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Revisit and refresh repertoire to give your choir a boost

We all enjoy tackling new repertoire in our choirs, but it can be just as beneficial to revisit music that the choir has tackled before.

This week, my choir celebrates its seventh anniversary. I’ve chosen ‘seven songs for seven years’ to kick off the new season. These are all songs from our archive which we have performed over our time as a choir. Here are some benefits to revisiting repertoire.

New faces

It is likely that over time your choir will change and evolve. Singers leave and new ones join. It is unlikely that the whole choir will have been the same throughout its life. When you revisit repertoire, it will be brand new for some singers.

This is a lovely challenge for your new singers and a trip down memory lane for those who have been in the choir a while. The feedback I often get from singers is that they love revisiting songs they know, especially after long periods of new learning or at the end of a rehearsal. You can also encourage those who know the pieces to help newer members with the parts as you go through the learning process.

Development

Just as singers come and go from a choir over a period of time, so too the sound of the choir changes. When I started my choir, for a long time I had just three male singers, meaning my tenor parts could easily get lost in the mix.

Over the years I have built this up and now have around twenty male singers, making up a third of the choir. This has changed the balance of the sound greatly. Those earlier arrangements we worked on will now sound very different. Renewing past repertoire with new skills can be exciting and really show your singers how far they have come.

Balance

Revisiting repertoire can also offer you, as the choir leader, some flexibility. You might find a period of time when you are really busy juggling several things. Perhaps you don’t have much spare time for preparation or you’d like to enjoy your holiday for a couple of weeks without worrying about planning new repertoire for when you get back.

Mixing some past pieces into your plan can help to give you some breathing space. That said, be careful not to be complacent just because you have done something before. Make sure you allow some time to run through the parts and remind yourself of them or else you’ll end up feeling stressed and under-prepared at rehearsal.

Contrast

Visiting some old favourites can really help to lighten up rehearsals, particularly if you are working on a project focused on a specific choral work or style of music. When your choir is undertaking a period of focused learning, putting some alternative pieces into the rehearsal can really help to boost confidence and offer a different focus, if only for a short period. This can be much more effective than purely focusing on the new material for the entire rehearsal.

10 Responses to Revisit and refresh repertoire to give your choir a boost

  1. Gabrielle Johnson 13 January 2017 at 7:20 am #

    Thanks ladies. Great reminders. We often overlook past songs and I now have a couple in mind for 2017!

    • Christine Mulgrew 16 January 2017 at 10:03 am #

      Hi Gabrielle,

      Thanks for your message, really pleased the article helped and has given you some ideas. My choir loved our first session back last week visiting some old favourites.

  2. Valerie 13 January 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Thank you again for the great reminders and the new “Wake up Canon”. I have a large “seniors” choir and your ideas and support have been invaluable.
    Valerie

    • Christine Mulgrew 16 January 2017 at 10:04 am #

      Thanks Valerie

  3. Megan Mackney 13 January 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    20 men…20…I’d be happy with 5! Desperately trying to encourage more chaps…one left case he didn’t want to be in a choir with mostly women…:'(

    • Christine Mulgrew 16 January 2017 at 10:11 am #

      Hi Megan,

      I completely sympathise with how difficult it can be to entice men to stay in a choir when it is heavily balanced with women. For a long time I had just two or three male singers and those turning up would be put off by thinking it was a women’s choir. My breakthrough came when a group of men from the local golf course came along to give it a try all at the same time. With a bigger group of men in the choir it was then easier to recruit more men.

      Perhaps you could try a recruitment drive? Maybe visit some local places such as golf clubs, pubs or community centres with a leaflet or poster drop. You could even organise a workshop aimed at getting men to sing. At the same time ask your existing members if they know of anyone who may like to come along for a taster session. Good luck.

  4. Juanita 14 January 2017 at 12:49 am #

    Thank you once again Christine for your invaluable tips and support. I am entering into my third year as a choir leader and I still feel I have so much to learn! I am forever grateful to have found you both!

    • Christine Mulgrew 16 January 2017 at 10:13 am #

      Thanks Juanita,

      It’s lovely for us to hear your feedback. So glad you find the articles helpful and congraulations on your third year with your choir. I remember when you were just starting out and we were emailing, how time flies!

      All the best for 2017.

  5. Helen 16 January 2017 at 2:25 pm #

    Appropriately timed article as I’ve done just that this year – delved back into the filing cabinet and all the pieces chosen have been welcomed by the ladies in my choir! Thank you!

    • Christine Mulgrew 17 January 2017 at 10:20 am #

      Thanks Helen,

      I think it can be quite nostalgic to visit some old favourites. It gets singer’s thinking about when and where they last sang the songs in questions which is a nice trip down memory lane.

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