(Note: The following article by Paul Forster was posted to the Boychoirmaster forum and is posted here with permission.)
It would indeed be valuable for those of us, who come under the heading of 'veteran', to impart some strategies, which may head off crises during rehearsals. While there is no substitute for experience, there are nevertheless telltale signs, or indicators that trouble is brewing. So I would offer one or two hints, which may be of assistance:-
1. Read the general mood of the boys just prior to the start of rehearsal. Look out for any boys, who look as if they are somewhat stressed. The expression on the face and the body language associated with the act of entering the rehearsal room can often be enough. I have found that a quiet word of reassurance, or even asking that boy to go to the office and collect a piece of music, can alleviate such feelings, as it shows that his predicament has been noted, and positively acted upon. Knowing the boy concerned will help determine a course of action, which may well amount to doing nothing about it.
2. The boy who enters the rehearsal room late will, by that very act, be under some stress. I find that there is no need to make an issue out of it, as, quite often, it is not his fault. The traffic was bad, there was an accident on the way to choir, Mum or Dad was late home from work, etc. I find the best approach is to give the impression that his entrance has not been noticed, and to let him go to his place.
3. A rise in the noise level at some stage during the rehearsal indicates that the boys are getting bored. This may occur after a concentrated effort on a piece of some difficulty. Our mid-week rehearsal is mainly one, in which short, sharp bursts are given on a variety of works. Only certain pages or even bars are dealt with. This goes a considerable way to address that situation.
4. Games can be useful. e.g. Boys are asked to open up the music where the second sopranos sing this phrase... and play the phrase. Deliberately play a section wrongly, either through melody or rhythm, and let a boy indicate the error. It may well be a part, which has proved difficult to learn. Or - which phrase in this piece starts on this note and ends on this one... Or - put some words to this phrase. Of course there will be the singers, who are very quick, and will want to answer first. If time, make a team game, which may be a music quiz, so that all boys may be brought into it.
These are just a few activities, which may prove useful to directors. When conducted properly, they certainly take care of any discipline problems.
--Paul Forster, Victorian Boys' Choir, Australia