Lots of choirs in your area? The pros and cons

When I started my choir, I found myself quite worried about other choirs starting up in the same area. Suffering from a nervous anticipation and lots of imposter syndrome, I imagined that any choirs in the vicinity would be (a) much better and (b) poach all my singers! If you have just started a choir or are thinking about doing so, these feelings may be familiar. Don’t worry though, a bit of competition in your area doesn’t need to be detrimental. With some careful planning, experience and confidence, you will learn to co-exist happily with other local choirs. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that having other choirs around you in your area is actually beneficial.

When you decide to start a new choir, it’s important to do some research and see what’s already out there. I wouldn’t advise starting a choir somewhere where a similar choir is already established, particularly in a small community. Before I started my choir, there were lots of musical and singing activities going on locally, but I was the only one offering a rock and pop contemporary-style choir. All the others were of a more traditional choral style. Had there already been a similar choir in my village, I might not have achieved the same results. A couple of years later, Victoria started our Chamber Choir in the same village. Despite this being more geared to the traditional choral style already represented in the area, that choir has also been successful because it sings an eclectic repertoire that wasn’t being offered elsewhere.

It’s by no means a given that starting a new choir in an area that already has similar provision will be a failure, but you’d be giving yourself a much harder time getting your new project off the ground.

Now let’s look at the benefit of having other choirs in your area. While we don’t want to be rehearsing next door to each other and on the same evening, having other choirs around indicates that singing is popular and there is a demand for it, which is good for any activity or business. We have always found that there are enough singers in our area to keep all the choirs well-attended, and that each choir offers its own unique twist. Some cover mostly music from shows, some sing only a cappella, some are open to anyone, others audition. I have met many of the choir leaders in my area and they are wonderful people: enthusiastic, dynamic and interesting. I see them as colleagues. Whenever we meet we have lots in common.

Being in touch with other local choir leaders can also lead to some amazing opportunites. For example, a couple of years ago a few of the choir leaders in our area got together to create a showcase concert. It was a great experience to work together, planning a range of repertoire that showed off all the choirs’ unique talents. It was such a buzz for the members to take part in. With so many singers we were able to fill a large venue and give our choirs a fantastic experience.

I think all choirs are unique in the sense that they are a reflection of the person who leads them. Having other choirs around keeps you on your toes. A bit of healthy competition doesn’t hurt, in fact it can make you strive for improvement and avoid becoming complacent. If you haven’t already, I do advise getting to know other choir leaders. I promise this will take away much of the fear of competition and you may forge some great relationships.

Comments on Lots of choirs in your area? The pros and cons

  1. Avatar ali Sharpe says:

    When I initiated The Bournemouth Community (Gospel – cos I didn’t know what else to call a choir that was not “main stream/choral”) Choir in 2001…there were no other informal community type choirs around…so I could really explore my own ideas, find the inspirational songs I wanted to sing with people and attract those singers who wanted to sing but felt intimidated by the formal/choral type choir with all their auditions. It felt really empowering to see all these people coming from diverse backgrounds and musical ability, and seeing their joy as they realised that they too could be part of a joyful singing activity…. Now in Bournemouth every little suburb has 1 or 2 or maybe more “Singing Groups”… It is wonderful that people are finally acknowledging the benefits of COMMUNITY SINGING on so many levels…and like the increase in YOGA classes so many more individuals are seeking to improve their well-being… it’s not competition, more an offering to community the opportunity for choice… I love what I do, and am passionate about THE VOICE, and celebrate the increasing popularity for group singing… What I find is, that the moment judgement and competition creeps in, then it opens up the door for negativity on so many levels… and it IS hard not to feel threatened by what can be interpreted as “COMPETITION” … I say rise above it, communicate the LOVE, the PASSION, the JOY and then it WILL all come right ;-)

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      That’s a great perspective Ali.

  2. Avatar Liz says:

    cool thank you

  3. Thanks for a thoughtful post. I too have been (I hope) very careful about not choosing a clashing day for my singing groups and trying hard to collaborate with other local leaders. I’ve found it a slow process as I think that “imposter syndrome” is quite strong in some areas and some local leaders have been very slow to respond to any of my reaching out to them. Slow but not impossible. Having now been in the area for several years I am finally beginning to make some less-than-competitive-contact with some of the local choral societies (my own groups are non-performing a-cappella community groups, not at all in competition with choral groups). I guess just keeping at it is worth it (maybe) Shirley? Anyway thanks for your helpful posts Victoria and Christine. Clare

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Clare. It sounds like you’re doing valuable work for your choir and your community. Keep at it.

  4. Avatar Shirley says:

    I had these exact worries as you describe but thought – it’s a good job hairdressers don’t suffer from the same anxieties otherwise there wouldn’t be so many to choose from!
    I have tried collaborating with other choir leaders and get the big fat ignore. I guess they have the same concerns of poaching and competition as others.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Shirely,

      I completely agree with you, there are many areas of business like hairdressers and coffee shops with loads of competition.
      Maybe you need to direct these other choir leaders to the article!

  5. Avatar Suzanne says:

    Hear, hear! We are fortunate to have several choirs in my area which provide singing opportunities across different evenings, time slots, and repertoires. Some members belong to more than one choir, which is great. Also, there is the added benefit of having a pool of people that I can call on to locum for my choir and vice versa when I need to be away.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Suzanne,

      Some great points, many of my singers also belong to more than one choir. When you’re working alone it can also be very handy as you say to have someone who can stand in for you and vice versa.

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