How to be a choir leader in your spare time

If you’re leading a choir, it’s quite likely that it isn’t your only job. You may have a ‘day job’, be bringing up a family or dealing with any number of other commitments. Spare time can feel like a fantasy as you frantically try to juggle your weekly activities. However, with a little planning, running your choir can be a motivating and pleasureable activity which can really enhance your life. Here are my suggestions for strategies to take it all in your stride.

Get organised

It sounds obvious but a little organisation can go a long way when you’re running a choir in your spare time. Any activity which is not necessarily your main focus can suffer from the distraction of other activities or the dreaded procrastination! To overcome this get the basics in place. Map out the months ahead rather than stumble into each performance. As much as possible, know where and when you will perform. That way you can plan what you need to do and when, and stay ahead of the game to avoid last minute panics.

Choose repertoire

Don’t leave choosing repertoire to the last minute. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you make a choice in a rush, only to realise a piece won’t necessarily work for your choir as you had anticipated. The process will be easier and quicker if you do it early, so you can choose pieces in a relaxed and level-headed way and have time to become familiar with them before you teach them to your choir. If you are ordering scores, make sure it is done well in advance just incase something is unavailable or out of print and you need to re-think your options.

Have a dedicated choir work space

Not everyone is fortunate to have a separate office at home where you can shut the rest of the world out to concentrate on your choir. If you do, that’s great, but if not, try to arrange yourself a space and time within your home where you can get some peace and quiet to focus. Perhaps you can compromise – you get some time to work and in return you then do an activity with the family. Using a project planning programme such as Asana can really help to make sure you know what needs doing and when. This enables you to divide your workload into manageable sections rather than being overwhelmed, thinking you need to achieve everything all at once when you get a moment to work.

Keep your musical spark alive

To lead your choir effectively, you need to motivate and inspire your singers. However busy life gets, try to take time for your musical passion. Listen to music you love when you can, whether that’s in the car, while exercising or even when you’re doing chores around the house. If you feel inspired, you will inspire others. The most important thing is that your choir gets to experience the best of your choir-leading, the best of your spirit and none of your stress!

Boost your skills

Working as a choir leader can sometimes feel a little lonely and isolating. Take advantage of everything on offer at Total Choir Resources. We designed this website to be a mine of help and support for choir leaders. You’ll find new articles, podcasts and resources every week. Even better, tell us what we can do to help you. Continual learning can really boost your self-esteem and your ability to stay motivated and organised.

Comments on How to be a choir leader in your spare time

  1. Avatar Beatrice says:

    Hello Lynn, Victoria is totally right – the communication between the conductor, organist and singers. It’s very important to have all the songs chosen in advance of each Sunday service and it should be agreed together with the organist including what key the songs should be sung. If your choir sing in 2 or 3 parts than the keys needs to be selected with this in mind so all can sing comfortably in their range. The organist and conductor must be 100% well organised between each other and have everything agreed and prepared in advance, so when you come to your rehearsal you know what you’re doing and the organist is supporting you. The organist can’t just pick any key not taking the singers into consideration as it all should be a cooperation and working towards the same goal – a nice singing during the church service.

  2. Avatar Lynn says:

    I have been directing the choir for nearly 20 years, now I am out of my comfort zone and directing a choir that is very outspoken and can be disrespectable because of musician have left due to lack of payment or the leadership in the church did not project postivity support of the ministerial staff. Now my son has taken on the task of being interim organist and he is only be compensated for his lack of experience which he is self taught and no training only play by ear but he plays in a key that is comfortable for him and sometime it throws of the choir and congregation during morning service. Sometime no all the time we clash over what to rehearse and than the members are upset because it seems as if we are not working on the same side. Please advise how we can better prepare the choir during rehearsals but on Sunday morning it is only the spirit of the LORD that works a miracle through the choir members voices. Please advise me what I need to do to be professional, well prepared and ready to sing praises to GOD will the choir.
    Miserable Directess

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Lynn. Christine and I run secular choirs, so I’m afraid we’re not the people to ask about church-related things. From what you describe, it sounds as though there’s a big clash of expectations between you, your organist, the choir and the congregation. If I were you, I would encourage as much communication as possible to find out what’s troubling people and to work out ways, in friendship and compromise, to improve things for everyone in the community.

      Perhaps someone else reading this article may be able to offer some help particularly from a church choir point of view.

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