Embracing your choral competition
If you’re anything like me, the phrase ‘it’s business, not personal’ rarely applies when you’re referring to your choir. I run my choir because I love it and I put great care into the decisions I make and the choices of music. I feel privileged to be able to run a business that is my passion. Even now, I still feel a little overwhelmed at how many people choose to come and spend an evening a week singing at my command! For me, it’s business and personal all rolled into one.
Don’t doubt yourself
It is for that very reason that, back when I began my choir, I felt vulnerable and worried about the presence of other choirs in my local area. I was convinced that by the very next week all my members would have switched ‘teams’, leaving me alone waving my arms in an empty room. Of course I’m exaggerating a bit, but I do remember feeling insecure, and I hope that in this article I can give you some helpful advice that I’ve learned along the way about “the competition”.
When you are developing a choir and trying to find your feet, it can feel threatening to hear that another choir has started up down the road. Before a wave of negativity takes hold, consider that the existence of other choirs in your area shows that there’s a good demand for singing and music-making, which in turn is a great thing for your choir. Secondly, a little competition can help you to raise your game, to keep on top of things and not get complacent, which will make you a better leader.
Nearly eight years down the line, all the other choirs in my area are doing well. Turns out there are enough singers for all of us to thrive and, even better, if one choir doesn’t suit someone there are others down the road that might, so we all benefit from a local pool of enthusiastic singers.
Just be yourself
As a choir leader, you are unique and will have your own take on things. If you stay true to your style and character, those who enjoy it will stick with you and you’ll work together towards common goals. Hard though it can be to accept that you’re not universally approved of, there will be people who just don’t enjoy the way you run your choir or the music that you select. Eventually, they will probably find a different choir to be part of, and that’s fine. Just be yourself.
My next tip is to get to know other local choir leaders. You’ll be amazed at how they are just like you: passionate about music and their choir. In our area the choir leaders that we’ve made friends with are lovely and when we meet up at festivals and events we always have a good time. Being in touch also means that we can compare notes on repertoire (vital if we’re performing in events with other choirs) and get help and advice.
Building on relationships with other choir leaders can also lead to some exciting performance opportunities. These might include a large concert, a combined workshop day or a scratch sing event.
Our singers feed off our energy and that’s what keeps them coming back week after week to sing with us. Even if you have critical thoughts about the way another choir is run, keep them to yourself. You’re a professional, after all.