Do you know why your singers keep coming back to choir? Have you asked them? We often ask our choirs for feedback. Here’s what they say.
Singing is, simply, great fun. It puts a smile on your face, even after a hard day. There are a couple of things you can do to embrace this sense of fun in rehearsals. Look at warm-ups not only as a way of promoting vocal health, but as a way of getting everyone in the mood to rehearse. Clapping games and tongue twisters focus on rhythm and diction respectively, but they also often descend into giggles.
Another way to focus on fun is to work on creating a rehearsal culture where everyone can embrace mistakes and have a laugh about them. When someone sings all by themselves in the wrong place, praise them! They were singing independently, not waiting for their neighbour! Remind your singers that the whole point of rehearsals is for us to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s all part of the fun.
Over the years, several choir members have told us about how singing has helped them to overcome or cope with debilitating issues such as bereavement, depression, anxiety, stroke and Alzheimer’s.
Of course, we don’t always know when our singers are suffering in their personal lives, but we can help by making our choirs a place where everyone feels safe and included and where people feel that if they have a problem, they can tell us.
It’s great to have fun at choir, but we also need a challenge. That applies whatever kind of choir we run, whether professional or amateur, auditioned or all-welcoming, performing, competing or neither. If we just do the same old thing all the time, our singers will eventually get bored.
Whatever the standard or ethos of our choirs, we can pose a new challenge. That might be a more disciplined performance, singing something from memory, in a foreign language or a cappella. Obviously, we don’t want to give our singers challenges that they can never meet – that would simply be dispiriting – but we can work on incremental improvements over time so that we keep that fulfilment factor in our choirs.
Shared interests are a great way to forge friendships. Choirs have a built-in camaraderie because of the collective nature of the activity. We get together as a team and our successes and failures are interdependent.
One thing that sometimes gets forgotten is the need to ensure that our choir members actually meet each other. If everyone turns up to rehearsal, sits in the same place, sings then goes home again, they will rarely have the chance to mingle. Cliques will form; people will be left out and, over time, the atmosphere in the choir will suffer.
There are several ways that we give our choirs the opportunity to make new friends. Firstly, when someone joins for the first time, we always make a point of introducing them to a few people in their section who we know we can rely on to make them welcome. Secondly, we include a tea break in our rehearsals so that everyone has a chance to move around and chat. Thirdly, we often mix everyone up, either for warm-ups or when rehearsing repertoire, and ask them to introduce themselves to their new neighbours. Finally, we organise occasional social events that encourage everyone to let their hair down and enjoy each other’s company.
One of our central aims when we started our choirs was to have a positive impact on our local community. Sometimes that takes the form of fundraising, sometimes it’s being part of a local event.
For us, as well as for our choir members, that sense of being part of a community is a driving force in everything we do, from singing carols at local care homes at Christmas to standing on stage at our annual summer music festival on the village green.
So there are some of the things that our singers tell us that they love about being part of a choir. We’d love to hear about the feedback you get from your choirs.