How to 'sell' your repertoire choices to your choir - Total Choir Resources

How to ‘sell’ your repertoire choices to your choir

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.

Christine Mulgrew

Christine is a contemporary choir leader who loves to help novice and nervous singers find their voice.

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Dianne - a couple of weeks ago Reply

Perfect timing yet again! You have really helped with my biggest area of self doubt. Thank you.

    Christine Mulgrew - a couple of weeks ago Reply

    Hi Dianne,

    Thanks for your message, glad the article was well timed for you.

Stella Moore - a couple of weeks ago Reply

Definitely worth reflecting on….. i think you have to overcome your own doubts if a song is taking a while to get up together. The singers need to trust that you will be able to get through the problems and help them get there in the end. There are times though, when you need to admit that a song may not work for your choir. I try to be realistic and focus on working on one section to give us all a chance to decide about its future in our repertoire!

    Christine Mulgrew - a couple of weeks ago Reply

    Hi Stella, thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you found the article useful.

Gabrielle - a couple of weeks ago Reply

Alas this is still a difficult area for me,particularly with choirs where they like to choose their own repertoire. I once sent a video link of a piece I liked and was starting with the choir but I think in stead of giving them the flavour of the piece it gave them a chance to turn against it. I am now more confident when introducing new music but also have some easy/well known music up my sleeve as a contrast.

    Christine Mulgrew - a couple of weeks ago Reply

    Hi Gabrielle,

    Thanks for your message, I’m certain that now you’re feeling more confident in announcing new music to your choir, that the confidence will rub off on them too. Good luck, I hope you find it a better experience moving forward.

Valerie Summers - a couple of weeks ago Reply

Hallo Christine,

What a wonderful article about introducing new material! Thank you so much. I did last year, fall into the trap of saying about a piece that it was difficult and that we would need to work hard at it.

I now have a competely different mindset due to you and that fantastic article. it is brilliant.



    Christine Mulgrew - a couple of weeks ago Reply

    Hi Valerie,

    Thank you for your kind words, glad you found the article so helpful.

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