As choir leaders, we know only too well that there is much more to our role than choosing repertoire and conducting rehearsals and performances. To keep a choir running smoothly and efficiently, clear communication is essential. Here are five top tips to check you’re on the right track:
1. Be consistent
You can’t expect your members to guess details of performances or hear it from their neighbour at choir. Decide how you will communicate with the choir and stick to that system as your main method of imparting information. You could make an announcement during rehearsals then follow-up by email. The key is to make sure that your choir members know what to expect. If you don’t favour electronic communication for some reason, you could hand our a regular printed newsletter. We choose not to do this mainly because it is more labour intensive, but it might be just the thing for you if you don’t have a website or if your members aren’t particularly computer users.
2. Think about tone
As most of us have discovered to our cost at some point, it’s very easy to get the tone of written communications wrong. When putting together any information for your choir always consider the message you are trying to get across and how to say it in the clearest possible way. Always keep things positive, whether you are announcing concert details or emailing singers following a performance. Try not to be too bossy but do lay details out in a simple structured manner, so that there is no confusion as to what you mean. It hardly needs saying, but never criticise your choir before or after a performance about areas you think need work.
3. Get feedback
As choir leaders it’s really important to know and understand what your members think. This can be quite hard as we often naturally assume it will all be bad! However, knowing what they think is essential to the future of your choir. It is equally important to know what they love as it is to know what they don’t. Asking at rehearsals is not a great idea as you don’t want to be put on the spot and neither do your choir. In our experience its much better to do a very short questionnaire (no more than three quick tick questions) with a comments box for those who want to elaborate. People can choose to be anonymous or not and don’t feel any pressure this way. If you have a website another option is to do an online poll. Try not to feel defeated by negative comments. Look for ways to improve or compromise or if those comments are about things it’s not possible or ideal to change, explain why. A happy choir is one that’s valued and listened to, but always remember you are in charge and need to make the end decisions.
4. Get input
I think its fair to say that as part of a choir you will sometimes have to sing repertoire which is not to your taste, although from personal experience sometimes the music I don’t know or I’m unsure about ends up being my favourite. Don’t let groans about repertoire get to you. As a choir leader if I hear this I sometimes make a joke and quickly get on with the piece, moving away from any negativity. I quickly learnt running a choir of over sixty members that you cannot please everybody all the time. No one’s going to leave because they don’t like one of the songs. Make your choices and stick by them. However, I do think it’s very important to give your choir a say on song choices. We do this with a dedicated page on our website where suggestions can be posted. We also sometimes run competitions where we ask for a song choice for a performance and the winner helps us arrange it. This still leaves you in control of repertoire as not all suggestions may be suitable but it shows a willingness to consult your choir and gives you an insight into the type of music they’d like to sing.
5. Stay on course
During rehearsals, it is likely that you will get asked questions. It is important to acknowledge these questions, but at the same time not to let them slow down the pace of learning. I have found that spending too much time answering queries can lead to lots more queries, and before you know it lots of hands are up, everyone’s chatting and the whole rehearsal has been de-railed. It is essential to always be diplomatic and polite. If someone is continually interrupting with queries, particularly if they are personal to that singer rather than to the group as a whole, it is best to acknowledge their points as valid and ask them to come and chat with you at the break or after rehearsal so that you can go through things with them.
How do you communicate with your choir? Are there any areas you think need improvement? We’re always happy to help, so get in touch in the comments or by email.