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.