How to handle singers leaving your choir

If you run a choir for any length of time, you will inevitably have to handle someone leaving. It can be really hard not to take this personally, particularly when you know how much work, passion and effort goes in to making your choir a fantastic experience for its members. Here are my top tips for how to deal with this situation.

Don’t shy away

Most people will let you know if they are leaving your choir, some may just disappear (this is more likely to happen in a large choir). Although it can be easy just to accept their resignation and dig no deeper, it’s important that you not only thank them for their membership but also that you get an idea of why they are leaving. For the most part this will probably be absolutely nothing to do with you or the choir and they will offer the information anyway. Outside responsibilities with family or work may have to take precedence, perhaps they are moving away from the area. However, it could be that they simply no longer enjoy taking part for whatever reason. Not everyone will offer a truthful reason, perhaps for fear of upsetting you. You can’t always know why someone doesn’t want to be in the choir anymore.

Accept that things change

When a choir member leaves, it’s important that you try to see things from their point of view and not just your own. Most singers join a choir voluntarily because they think it will be fun and fulfilling. Think about the hobbies you have enjoyed; do you do the same thing for years on end or try new things? Sometimes it may be people have greatly enjoyed singing with you but they just want to try something else for a while. Leisure time is precious and not everyone who joins you will want to stay indefinitely. I have several singers who have left my choir to try other ventures who have then ended up recommending the choir to others and I’ve gained new members from that.

Learn to enjoy change

I think a great joy of running a choir over a period of years is that you see it evolve. You have some members who continue to come year after year and others who come and go. I love meeting all these singers and hearing how the choir develops and changes over time. For me, it keeps things interesting. When someone lets you know they are leaving, always try to be positive and avoid burning bridges. There is absolutely no benefit to getting defensive or angry towards them. Indeed, such behaviour can have a very negative affect on your reputation.

Whether you have a business partner like I do, or you run a choir alone, it’s important to have someone you can discuss things with when you need to; someone who isn’t in the choir. If someone leaving has upset you, discussing it with a friend or family member can really help you get things off your chest and perhaps see the departure from a different perspective so that you can move on in a positive manner. And, of course, you can always contact us here at Total Choir Resources.

Comments on How to handle singers leaving your choir

  1. Avatar Matthews says:

    I’m at the verge of kicking a few people out of the choir because they simply lack desire and seriousness, please how do I convince them to engage in personal development exercises?

  2. Avatar Pauline says:

    Reading your encouraging words about choir members leaving the choir has made me feel so much better. I get really cross with myself for getting upset but I can’t help it. We have a concert in 3 weeks time and one of my sopranos (who hasn’t been attending regular rehearsals) has had a moan to other people not me, that the music is far too difficult and boring! oh dear!
    I shall just accept it. 😀

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Pauline, thanks for your message and I’m so pleased our article encouraged you to look differently at members leaving the choir. I feel for you with your current situation, it’s not nice to hear people are moaning to others. What I would say is it’s quite possible that either the choir is no longer the right fit for this person or that they are just feeling overwhelmed having not attended by the learning required for the upcoming performance. I had to accept to myself long ago that with a large choir I can’t please everyone all the time but as long as I’ve made carefully thought out repertoire choices then everything will be fine. Good luck for your concert, it will be fantastic. :)

  3. How do I help my nervous singers release their singing potentials?

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Esther. Wow, that’s a big topic, and bit beyond what we can cover in blog comments. You’ll find lots of useful articles and podcasts on rehearsal technique and on confidence. Just use the search box on the blog page. If I were you, I would focus on relaxation. The more tense your singers are, the more nervous they’ll be about singing out.

      1. Avatar Olowo Esther says:

        Thank you

  4. Avatar Richie says:

    I am in a church choir and one of the reasons i joined was because i love music and i wanted to be part of the beauty in making music.Disorganization kicked in and there was so much time wasted during practice and chitter chatter from some members just would not stop and that issue was never brought to their attention.During mass time there was guitar tuning during the actual service,Some songs were replaced at the last minute and when the choir director wanted to lead, Some other members would suggest to him to replace songs right at the very last minute.Veryyyyyy stressfullllllll for me. Thank

  5. Avatar Andrea E Herrera says:

    I get this all the time. They don’t like the extra hours, they don’t like the work. They think a choir rehearsal will be just a “get together” time, and dont like the thought that choir practice is hard work . Others leave because they say their husbands don’t like them at so many rehearsals. Until you’re a musician, you don’t understand how much work a musical ensemble is and how much time is needed to make beautiful sounds.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for your comments. I think striking a balance for our singers is always a challenge. As choir leaders we know how much work is required to get repertoire ready for performance and it can be frustrating if we feel our singers aren’t taking it seriously. I always try to remember that in my community choir the singers are there for their enjoyment / hobby (of course in other choir settings this may be different such as a professional choir). They love to perform but don’t necessarily want to be doing so every weekend. I try and pick and choose events thinking about how much I will require from them and what is achievable. That said if you have singers coming along who are just there for a get together or chat then that’s not ideal and may start to annoy those who are there to really learn and develop their singing. Ultimately, I think it is those who share your ethos who will end up sticking with you. Good luck with your ventures.

  6. Avatar Greg says:

    Some of my choir members joined our group just to gain their scholarships. And yes, they’re so good at singing solo, but they don’t sing properly in choir rehearsals and performances. How to handle such members?

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Greg. I’d do the same as I would for any singers who are struggling to blend, whether they’re fantastic solo singers or not – lots of rounds and listening exercises, and mix everyone up as much as possible. Oh, and remind them if that if all they can hear is their own voice, they’re definitely too loud!

  7. Avatar Barbara says:

    In my church choir we have up to 17 choristers, but many are working or otherwise unable to get to rehearsals and work from recordings, only attending rehearsals prior to a wedding or other big church event in which they are free to sing. Of the “regulars”, we have had only one made, a tenor, who finds it difficult to hold his own part but has hitherto worked very hard from recordings and, I think, made fantastic progress. Last week he told me he was finding it difficult to read and learn the music, so will be dropping out of rehearsals. I feel I may have been over-ambitious with what I have asked him to do, encouraged by his applicant and dedication.

    Any advice on how to handle such a situation? Should I have asked him to sing with the sopranos or the altos for instance? As he has said he gave the matter a great deal of thought, would it be pressurising him if I ask him what would change his mind?

    Many thanks,

  8. Avatar Karen says:

    Thanks for this – timely…

  9. Avatar Mary says:

    Sorry, but I don’t see that people leaving to join another choir should be upsetting. Not every choir is the same: some sing harder material, some sing easier. Some sing sacred works, some don’t (or do, but say “we don’t expect you to believe what you’re singing”. Some learn by ear, some use sheet music and learn faster. Some are almost professional in their approach, put on major performances and learn all material by heart, some do smaller-scale shows and use sheet music. None of these things are good or bad, they are just different. Some people will be looking for different to what you offer, some may use you as a stepping stone to enable them to sing with a more challenging group (eg I sang with a world-music group for six months after I’d been travelling, just to get my voice back in shape so I could join a real choir after that).

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Mary. Thanks for your comment. You’re fortunate never to struggle with taking these things personally, but we know from experience that others do.

  10. Avatar Jamie says:

    Some great advice Victoria. Thank you. For me personally, the worst experiences are when somebody leaves your choir to “see what else is out there” and then you find out they have joined another! Very weird feeling, hard to not take personally!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *