Should your choir enter competitions?

"To compete or not to compete" is a question many choir leaders will ask themselves at some stage.  It is certainly a question we have asked ourselves at Total Voice and last year we dipped our toe into the competition arena with our Chamber Choir.  We canvased opinion and the overall majority said yes.  We entered a local talent show that was billed as being aimed at performers of all types and styles. Unfortunately, it turned out to be almost exclusively small girls with big voices (plus some dancing dogs - yes, really). Despite a rousing performance, we were just not cute enough. So there's our tip number one - take some time to research a competition that will be appropriate for your choir.

We've been much more reluctant to take the plunge with our contemporary choir.  We are conscious that this choir is a community group that's all about bringing local people together to sing and have fun.  We are worried that getting competitive might put some off and not really reflect what we're about.  So instead we've got ourselves involved in a kind of unofficial competition, joining in a project with five other local choirs to perform in a concert together later this year.  Each choir will have a fifteen minute slot and then all the choirs will come together at the end.  There will be no judging or prizes but no doubt each choir who will want to show off their talent to the others.  This is perfect for our contemporary choir as it will stretch us without piling on the pressure.

If you're thinking about taking the plunge, here are some pros and cons for you to consider:

Pros:
  • Competition creates an exciting event for members to look forward to and encourages them to do their very best.
  • It's a chance to meet other singers and see what other choirs do.
  • Doing well in competitions, particularly high profile ones, can lead to exciting performance and recording opportunities.
 

Cons:
  • Some of the larger competitions can require a high level of commitment for members which might not be practical.
  • Some competitions may place you against a variety of acts, not necessarily choirs, which may not offer the challenge you want.
  • Morale could be affected by poor competition performance.
We'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on choir competitions, perhaps you can persuade us to pursue them further with our choirs!
Choir Tech Know-How Part 4 - Understanding microphones
Become a better choir leader by combating perfectionism

3 comments

Victoria Hopkins Staff

Hi Jacqui. Thanks for that perspective. I can definitely appreciate your point, but I also know choirs who love to compete in festivals etc. I guess it's a good thing there are choirs of all sorts out there. Something for everyone.
Read more
Read less
Victoria Hopkins Staff

What a great question, Alison. I'm afraid I'm not the person to answer it; my choir doesn't compete. Hopefully, someone with some competition experience will offer an opinion.
Read more
Read less
Victoria Hopkins Staff

Hi Jojo. You raise an interesting point about getting permission from an arranger to drop a piano part. Of course, rules vary in different jurisdictions, but I can't help thinking that it would be unduly onerous to have to get permission from a composer/arranger to sing something a cappella where the score had a printed piano part which you decided to drop. To take that argument further, if you wanted to perform a piece where there was divisi in one part, and you decided to ignore that divisi because you were short of singers, would that require permission? I doubt it. And what about a situation where a score requires a tenor solo, but you don't have any tenors who can manage it, so you ask a soprano to do it. Would that require permission? I suppose what I'm asking is to what extent is a printed score prescriptive rather than directive? If I choose to depart from a metronome mark because the acoustic in which I'm performing needs a slightly slower tempo, am I creating a new arrangement? Of course not. But where is the line and how can your average community choir find out where that line is without resorting to expensive legal advice?
Read more
Read less