As your choir grows and develops, you may have the opportunity to stage a concert yourselves and be wholly in charge of its style and content. There can be significant benefits to choosing a theme that will tie all the content together. I’m not suggesting that every concert you do has to have a theme, indeed there’s nothing wrong with a variety show that is merely a collection of songs you and your choir love to perform. It can inspire repertoire choices, give your performance a well-rounded feel and give an audience an idea of what to expect. If you do decide to select a theme, here are some tips on how to approach it.
Make sure your theme sends the right message
Before choosing your theme, think carefully about what you are trying to achieve. Is your theme uplifting and hopeful? Is it refective? Is it upbeat and happy or a mixture of these things? Whatever you choose, the songs need to tie together in some way and send out the right message to your audience. We will shortly be embarking on a concert with our choirs to raise money for dementia awareness in our community. We have chosen the title ‘Somewhere Along The Road’. For us, this title is about the journey we take in life and that no matter what happens at the end of our lives, it’s the whole journey that makes us who we are. We decided from the start that we didn’t want the concert to feel morbid or upsetting and we wanted to celebrate life and give out a hopeful message. This tied in neatly with our chosen charity, which aims to improve life for dementia sufferers in their local communities. Our main message is about hope and celebration, but we also feel that it’s important to have an element of reflection.
Ensure there is enough scope for a whole programme
Once you have chosen a theme, you can start looking at repertoire. Think outside the box, not just at the obvious, as this will broaden your scope. Going back to our example, ‘Somewhere Along the Road’ could include repertoire in a more literal sense – travelling, going on a journey, transport (think of all those train, plane and car journey songs) or it could mean something at a particular point in time. In your first step of choosing the theme, you thought about the message and feel you want to convey to your audience. Similarly, when choosing the repertoire, keep in mind the balance of your message – how many songs will feel uplifting and hopeful, how many will be reflective? As a rule, I’d advise against a concert that is too reflective or sombre; no matter what theme or charity we have in mind we always want to entertain the audience. Unless they are expecting a serious and dramatic choral works, they will probably want some songs they can tap their feet to and that will make them smile. When choosing repertoire always look carefully at the lyrics to check that they are suitable and won’t disrespect or sound silly against any message or cause you are trying to support.
Balance slower pieces with upbeat numbers
When planning your programme, it is always a good idea to balance different styles of music. A first act with only upbeat, fast songs may leave the audience feeling a little giddy, whereas one made up of ballads may lead them to check their watch or worse nod off! A mix of the two is always advisable and is much more effective for conveying meaning. A heartfelt ballad in amongst some lighter, upbeat pieces can be very powerful. When planning your programme, think about the start and end of each act. What will grab your audience’s attention in the beginning and what will leave them wanting more at the end? Be wary of very long programmes, even if you have lots of good repertoire. It is far better to leave people wanting more than to keep them there all night! Finally, if you want to make absolutely sure you have a balanced running order, try recording and listening to the pieces in order to check that you like how they work together.
Explain your theme
Whether it’s on your poster or you have a compere to guide the audience through the show, make your theme clear. Lengthy explanations should be avoided as everyone is there for the singing but brief, well-worded comments will help support your show giving your audience an understanding of what you want to achieve. A snappy title is always a good idea and well-designed artwork for your poster, tickets and any other visual aspect (check out our easy graphic design tips here). If you are supporting a charity they may be able to provide you with information, stickers, badges etc which you can have on display.