How to choose performance opportunities for your choir

The new year is a great time to evaluate and develop the opportunities you give to your choir. For many singers, performing is what motivates them. Having exciting, challenging and interesting gigs to look forward to can keep them enticed. Here are some top tips based on our experience.

Look at the whole picture

Taking stock of the past year is a good starting point for choosing opportunities for the year ahead. Make a note of all the performances you carried out last year and evaluate each one in terms of their success, their interest for members, how enjoyable they were and how much work was required of you to organise them. For example, turning up to perform at someone else’s event is less labour intensive than running your own show, but perhaps not as rewarding for your singers. Were performances spread out evenly or were some too close together? Be honest with yourself – what would you differently with the benefit of hindsight?

Decide on your main ‘hooks’

In any year it’s good to have a couple of ‘main attractions’ – events or performances that are super-exciting and important to the choir. Your main attractions might be a concert which you arrange yourselves to showcase your choir, a studio recording or perhaps a performance in a prestigious venue. Make sure you give yourself enough time to arrange and prepare for them properly.

Don’t rush decisions

In addition to making early plans about performance opportunities, you will probably also be approached with opportunities throughout the year. People who are planning events such as fairs and fetes often enquire as to whether our choirs might be available to provide some entertainment. This can be extremely flattering and you can find yourself wanting to say ‘yes’ straight away. However, unless the opportunity is unmissable, it’s probably a good idea to go away and think before giving your answer. Does the event fit comfortably in your calendar? Is there enough rehearsal time? Will the choir enjoy it? Better to delay a decision while you think the prospect through properly than agree to it and have to backtrack later. I am guilty of this myself. Last year I was approached about our community choir appearing at a fundraising gig. With minimal information, I jumped readily into it because the timing worked well for our programme. As the preparations unfolded, it turned out that the event wasn’t right for us at all. We were offered a very short performance slot, and as there was more than one performance, it meant that the choir was expected to show up on several occasions and do a lot of hanging around, all for a very brief sing. Also, the person who approached me was not the organiser, so all communication was going through a third party, making preparations difficult and sometimes frustrating.

Put yourself in your singers’ shoes

As choir leaders it’s important not to become too involved in our own experience. We have to think about performances from the perspective of our singers. Remember that they have other things going on in their lives and if your schedule becomes too demanding they might not be able to keep up. This is particularly important at busy times of the year such as summer and Christmas when people are going away or have more commitments than usual.

Also ask yourself how exciting your would find your performances if you were singing in the choir; what would make them special? What motivates your members? Is it performing with others, developing themselves as singers or developing confidence?

Follow your instincts

The bond you build with your choir is very special. Over time you get to understand each other; you know their strengths and the areas where improvement can be made. Take all this into account when you make your decisions. Yes it’s good to stretch your choir and challenge them but don’t pick a concert which you know is too much for them at present, unless you are confident you can offer them enough rehearsal time and support to get where they need to be. Similarly, doing the same gigs which they have mastered over and over again will not inspire them to strive for better results. Trust your instincts about your choir and be prepared to say ‘no’ if a performance opportunity is not the right fit.

Comments on How to choose performance opportunities for your choir

  1. Hi Christine and happy new year! Thanks for bringing this up now when we are thinking about the performance programme for the year.

    I (and the choir – as you say they often have a different perspective) had lots of good and bad performing experiences notched up.

    One I’d add which helps me making decisions is that there are a number of local charities choir members feel particularly loyal to e.g. Guide Dogs for the Blind and we have done carols in Sainsburys for three years now. So if we have an ongoing good relationship with a particular organisation that will influence my decision and I will tend to prioritise these events over new requests.

    I often take 10 or 15 people to an event which is the size of choir organisers often want due to space limitations. So I offer lots of events during the year but have different mix of choir members at each and I make it clear to members and keep reinforcing it that all performances are optional and they can pick and choose from the events I offer as to what they fancy and what suits their diaries. Often friends want to go together etc.

    I know I do too many events and this is wearing as these are mainly at weekends and affect my family life – my husband is long suffering. I have vowed in 2015 to be more selective but the benefits of the performances is that people see the “product” and in the last few months the choir has grown considerably (I had seven new people this week). New members say they have come along because they have seen us perform when they are attending an event – perhaps they see a friend who is the choir and think “well if she can do that, so can I” so being out in the community and seen brings benefits for the business as well as all the other benefits we know about for the choir itself.

    Best wishes, Maddie

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Maddie, happy new year to you too. Thanks for your comments following my article. I think we can all agree that finding the right balance can be really difficult, not only between home and work life but also with the numbers of performances for your choir and what type of performances they are.

      You make a great point about choosing events based on local charities which your choir love to support. This is great for morale and teambuilding and gives something positive to the community to which you belong. We too offer smaller events to our choirs throughout the year at old people’s homes or local garden centre etc, where we can’t always fit the whole choir but a smaller ensemble works perfectly.

      Getting a harmonious family / work balance is something which I plan to delve into with my writing shortly. With choir work often being in the evenings this can in many ways be a positive, for example if you have young children but not so good for relationships where it can feel like your partner gets home just as you go out. I don’t claim to have any magic answer but I will look at how we can achieve more balance in our work and family lives.

      Finally I do hope you will enjoy our podcast this week which looks further at developing a programme of events for your choir.

      All the best

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