How to create solo opportunities for your choir

In this article I will be looking at how to create a variety of different opportunities within your concert for those singers who want to challenge themselves with a solo, duet or small group performance. Not only does this add an element of excitement amongst the choir, it also means you can offer your audience a more varied programme which is longer and offers the choir a break between songs.

I'm going to use an upcoming concert I am working towards as an example. This June my choir will take to the stage in our local community centre for a summer showcase concert. I have around 60 members in the choir who have a variety of singing experience, motivation for being in the choir and ambitions. For some it is merely a hobby where friendships are made and teamwork takes precedence, for others it is more serious and focused, they want to develop as singers and achieve excellent results. While as choir leader I am always looking to develop the choir, there is room for everyone regardless of their motivation. The key is undertsanding these different focuses people have and offering those who are keen to develop opportunities.

In the case of my concert I had to consider the limitations of time and what is reasonable to expect from my singers in terms of learning. We sing from memory and the choir is of an older demographic so it would seem unfair to expect them to learn too many songs which may make the experience less enjoyable for them. I have chosen ten songs for them, six of these songs they already know, with just four that are new. Whilst this will showcase the choir nicely, it doesn't give me enough material for a whole concert and would also mean the choir would be standing and singing throughout, which would prove demanding and difficult for some members.

Therefore I decided to create some other opportunities for members of the choir to take part in the concert aside from singing with the full choir. The first involved a series of three additional workshops for up to twenty members which we are running on three Saturday afternoons leading up to the performance. These workshops enable singers to experience a small group set up which is a step away from the safety of a large choir but not a solo which may be too scary a thought for some. In the sessions the singers learn an additional three numbers which they will perform. Having a smaller number means we can work closely together which fun and also allows participants to bond and support each other in creating the performance. As the number is smaller than the full choir we are also able to stage these songs with positions and a few actions where appropriate.

The second opportunity I have offered is a solo in one of the choir songs. It's the lead into the song and requires a strong, confident singer. For this I auditioned interested parties at the beginning of a rehearsal before the choir arrived. Each hopeful sang solo into the microphone as I needed to make sure they could confidently do this on their own if they wanted to lead the song on the stage.

Finally, I thought about the open mic style parties we have at Christmas time where choir members work hard on songs to perform either as solos, duets or small group numbers. Last year the standard was really high so I decided to offer up five places in the concert for these types of performances which would be chosen by audition. As the members work on the pieces themselves, they don't require additional time for me to organise which might be unachievable in the time frame otherwise.

So all in all my concert is now a good length, it has a varied programme showcasing the talent in the choir and I know that it has offered those members keen to progress their learning some additional opportunities.
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