How to build a choir community
Belonging to a choir gives our singers so much more than the opportunity to make music. It’s a chance to meet new friends, feel a sense of belonging, relax and leave any worries at the door for a couple of hours a week. It’s a very rewarding part of your job as a leader when you see your choir playing such a significant role in people’s lives. It also makes the job more enjoyable when you feel that sense of connection with a group. But how do you create this community in the first place and how vital is it to the success of your choir? Here are tips for good choir cohesion.
Take the time to be welcoming and sociable yourself. Arrive at rehearsals early enough to greet your singers and have a brief chat. Even if you’re not involved in managing the choir that you lead, you need to know your singers and understand their motivations and preferences. Endeavour to learn people’s names and use their name when addressing them to show that you know and value them. Remembering names is a real challenge for some people, but it’s important to find a method that works for you.
Take a break
Not only does this give you a few moments to relax, it also enables your choir members to socialise and catch up on news. This might seem quite trivial, but it’s important for your singers to feel that they belong. Imagine a new singer joining the choir for the first time and knowing no one. How will they integrate and make new friends if there’s no time to talk to anyone? As well as promoting a sociable choir, allowing time for a break also makes it easier for you to insist on quiet during the rehearsal.
It’s human nature to seek out the familiar and comfortable. This often leads choir members to sit in the same place each week, next to the same people. This is entirely understandable, but can lead to complacency and can also be intimidating for new singers. You can help people get to know each other a bit better by mixing them up, either for a warm-up or during the rehearsal. Allow them a few moments to introduce themselves to their new neighbours. The change will help your singers musically as well as socially as they hear different voices around them.
Arrange social events for the choir in addition to performances. We generally hold summer and Christmas events, bringing both of our choirs together. Although the organisation can be time-consuming, we think it’s well worth it when we see everyone enjoying themselves. There are many different options you can choose depending on the size of your choir. We usually like to involve family and friends too. We have done everything from formal dinners with a live band to summer picnics and open mic nights. If social organisation really isn’t your thing, you could ask a group of choir members to get together and plan an event, or you could simply pick a date and invite everyone to meet at a certain bar/pub/cafe. Whatever kind of social event you favour, we suggest canvassing opinion from the choir in advance. There’s no point in going to a huge amount of trouble organising something that your choir members don’t want to attend.
All these tips help to create a sense of community and belonging for your choir, which will naturally lead to a more enjoyable experience for them and better rehearsals and performances for you. When singers enjoy their choir experience and feel valued, they’re much more likely to make a long term commitment and attract others to the choir too.