It may sound a bit business-like to all those musical creatives among you, but when we choose repertoire for our choirs, we have to be salespeople. We want them to ‘buy into’ our repertoire choices and give the music a chance.
Why does it matter? Singers who like or at least understand our choices of repertoire are more likely to engage with the piece and give it their best, even if it’s not quite their cup of tea. So how do we sucessfully motivate our singers about our repertoire choices?
Let them into the secret
When introducing a piece, think about the things that made you choose it. Hopefully you were inspired to do it for a reason, perhaps you love it yourself, because you know it will work well with your choir, or perhaps because a few members suggested it.
Whatever the motivation for the choice, explain this to your singers rather than just announcing ‘here is a new piece, let’s sing it’. Perhaps the piece is relevant to a particular performance theme or charity you are supporting, or maybe it has a really interesting historical background. If so, tell your choir the story to help them understand what the music is about.
Don’t be put off by resistance
It’s important to understand and accept that not all of your singers will like every piece the choir sings. You may hear a few muttered grumbles when you introduce a new song, but don’t be deterred. Remind your singers that you are a team and you need to work together to achieve great results.
In my experience people can often be put off by something new to them, perhaps because it’s not a style they are used to singing. If you trust your choices and know it’s a good piece, you’ll probably find they soon love it or at least appreciate it as a great piece for the choir. It’s human nature to fear the unfamiliar so stay positive, smile and lead your choir through the unfamiliar territory.
If, with hindsight, you decide you made a bad choice, don’t worry. Over time you will learn what works well and not so well and your choices will become better informed. Being a choir leader is a learning process and you will grow with your choir.
Be positive, positive, positive
It’s great to pick a balance of repertoire for your choir, with some easy and some more challenges pieces. If a piece you’ve chosen provides the choir with a new challenge and is perhaps more difficult than what they’re used to, be careful how you announce it. Look at the positives ‘this is a fantastic piece which will really wow our audience and help develop our singing ability as a choir’ rather than ‘I’ve chosen this really hard piece, it’s going to take a lot of nerve and concentration but hopefully we’ll get on top of it’. Whatever you tell your choir they will take on board so if you convince them it’s hard then you will have a tougher job winning them over and making them confident with it.
Involve your singers in the learning process
When teaching new repertoire to your choir, try not to make the learning process a one-way conversation. Ask them questions along the way about how they perceive the music. As the leader you will know how you want the piece to sound and what work is to be done but by getting your singers to think about it for themselves, they will feel more included, take more ownership of it and stay focused during rehearsals.
When it comes to performance they will be really proud and eager to get all these elements right and produce an outstanding show to make you and themselves proud.