So many choirs… so little time! How do you know which one is going to suit you best?
One mistake people make is to assume that all choirs are the same. They simply aren’t. Even within community choirs there are differences. If we start with the choirs where you don’t need experience at all, or even, apparently, be able to sing you could choose a Tuneless choir. Set up in 2016 Tuneless choirs were set up to be easily accessible to everyone. People turn up, sing their heads off and have a brilliant time doing it. There’s no formal teaching, no harmonies to learn – just pure joy and loveliness. This really suits people who are shy about their singing.
Many community choirs run without auditions. This is how mine works. These choirs accept anyone and everyone – I have an age restriction on mine – nobody under the age of 16 simply because I want an adult choir where I can pick adult themed songs and drop the odd f bomb now and again. I teach by ear so there’s no sheet music. Other choirs use sheet music but it doesn’t necessarily mean that singers need to read the music. Some will pick it up as they go along and others will have a slight head start.
More formal choirs may have an audition process and be much more rigid about rehearsal and choir goals. Often they use sheet music and are required to practice between rehearsals. Some people crave this more formal approach, others would rather have a good tea break and opportunity to chat to friends.
Some choirs do gigs, others do concerts. Some do neither. So there are many variations.
How on Earth do you choose the right one for you?
Firstly, a decent google search will serve you well. Make sure it’s on an evening (or daytime) that suits you. Check out the local ads either on noticeboards in shops or online. Have a look at their website or Facebook page. Ask around to see if anyone else you know is in the choir. Do they like it? Would they recommend it? My community choir runs from recommendations only. I don’t advertise for new singers and I only take them on twice a year. This is because the choir is enormous – and that’s another consideration. If you don’t do well amongst massive hoards of people, a choir of 100+ singers might not be the right one for you. There are smaller choirs which might suit you better. If you can’t see how big the choir is, ask the leader.
Check out their concerts, whether in person or online. Do you like the style of songs they are singing? Can you imagine learning them yourself? Is your foot tapping and are you singing along with the chorus? Some of our singers saw us perform in public then looked us up and asked to join – they’ve then got a good idea of the end product.
Whilst many people join choirs on their own, it’s a great idea to take along a friend and share it together. No doubt you’ll make other friends once you’re at choir but it’s nice to have an ally! Some of my singers have made lifelong friendships with people they simply wouldn’t have otherwise met which is a lovely additional bonus.
If you fancy trying a choir, give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen? And if you don’t like it….. try a different one. There’s one factor which really sets choirs apart from each other, and that’s the people… especially the choir director.
I’d like to think I’m firm but fair (my singers may say otherwise). I like to have high expectations for what we can achieve but I make sure we learn at a pace which suits most people. I provide additional rehearsal recordings for anyone who misses sessions, I create recorded harmony tracks of my arrangements for people to catch up with. Some people will lap these up and really want to be prepared. Others won’t have the time or the motivation to do so – they are still valued singers to us. I like singers not to talk whilst others are trying to listen but make sure I provide ample breaks for people to maintain chats, friendships and the social side of singing. This approach suits my singers – because if it didn’t, they would leave.
We sing in 3,4 or sometimes 6 part harmony. I teach in detail but in short chunks so as not to be boring. Our learnings are peppered with singing songs we already know and are good at. Singers are invited to the front to hear for themselves the full sound which can’t always be appreciated from their seat. In short, we achieve a great sound which both myself and the singers can be proud of.
The other people aspect to consider are the existing singers. Do you fit well with them? Do you have things in common? Do you want to spend your precious time with this group of people!?
So much to consider! I hope this has given you some ideas about where to start. Some choirs offer free taster sessions which are a great way to explore. I offer a full refund if anyone joins and finds my choir isn’t for them. You need to find the choir that brings you the most joy and satisfaction – this is essential to the workings of excellent choirs and your own mental health.
What are you waiting for!? Give it a go!