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How to Effectively Rehearse for Special Events

Feb 18 2015

We’ve recently had our Vision Sunday services across Hillsong Church globally!  It was such a significant weekend for our church, as our Senior Pastors Brian and Bobbie laid out the vision for our church in 2015. It’s so inspiring and we’re humbled to be able to contribute to it as a creative team!

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can watch the presentation here)

It’s one of the biggest Sunday services that we do throughout the year, in terms of the creative elements that our team is responsible for. And on top of the preparation and creation of each element, it means a LOT of rehearsals… (it took more than 3,600 man-hours of rehearsing to pull it off!)

So we thought we’d share some practical tips on how we rehearse for these big events! We asked Lyn Ollis to share her thoughts — she’s our creative events coordinator and is the rehearsal master!!!!

We also wanted to share some of the resources that we actually used to create the presentation, from early in the process to the final runsheets.

Download the creative brief, script, runsheets, sketches, rehearsal schedules, etc

I am a big advocate for a good, prepared, and thorough rehearsal – it’s necessary!

It’s where all the hard work of preparing for a creative presentation comes together and you get to see the outworking of it all. I firmly believe that nothing should be presented on a platform that hasn’t been dress rehearsed in full.

Here are 5 things to remember about running a good rehearsal:

1. Rehearse the Transitions

Don’t just rehearse the creative elements but rehearse the transitions into and out of them.

How will you set up for it, make set changes, place the cast, etc?

What does lighting do during this moment?

Do you require some kind of sound like a keys pad or is silence and anticipation needed?

Work out what is the most effective and least bumpy way to get into a presentation and out of it! The goal is to keep and build the momentum, not lose the pace of the service in a clunky transition!

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

2. Rehearsals are for everyone!

Often rehearsals can just be left to something the band needs to do on stage and we forget that rehearsals are for everyone – the whole creative team needs to rehearse for it to be a strong presentation – Lighting, Audio, Television, Stage Management — everyone needs to know the part they have to play within a presentation and have time to outwork it and rehearse it. A stage manager needs to rehearse stage transitions just as much as a vocalist needs to rehearse a song or a band needs to learn a piece.


Hillsong Church Rehearsal

3. Rehearse as you will do it!

Rehearsals need to involve everyone and everyone needs to give their full effort! I often find the presentations that don’t go the best are the ones where we didn’t cover every aspect in full within a rehearsal.

This can practically look like:

  • Vocals facing the congregation (not the band), and standing in the right position.
  • Film and media playback checks completed
  • Camera crews capturing live to screen
  • Tracks finished and posted
  • All cast in full costume…All cast on stage.  etc etc

That being said, we want to value our team’s time, so sometimes we will do rehearsals without certain aspects of our team, to save our volunteers’ time and to honour them. However, if thought isn’t given to it beforehand, when we present it live we can encounter little tricky bits that pop up during a presentation that simply weren’t noticed before because the whole aspect wasn’t being rehearsed.

For example if the choir wasn’t in rehearsal but now they are part of the presentation, they could be blocking critical lighting that’s meant to backlight the main cast. Even something as simple as the navigation and anticipation of what the live audience will bring to a piece should be determined and speculated upon within your rehearsal. I often say that I wish we could rehearse with an audience!!

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

4. Rehearse in Layers — block, semi-dress, tech, & full dress

Most creative presentations need to be broken down into parts and rehearsed separately and then brought together.

For something like Vision Sunday, we would go about rehearsing it like this:

  • Start with people rehearsing their parts separately i.e. orchestra, dance, vocals, and actors.
  • Then bring all the components together and block through where they enter, stand and exit and also what they do, so that the producers can see if how they imagine it to look like is working.
  •  The next step is to semi dress rehearse it, in costume and with props, set etc. where possible. (For conferences etc, up to this point all of these rehearsals have been done offsite, usually at our Hills Convention Centre).
  •  Once at the external venue (when applicable), we will do a tech rehearsal.  This is where we break down every technical component and work through it.  E.g. the flying of someone (with paper swirling around them), how to harness and unharness and at what speed they move; the movement of screens or set pieces and how long they take, safety measures, and cast on stage while things are moving; the movement of set pieces on and off stage and the best way to do it with the least distraction. The tech rehearsal brings together all the parts of the presentation that up to now have only existed on paper in our planning.

Once this is done we will dress rehearse it several times through (often the day and/or night before), and then once more on the day. Dress rehearsals include the transitions in and out of the presentation.

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

5. Rehearsals need adequate time

Before we even get to a rehearsal, a rehearsal schedule has to be written up. Adequate time is everything!  You don’t need to feel rushed to get it all done but you also don’t want to give it too much time and end up with people feeling like they have wasted their time. (Read more about Caring for Your Worship Team)

  • Think through all the aspects of a rehearsal and give time to what needs to be rehearsed. Even simple things like the band and vocals needing a soundcheck before you rehearse anything can put you up to 30 minutes behind if you haven’t allocated that as part of the rehearsal schedule.

If you are rehearsing multiple presentations/songs, try to schedule back-to-back the ones that involve the same band or same dancers or cast —  this saves you time (on having to re-soundcheck bands) and people’s time if they are required in a block instead of at the beginning of the day and then again in several hours hours time.

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

Putting on special and creative presentations is hard work!  They take time, preparation, collaboration, a lot of effort and a LOT of help from Jesus!  But it’s worth the effort, when it all comes together to help tell people the story of God in a new way.

And in case it helps you, you can download some of the resources we used to create our Vision Sunday presenation, and watch the actual presentation here!

Lyn Ollis
(Creative Events Coordinator)

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Hillsong Church Rehearsal

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

Hillsong Church Rehearsal

Hillsong Church Rehearsal