Does your choir need a waiting list?

Running a successful choir is massively rewarding. Seeing new singers come though the door, particularly in the early stages of the choir, is a huge boost to your confidence as a choir leader. If you run your choir as a business, new members also mean increased revenue and stability. However, have you ever considered the ideal size of your choir both for you and your singers?  Here are five reasons to do just that.

Size matters

The dynamic of a choir changes depending on how many attend. A choir of thirty is relatively small and familiar as members will soon get to know each other. A choir of fifty is a different dynamic again. There is perhaps less overall familiarity but more energy and a bigger sound. A choir of 100 plus provides a gigantic wall of sound although members may only be familiar with those in their sections due to the volume of singers. There is no right or wrong type of choir but if you start as one type and change into another beware that some of your members may not like this dynamic change and could move on.

The venue

When thinking about capacity for your choir there is probably a fire regulation at your venue stating maximum numbers so make sure that you are aware of this. Aside from that think about the space, how many people can comfortably enjoy an evening singing in your choir? When I teach my choir, I am very comfortable with the average of 50 – 55 singers who come along and I think they are too. Occasionally this increases and I really notice the difference when numbers go above 60. There is more noise, it’s harder within the space to fit everyone in and I am much more tired after the rehearsal which I find less enjoyable. Of course, if you want to increase the size of your choir that’s fine but perhaps it’s worth considering a change of venue rather than shoe-horning everyone in. Don’t forget to do your sums though – a bigger venue probably means a bigger overhead.

Keep sections balanced

It’s a good idea to keep track of your members and how many singers are in each section. The danger of letting everyone join is that you can find yourself with too many on one part meaning that the overall balance of the choir is not right. Not only do we have a waiting list when the choir is at full capacity, but we also assess the sections which have more singers. For a long time we only accepted tenors as we had so many fewer of them than altos and sopranos. This has paid off as we now have a fairly even spread making the sound and harmonies so much more balanced. This in turn makes the choir experience more enjoyable and satisfying for the members.

Being exclusive can create excitement

Don’t panic about putting people on a waiting list. Being a popular choir will create a sense of exclusivity and will make existing members proud to have their place. People who hear about the choir and ask to go on the waiting list will know there’s something worth waiting for. Make sure you are honest with them about the possible waiting time and keep them posted. If you have their email address you can also let them know about upcoming performances and workshops which they may like to attend in the meantime. If you have a waiting list, make sure you keep on top of attendance for existing members. If someone hasn’t attended for a long time, drop them an email. They may have a genuine reason and want to return which is fine or they may just have left without telling you, in which case you can offer a place to someone else.

Don’t be afraid to say no

Saying “no” can be extremely hard when you run your own choir, you’re enthusiastic and want to encourage all singers. Remember your vision for the choir, you know what works and what needs to be done to make it the best it can be. If you get the right number, the right balance of singers and the right feel in your venue your choir will be a great success and people won’t mind waiting a little bit to join. Of course you always have the option to start another one!

Comments on Does your choir need a waiting list?

  1. Avatar Terry says:

    Our problem is the space where we perform . We have 65 members and not all of them come to our Spring performance. The stage will not hold any more. Our new musical director does not think we should limit numbers to 65. I think we seem to be more exclusive since we now have a waiting list. If this is our only problem I guess I can’t complain. We will see what happens in the fall when we start again.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Terry,
      That’s a tricky one and perhaps a sit down and chat with your musical director is needed to look at all the outcomes. It’s great to see your choir thrive but if there’s not adequate space in your local performance venues how will you manage that and what will the experience be like for your singers?

      A waiting list can have so many benefits. Of course another option is to start an additional choir.

      Good luck, like you say it’s not a terrible problem to have so many singers! However, it does need taken to consideration as to what will work best.

  2. Avatar Sara says:

    Have just reread this article having done some feedback with my choir about whether we’re getting too big. I’d welcome your advice.
    We are an all-welcome community choir with numbers now approaching 70. This relatively new phenomenon is getting a little cramped in our current venue and there are murmurings that we should now limit numbers.
    I am loathe to deter anyone from coming, and of course, numbers can fluctuate as people’s circumstances change. What to do?
    Not averse to possibly a new choir, but then how do I go about that all over again and risk dividing the choir?


    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Sara,

      I really feel for you on this and have been in this position myself. I think if you want to grow your choir and business past seventy members then you need to make that call and either create a new choir or hire a larger venue. If you decide to create a new choir, ask yourself will it be a carbon copy of the existing one or will it be different ie; different styles of music? My good friend Jamie Serafi successfully created his business with four choirs on four nights of the week. Each rehearsal covered the same repertoire meaning that if members missed a session they could come to any of the others that week. This also meant he could create great big concerts with all the singers coming together.

      If you decide to hire a bigger venue this will probably be more expensive but when you work out how many more members you could take on and what that revenue would be it should work in your favour. Of course not everyone wants to belong to a massive choir so think carefully about how big you are willing to let it become and what venues will fit you for performance.

      We all have different aims and aspirations for our choirs and there’s no right answer and as we know it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time. I think you need to make your choice but make sure it’s manageable and enjoyable for you and those singers who come along.

      I hope this helps
      All the best and do let us know what you decide and how you get on.

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