Q&A: Behind the scenes of Cabaret Night

Choir director Lisa Lopez discusses the preparations and expectations for all choirs’ annual Cabaret Night performance.

Q: Compared to other performances that choir has throughout the year, Cabaret Night is more casual with more of a personal kind of feel to it. Is there a purpose why choir added this performance?

A: Our booster parents who run the event like having this casual event because they can take pictures. They just feel like they’re closer up, and they like the less formal nature of it. It’s a good warm up for the boosters to figure out seating and ticketing and all that stuff, and it’s just nice for the kids to not have that kind of pressure because we’re only a few weeks into the school year.
This is also where [some choirs] are just learning the very basics. They learn how to get on risers, they learn how to walk and some of the choirs are just starting to sing in parts. After this concert, everything gets way easier. For some of the kids, it’s the first time they’ve ever sung. For some of the other groups, it’s the first time they’ve sung together. So it’s just a very early performance. We’re doing very big fundamentals right now. So we’re just putting it on the stage for the first time.

Q: What should the audience expect from cabaret night?

A: They should expect to have fun. These are all very light songs; there’s nothing very classical or folk about any of the songs. These are all tunes that they should’ve heard before or will like once they hear it. Each group sings two songs, and there’s some solos. They should have a lot of fun with the choirs.

What’s different from other years [is that] we’ve got some solos that are really deep. These kids came in as solo auditions, prepared like they were going to a musical theater audition. We’ve got a couple of solos that are just incredible. They’re a little bit emotional. They say each choir has a laugh, a tear and a ‘chills’ one. It’s a good combo. It’s got a laugh in it, possibly a tear and possibly a ‘chills’. I think we actually have all of that.
[The solos] are at a level that I think is even higher than usual and we have a really competitive audition, so there were some good kids who didn’t get solos in this and they were just really prepared and really strong.

Q: Do you personally have any hopes or expectations from cabaret night?

A: I’d just like it to go smoothly. For me, all I hope is that it will go smoothly and the kids take a good experience from it because it sets a tone for the rest of the year. There are a lot of kids in the younger choir that joined because their Grade Level Coordinator told them to. We want to make the performance experience as smooth as possible. Basically for me, I’m happy if it goes smoothly and if we can get through with it with everybody having a good time. You want [the choirs] to perform really well but at the same time, it’s about them having a good time or they’re not going to come back and their parents are not going to come back. It’s not some heavy duty competition. It’s about bonding with our families: the kids bonding, the parents seeing the kids. Some of the parents are going to see the kids performing for the first time. We have some soloists that have never done a solo before, and parents and friends are going to be really impressed.

Q: Are there any concerns about the concert?

A: No, but stuff always happens. Sound problems can happen, kids get sick the day of. I’ve had my strongest soloist get sick the day of the concert. Today we [couldn’t] find the mixer, so we have no sound system right now.  So that’s a pretty big deal. We don’t know [about the stolen mixer] yet, so that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I’m hoping that’s the worst thing that can happen. Sometimes, I’ve had kids get hurt right before. For the most part, we rehearse it so much, we rehearse the parts a million times, so there’s not really a lot of surprises. I don’t leave a lot up to chance. You just hope that the kids do as good as they can do and that they have a good time doing it.

Q: Because this is the first concert for some choir kids, are there any procedures that the choirs go through before the concert to calm them down?

A: Before the concert, we go through the entire [performance] in front of the other kids. All the choirs sit and watch the warmup. I think that’s more nerve-wracking than being in front of the audience with parents and stuff. We give them that chance to perform in front of their peers to hopefully take some of the nerves away from the actual concert. You can’t really take it all away, kids are going to be nervous.

I try to not look nervous, I try to let [the choirs] know if they make a mistake, make it loud. If you make a mistake, make it loud and be proud. I let them know that mistakes will happen. You should expect a mistake to happen, it will, and that’s human. They’re definitely going to be nervous, and even my older kids are going to be nervous, for some reason, they might be nervous because there’s a boyfriend or girlfriend that might be there or it’s their first time representing the older choir. Everybody’s going to be nervous but you just try to let them know that you just got to get through it.

Q: Do you have any advice for the choir members?

A: Try to fake it to look like you’re having a good time. The audience wants to have a good time and the more calm [the choir looks], the more their audience will feel good. There’s no really getting over the nerves, you just have to do it. I don’t really have any tried and true things, just letting them know that they’re human and they’re going to make a mistake. If they’re thinking about the message of the song like ‘What is the song saying?’, that’s a way that makes them less nervous. One of the songs is “Count On Me,” so if you’re thinking, ‘I want this person to know they are my friend and I’m here for them and I’m really trying to get this message across’, that will make you less nervous.

Compiled by Joy Wang, Arts editor and Coverage editor-in-chief
Photo by Annika Le