Over time, as you and your choir develop and gain performance experience, it can be easy to slip into a ‘tried and tested’ routine. Annual events where you perform a similar set each year can almost start to dictate what’s expected from you. It’s human nature to enjoy the ‘comfort zone’ and, of course, it’s great to be able to create reliably good performances.
However, every now and then it’s good to challenge your singers to something new, which stretches and develops their ability. If we stand still too long things can become tiresome, repetitive and un-challenging. Sooner or later this feeling of comfort may turn to boredom, both for your singers and for you as choir leader. I’m not suggesting this change has to be as dramatic as swapping from classical repertoire to punk rock or vice versa, but giving your singers a fresh challenge can really add an energy to your rehearsals.
In order to work out what your new challenge could be, it’s important first to look back and ask yourself some questions. What have you been doing over the past few months? Have your performances been at varied venues or do you use the same venue? How much repertoire have you covered? How easily have the choir learnt the repertoire? Looking for patterns and assessing what’s worked and what hasn’t is a great way of identifying how you can move forward.
Ask the choir
You could also involve the choir with a short questionnaire asking simple things: What has been your favourite performance this year? Which were your favourite and least favourite songs? What would be your dream project or performance? All this information can help you to assess where the choir is at and how they can move forward and develop gaining a variety of new experiences.
Dare to do something different
To give my own example, this term my choir are embarking on a recording project which will give them the recording experience, plus a CD each to keep. In organising this, I am offering something other than a performance for an audience of which we have done many this year in our village. A recording means we need to work more closely on the technical side of the singing with timing, diction and blend being especially important. Focusing on these skills will also benefit our subsequent performances.
Don’t be put off
Of course with any new project or change you are bound to meet some resistance, but if your plan has been carefully thought through with the development and longevity of your choir in mind, then you can be certain you’re on the right track. Think about the language you use to explain the new project to your choir and be positive and excited, avoiding words such as ‘harder’ or ‘challenging’. Leading a choir is a journey, some things work better than others but great journeys are different each day.