How to be a choir leader Part 1: Why lead a choir?

This is the first of a series of articles that's going to take you step by step through the issues that you need to address when deciding whether, and how, to make the leap into the world of the professional choir leader.

One of the most powerful motivations that Christine and I had for starting Total Choir Resources was our feeling of gratitude at having found a way to make our living as choir leaders and leave behind our previous careers, an aspiration we know a lot of your share. However, whether you decide to make choir leading your main profession or whether you embark on it in addition to other work, these articles will help you start that journey as well prepared as possible.

Not all of the subjects I'm going to discuss will apply to everyone. For example, you might be looking to find an appointment with an existing choir rather than start your own group. However, all the posts will, I hope, contain helpful information and advice for even the most seasoned choir leaders, and I'd be very grateful if those of you who are already on your choir-leading journey take a moment to share your experiences in the comments. That way, our novice friends can benefit from hearing lots of voices.

So, let's make a start. Why lead a choir?

Choral singing has never been as popular as it is today. With mainstream television programmes like The Choir, Last Choir Standing, Glee and more recently Pitch Battle showcasing ensemble singing, and community rock and pop choirs springing up all over the place, the word 'choir' no longer conjures up images of fusty old choral societies churning out The Messiah for the thousandth time. Watch Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir singing Sleep on You Tube and marvel at how far the concept of group singing has developed in recent years.

Human beings love to make music together

It’s a primal way in which we create camaraderie and community. Perhaps everyone says this about their own particular interest or passion, but there really is nothing like singing with others to instill in us a sense of fellow-feeling. Think of sports crowds singing You’ll Never Walk Alone or Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Think of proud or defiant citizens singing their national anthem. Even something as basic as singing Happy Birthday with gusto to a loved one can give us a wonderful feeling of belonging.

Maybe you’re already singing in a choir, but want to have a go at leading or conducting. Maybe you crave a different repertoire or a greater musical challenge. Maybe you just want to get a group of like-minded people together and have fun singing your favourite songs. Whatever your motivation, one thing’s for sure: running a choir will be a life-changing experience, both for you and your singers.

So whether you set out to lead a choir or you have choir leading thrust upon you, I hope you'll find it as fulfilling and challenging as we do.

In part 2, we'll ask what sort of choir should you lead?
5 tried and tested ways to boost your choir audience
Does your choir need a code of conduct?

3 comments

Victoria Hopkins
Staff
 

I'm going to be covering a lot of issues about being a great choir leader in this series. I hope you enjoy it.
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Victoria Hopkins
Staff
 

Hi. Thanks for commenting. We've certainly thought about writing something about copyright. The only problem is that every jurisdiction is different and our audience is all over the world. We'll certainly consider it though, so thanks for the suggestion.
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Victoria Hopkins
Staff
 

Hi Stella. We deliberately don't tackle copyright and licensing issues on Total Choir Resources, firstly because it is, as you say, a very complicated subject and we're not media lawyers, and secondly because our audience is global and every jurisdiction is different. Having said that, I'm quite surprised that the stately home you refer to didn't have a performance licence. I would imagine that they would do functions, such as weddings, where music would be played and that they would be licenced. PRS for Music is a good place to get advice in the UK.
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