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Let's talk choir formations

Choirs come in all shapes and sizes.  They could include a handful of voices or a hundred, comprise men, women, children. Pretty much any choir you can imagine exists and they all have one thing in common. They make music and they want that music to be heard. And that leads us to the subject of choir formation - in what order should the singers in a choir stand to make the best sound?

Any decision on choir formation, whether for rehearsal or performance, is going to be based on several criteria…

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Quick pre-performance warm-ups for community choirs

Picture the scene. The audience is filing in; anticipation is in the air. You have all your singers gathered, they look to you to prepare them for a fantastic performance. What do you do? In the early days of running my choir I might have said 'run away', but over time I've learnt to love this part of the process: the adrenalin, excitement and the realisation of our hard work. Here are some quick tips to lead your choir at this critical point and take them into the performance with confidence an…

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How to avoid Christmas choral burnout!

Christmas comes but once a year, which, if your choir is as busy as ours, is probably a good thing. The choral calendar can be a bit full-on at this time of year. In between frantically rehearsing and performing carols and other festive music, I thought I'd jot down a couple of ideas about surviving the season as a choir leader, and as a choral singer. Let's look at two areas - repertoire and voice.

Christmas repertoire

A busy festive choral programme can mean a lot of repetition. How can we app…

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How to handle difficult people and retain your inner calm

In this article, I want to turn to the difficult subject of difficult people. As a caveat before we go any further, I should say that that term is a shorthand. Most people aren't 'difficult' by nature, and if they are, it may be beyond their control or for a perfectly understandable reason.

Part of the skill of leading and managing choirs is learning to handle many different characters who often have competing, even conflicting, wants and needs. Firstly, let's look at a few of the tricky types I'…

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The importance of taking a break from your choir

We all need a holiday from time to time, but taking a break from running your choir can be one of the hardest things to do. When I was starting out, I used to work straight through the year, barely taking any time off, but I learned that that wasn't doing me, or my choir, any favours.

Breaks benefit your effectiveness as a choir leader

Perhaps the most significant effect I found from not taking a break was on my own drive and enthusiasm. I love leading my choir and enjoy everything that goes wit…

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When your choir doesn't 'get' warm-ups

In your work as a choir leader, you may have come across singers who just don't 'get' the point of warm-ups. You'll see them skulking at the back of the choir, mumbling their way through the exercises you've carefully chosen for a rehearsal. If you get the chance to chat to these people, they'll say things like 'isn't singing itself enough of a warm-up?', or 'I don't warm up before I speak, why should I warm up before I sing?'.

So to help you to be primed and ready with excellent responses to suc…

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Top 5 things to consider when choosing repertoire for your community choir

Choosing repertoire for your community choir can be extremely rewarding. You select songs which you know will inspire and create great enjoyment for your singers. We can't necessarily get it right all of the time but if you consider these top five tips you'll be well on the way.

Consider your event/performance

You may have the best idea for a song in the world but, before taking the plunge, it's worth considering the event for which you will use it. Is the song appropriate? Does your next event …

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Beyond notes & lyrics: focusing on dynamics with your choir

Some time ago after working on a new piece, I listened to my choir sing through it. Having grasped some tricky timing and rhythms they were pleased as punch with it and sang the whole thing at the top of their voices. While they had delivered the song correctly in terms of lyrics, tune and timing, it made me realise just how important dynamics are for a polished performance. I asked them what they thought of their rendition. They instantly identified that the whole song had been loud because the…

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4 top tips for working with scores in your choir

Giving your choir printed scores from which to learn has distinct advantages over teaching by ear, not least that the choir can read the music in front of them and save a lot of time in rehearsal. However, there are challenges as well, the most obvious being that the choir can be tempted to look at the score instead of you! Here are some tips for working with scores and still getting the best from your singers.

Put the scores down regularly

When we use a score, most of us learn new music through…

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3 ways to handle instrumentals in your choir's backing tracks

If you regularly use backing tracks with your choir, you'll already know that there are many benefits. There is a wide range to choose from, covering decades of contemporary music. They are easy to access online and are very cost effective.

A live band is great, but there are costs involved and you need to ensure your performance space is big enough for a band and a choir. Backing tracks are convenient, particularly if you are performing out and about at events and you still want a full sound.

Tha…

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