find difficult. Don’t try and get through it all every time, focus on small chunks and learn them well.
  • Use rehearsal tracks (see below), a piano, or even your old descant recorder for the sections that need extra work.
  • Read through the text in rhythm, especially for fast sections and when singing in a foreign language. This is just as important as learning the notes.
  • It is very important to listen to a recording of the work; it will give you a good idea of the piece as a whole. You can use your score to help you sing along, or just listen to it as frequently as you can. You will find recordings of most classical works on YouTube or try the music streaming service Spotify.

Rehearsal tracks

Rehearsal tracks are designed to help you learn your voice part by listening to it in isolation and/or with the other voice parts in the background. Some are based on recorded singers and therefore include the words, while others feature the voice parts played on an instrument, so of course there are no words.

  • You can purchase rehearsal tracks from Choraline, at These are great if you prefer to hear a recording of your voice part but they aren’t free. It costs £8.99 for a download, or £12.99 for a CD.  The Chorus has a discount that you can take advantage of once you become a member.
  • For just notes (no words) you could try:
The National Youth Choirs of Great Britain have produced a free online musicianship course to help singers improve their skills in rhythm, tonal centering, and intervals. The course is designed for young people but is just as applicable to older singers. Some of the video lesssons have worksheets or resources – find them at

Frequently Asked Questions

I used to sing a bit. I learned to read music at school but haven’t done much for years. I don’t think I’d be good enough now to cope. Read more

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A Soprano’s Story

“How did you join the Phil?” Ann Holloway (first soprano)

“To everyone who’s ever thought that they’d love to sing with a large classical chorus but felt that their sight reading skills would let them down, take heart, there is hope.

“The only musical training I had was in the first year of secondary school when we learnt the value of notes and that Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and All Cows Eat Grass etc. I did however continue to sing in the church choir and the school choir and always found it easy to learn tunes by ear.

“I went for some singing lessons 5 years ago, mainly to improve my confidence. I had always sung alto but my singing teacher told me that I was a soprano and took me to heights that I’d only previously dreamed of. I thought that maybe I could join a ‘proper’ choir and sing some classical stuff — if I could pick up the ‘tunes’ I could then follow the musical scores.

“I set my sights on the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus. Just before Christmas 2007 I turned up to one of their rehearsals and was hooked straight away. I came to rehearsals for about a month and then one day I put my name forward for an audition.

“I can remember waiting in the foyer for my turn and feeling so scared and thinking ‘who am I kidding’? As I was taken through the scales I calmed down a bit and then I had to sing two pieces from The Messiah which I knew already so that was OK. Then I was asked to do two small pieces of sight reading. One was about timing and one about melody. I stumbled my way through these and I knew I hadn’t got them totally correct, but I was told that I was in! I went home in a daze. I was actually a member of the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus.

“I have been in the Chorus for nearly a year now and my sight reading has improved tremendously. There are always good sight readers around you and that helps you pick up your line, timing and dynamics. I also try to learn the works by listening to recordings at home. Once I have the tune it is so much easier to follow the score. There are also rehearsal CDs available online and these are great because they ‘plonk out’ your own part on a piano so that you can learn it at your own pace and see how it fits in with the other parts. There are so many ways in which you can help yourself and the rewards far outweigh the hard work.

“Since I have been in the Chorus I have sung in two semi-choruses and even had a little solo which makes me feel like a very valued member even with all my shortcomings.

“The ‘buzz’ that you get from singing with a large Chorus with the likes of the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras is amazing and there are lots of social activities too.

“Basically, if I can do it anyone can, so don’t wait any longer, come along to one of our rehearsals on Tuesday night and have a go.”


The audition is as relaxed as such an event can be!

Auditions take place in front of our Music Director,   our accompanist and our Voice Coach, all of whom will be keen to put you at your ease. If it would make you more comfortable you may have a friend to “sit in” on your audition.

You will be asked to sing a  piece of your own choice – this can be anything you like, up to about 3 minutes long.  It should be accompanied, and our Accompanist will play the piano for you, so you need to provide the music. It doesn’t need to be a song with accompaniment – it could be one of the voice parts of an unaccompanied choral piece, in which case our accompanist will play the other three parts on the piano. We find that unaccompanied singing is not suitable for auditions.

After singing the piece of your choice,  our Vocal Coach will take you through some exercises to give us an idea of how your voice is now, and its potential for the future. This will include singing a few scales to determine the range of your voice. You can sing these to any vowel sound that you like. 

There is no sight-reading test, though we do expect you to have some music-reading ability.  We’ll talk to you about that in context of your previous musical experiences, including any choirs or ensembles you may have participated in. Anything relevant will be useful, whether from school, singing in a choir at church or playing an instrument – whatever you’ve been up to musically we will be keen to hear about it! We’ll also give you some simple aural tests to see how you pick things up by ear.

You will be given the outcome of your audition within 24 hours.  If you don’t pass, the reasons will be explained to you, along with suggestions about what could be improved so that a future audition may be more successful.

All Chorus members are re-auditioned every three years as a matter of course, but if you are less musically experienced or aren’t used to working on the style of music we often sing, we will ask to hear you again after you’ve sung with us for a year, when we’ll talk to you about pieces we’ve worked on and ask you to sing some extracts from them.  We occasionally run music technique classes, and we may recommend that you have a few one-to-one sessions with our Vocal Coach.

We understand that you may feel nervous about the audition, but remember that we are actively seeking new members, so are not wanting to catch people out or fail them. An audition is the normal way for a Music Director to assess your voice and to see if our Chorus is right for you. We try to make the audition fairly short and as relaxed as possible. At the end of the day, enthusiasm, a commitment to attend all or most of our rehearsals and to work on the music at home are as important as any sight-reading ability you may be fortunate to have – and we don’t test your sight-singing, as we know it can be a daunting hurdle even for those with great skill in that area. 

By passing an audition, the choir’s very high standards are maintained and you will hopefully enjoy singing with an excellent chorus!


Rehearsing with a very large choir can be exciting and exhilarating – but can be a bit daunting too, especially if you’re new to the experience! Here are some points to bear in mind:

  • You may be singing for the first time a piece that the choir are already familiar with. To some this will not be an issue but to many this can be a daunting experience which should not deter you — it is worth persevering! With practice at home, within a couple of weeks you’ll find yourself singing the piece around the house (often without realising!).Our music can be challenging and even our existing members find a new piece difficult at first.
  • You need to be familiar with music well enough to follow your voice part and to recognise the length of notes and the rhythm. You also need to be familiar with basic instructions and dynamics, e.g., cres, mf, etc., although less familiar terms are explained.
  • Experience in choral singing and an ability to sight-read will be a big help – though sight singing is not tested in auditions. Your skills in this area will improve over time with regular singing, and listening to the voices around you will help you tremendously. Do not worry if you feel that you are weak in this area as you can make up for it by practising at home – and you skills will improve over time. Discuss it at your audition and you will be advised accordingly. We provide links to websites that publish rehearsal tracks, and hold workshops to help people improve their technique.
  • If you’ve been trying us out, remember that you will need to audition before you are able to sing in concerts.
  • A high level of commitment is required because of the very high standard of performance we aim for. We expect members to commit to each of our planned concerts, and to attend every rehearsal, where possible. Of course anyone can fall ill or experience pressing family or work issues etc, but we tend not to allow members to sing in concerts if their attendance has fallen to unacceptable levels eg below 75%. Members must also attend the Conductor’s piano rehearsal and the orchestral rehearsal on the day of the concert. You will need to attend from 7pm to 9pm each Tuesday, and sometimes stay until 9.15pm.
  • On concert days members are usually required at the City Hall from 2pm for a two hour orchestral rehearsal, then again from 6.30pm until the end of the concert. When singing with the Halle, there is sometimes a compulsory rehearsal in Manchester on an evening of the week before the concert; coach transport is provided, paid for from Chorus funds.
  • Visiting other venues requires longer hours and rehearsals are occasionally conducted at these venues. Members are advised several months in advance of all rehearsals and concerts so that arrangements can be made. Travel to venues outside of Sheffield is provided, free of charge.

Rehearsal details

We rehearse on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9pm, from September through to July, at the Heeley Hall, Birkdale School, Sheffield, S10 3DH. Access is via either Endcliffe Crescent or Caxton Road.  There is disabled access using ramps from the entrance on Endcliffe Crescent. Follow this link to the school’s website.

Download a plan and map of Birkdale school Jan 2024

Commitment required

You will need to attend from 7pm to 9pm each Tuesday, and sometimes stay until 9.15pm. Our Music Director, Darius Battiwalla, expects a very high level of commitment, which is reflected in our Chorus Rules, which you’ll be sent if you decide to try us out. Members need to commit to all our planned concerts, and to attend every rehearsal where possible. Of course anyone can fall ill or experience pressing family or work issues etc, but we ask that all members try their very best to attend every rehearsal. Darius prefers full attendance even for people who are unable to sing in a particular concert, as it makes sure that all singers receive the benefit of the training provided on a weekly basis. We don’t allow members to sing in concerts if their attendance has fallen to unacceptable levels. Darius exercises some discretion in this respect, but not for attendances below 75%. Members must also attend the conductor’s piano rehearsal (usually the week before the concert, but sometimes the day before, and occasionally in Manchester) as well as the orchestral rehearsal on the day of the concert.

Access by car – there is no car parking on site; however there is plenty of street parking which is free after 6.30pm. Those with mobility issues can apply for a space in the small car park by arrangement.

Access on foot / by Bus –120 bus (every 15 mins but less frequent at 9pm) and 60 bus (every 60 mins) run near the school along Fulwood Road 5 mins walk away, see

Emergency evacuation – On hearing the fire alarm, vacate the building via the nearest exit. Assemble on the nearby street but away from the building. If you discover a fire, press the nearest alarm, which causes the emergency services to attend immediately.

Rehearsing for Mahler 2 on our mini tour with Markus Poschner and the Bruckner Orchester Linz, May 2018

Free Workshops for Men

Experience classical music from the inside! Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus offers a great opportunity to experience exciting music ‘from the inside’ alongside both professional musicians and a large number of other enthusiastic singers.

The Chorus frequently offers free workshops:

  • for all singers interested in trying out singing with the Chorus.
  • at our regular rehearsal venue: King Edward VII Upper School, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2PW.
  • led by an experienced tutor who will build confidence in preparing for audition including singing with others and dealing with rhythm and pitch.
  • from 6:30 until 6.55pm, after which participants will join the main rehearsal with the support of an experienced singer.

To check when our next workshops will be taking place and to book:

Interested or know someone who might be? Please get in touch!

Access by car – There are two vehicle access points from Newbould Lane and from Glossop Road. Car park space at the school is limited but on-street parking is available.

Access on foot / by Bus – There are numerous bus services stopping at the bus stops on the roads surrounding the school (Glossop Road, Newbould Lane and Clarkhouse Rd) and a lot of services. For details of bus routes, go

New Members

We always welcome new members, so if you share our passion and want to enjoy singing in a choir of very high calibre accompanied by some of Britain’s leading orchestras under the baton of internationally acclaimed conductors, find out more about how you can join us now! Check our Current Season to see what amazing music you could be singing with us!

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