How to choose repertoire that suits your choir
Choir leaders are music lovers. When it comes to selecting repertoire, it can be very easy to get carried away. There’s nothing wrong with making ambitious choices, but the music you choose should suit your choir. Here are some questions to keep in mind.
What sort of choir do you lead?
Singers join a choir because they want to sing and enjoy themselves. If you run a community choir open to all abilities, then choosing a technically complicated piece could soon have people running for the hills! Similarly if you run an auditioned choir where all singers have a similar level of musical experience, then something too easy may bore them (never forgetting that simple doesn’t always equate to easy). Getting to know your choir and understand what works for them is crucial when selecting repertoire.
How much time do you have?
Consider the amount of rehearsal and preparation that music will take. Look at your schedule and performance dates. Do you have enough time to get your choir ready to perform so that they feel confident? Careful rehearsal planning is the best way forward. If time before the next performance is limited perhaps just select one or two new pieces and review some existing repertoire. That way, the choir gets a new challenge but doesn’t feel swamped.
Is the piece suitable?
Always look at the lyrics and consider the meaning of a piece before selecting it for your choir. Is it suitable for your choir’s demographic? Will the audience enjoy it? Pleasing everyone is an impossible task, but as you get to know your choir you will start to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Is your choir capable of singing it?
Another important aspect to consider is the vocal ranges in your choir. Does the piece provide a good challenge without being unrealistic? For example, a lot of early music (which was never intended to be sung by SATB choirs) is very high for the tenors, which might be a struggle for some choirs. We always want to look after our singers’ voices, and being realistic about what a choir is capable of singing is a good start.
We’ve created a great tool to help you work out if a piece of music has an appropriate range for your choir. You can download the Vocal Ranges Cheat Sheet here.
How does the piece fit in your performance programme?
Sometimes, you might be performing a single choral work, but you’ll probably just as often have several items in a performance programme. Try to make sure that there is variety and interest for each vocal part across a selection of music. Similarly, check that a single part isn’t going to be carrying the melody all the time, or singing at the extremes of their range for a whole concert.
With a bit of forethought, we can ensure that our choirs get the right mix of challenge and enjoyment that will keep them inspired throughout the season.