How to choose choir soloists without causing a complete meltdown – part two

This is the second of a two-part article inspired by a reader who contacted us asking about how to choose soloists for her choir. Last week, I looked at the process of auditioning soloists. This week, I want to address some tricky issues about how to handle expectations on the part of singers.

How do you manage someone who wants and feels they can sing a lead part, but are not really up for it in a public performance place?

This is perhaps one of the hardest things you will have to deal with as a choir leader. If you have run auditions, you will inevitably encounter singers who you have to turn down. Sometimes this will be because, although they are competent singers and performers, their voice just isn’t right for the part. Usually, when you explain this, the auditionee will accept this quite readily. You may also encounter singers who, although they make a lovely sound, just fall to pieces in an audition. Those people will also usually accept that they are not ready for a public performance. For them, the very act of auditioning will help them greatly and they may be able to work towards building their confidence to take on a lead part in the future.

A difficult situation arises when singers audition who are very keen and committed, but who simply won’t be soloists. The lesson I’ve learned about these singers is not to give them false hope. It’s horrible having to turn people down, and of course you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be tempting to say ‘not this time’ instead of ‘no’. That may spare the person’s feelings the first time, but it will encourage them to keep trying. If they get turned down over and over again, you won’t have done them any favours.

Whenever I run auditions, I take notes and I follow up with every auditionee. I email or speak to them, giving them honest feedback on how they did and how they can move forward with solo singing. I have learnt that this is the best thing to do. I am always respectful and make any criticism constructive, and I always try to offer solutions. It may be that some technical work will help develop them into a soloist or it may just be they are better suited to being in the chorus.

Aside from our choir work, Victoria and I offer a number of workshops focusing on techniques and performance skills. I also teach privately. This works well as it gives us an option to be able to help those singers who need developing. Perhaps you could consider these things or if not find someone locally who you can recommend to auditionees who want further guidance.

We’ve had some wonderful experiences working closely developing individual singers. With a boost of confidence and work on technical ability, they have flourished into fantastic solo performers.

When choosing soloists you will undoubtedly encounter situations where some agree and some disagree with your choices. If you’ve gone through the selection process and chosen a singer you know is right then it’s your job to support them, stay true to your decision and help them in any way you can to achieve fantastic results.

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