Choosing repertoire for your community choir can be extremely rewarding. You select songs which you know will inspire and create great enjoyment for your singers. We can’t necessarily get it right all of the time but if you consider these top five tips you’ll be well on the way.
Consider your event/performance
You may have the best idea for a song in the world but, before taking the plunge, it’s worth considering the event for which you will use it. Is the song appropriate? Does your next event or concert have a theme or support a charity and will this song be suitable? If the answer is ‘no’ then better to wait and use it for a more suitable performance at a later date. When selecting repertoire, don’t think of each piece individually, see them as a set of songs, do they work together and do they give the choir an interesting range of music which they will enjoy and be proud to sing to an audience?
Location, location, location
Just as it’s important to consider the event when choosing repertoire, it’s also key to consider the venue. There’s little point in selecting delicate pieces where sections have solo moments if you’re going to be outdoors in the unpredicatable fresh air! Save those kind of pieces for a concert hall or local church where the acoustics will really lend themselves to the sound rather than work against it. For outdoor performances, densely-scored numbers with lots of sound tend to work best. It really all depends on your own performance space. If you don’t know the venue well, try to find time to visit and hear the acoustic for yourself.
Understand the demographic of singers and audience
When selecting repertoire always have your singers in mind before yourself. Will the themes in the songs be suitable for them? Will they feel comfortable singing them? For example, if your age demographic is older, you might want to avoid a song full of teenage angst! There’s nothing wrong with singing modern pieces, but make sure the lyrics are appropriate and will not cause offence or embarrassment either to your singers or the audience. I like to cover a range of repertoire for my choir. I have a mix of age groups and find they love this exploration of different musical eras. Often by doing this, you will discover particular styles that your choir really love and deliver well to an audience.
Create the right balance
When selecting repertoire it’s vital that you think about all parts of your choir. Ideally, you want a balance so that each section of the choir gets some challenges and some more comfortable parts. If one section is left with really demanding parts at the top of their range over a selection of pieces, this may have a negative impact on their enjoyment and participation. Similarly if one section is continually singing accompanying parts, they will quickly get bored. Striking a balance is key here so when choosing consider the flow from the point of view of each section. We always want to develop our choirs but at a realistic rate which they will enjoy and thrive on. Don’t try and conqueur everything at once, take things a step at a time mixing easier pieces with more challenging ones.
Is there enough time to get things right?
Finally, don’t forget to think about the time you have available. How long will it take your choir to learn the pieces? Is your mix of songs achievable in that time without your singers getting too stressed trying to learn everything? Remember that your singers are there for enjoyment.
Making wise decisions in the planning stages saves lots of hassle and the possibility of a less than polished performance in the long run. You can always plan to do something at a later performance when you know you’ll have the time to get it right. If you get the balance right and deliver your singers well-planned rehearsals where they can develop their skills, they will thrive and this will be reflected in their performance.