Monday, March 31, 2014

Singing in a choir – balancing individual freedom with the demands of the team

Those of us who love to sing often love to sing at the top of our voices. It’s joyous!


But when you’re part of a choir you have to rein in those tendencies for the greater good of the overall sound. How do you achieve that balance without feeling restricted?

Being in a choir is all about being part of a team. Yes, the individuals are important (see You are the most important person in your choir), but it’s the overall effect that counts. Singers work together towards a common goal.

But there are times when you have really nailed a song and your voice begins to soar and you are away with the fairies singing your heart out, a huge smile on your face. In that moment you forget yourself and everyone else and become lost in the music.

It’s at times like this that you most need to be aware of everyone around you.

Most choirs sing in harmony and it’s the way those harmony parts work together that creates the extraordinary sound. It’s not something you can do by yourself!

So your focus needs to be on the overall sound, the way the harmonies fit together, the blend and balance of voices. This is easily achieved by choosing your focus of attention.

It may be different for each song, but your focus of attention needs to be outside yourself. For example, your focus might be to listen to:

  • the alto line clearly
  • the way your part fits with the tenors
  • the way your voice blends with the others in your part
  • the overall sound of the choir
  • the balance in volume between your part and the main tune

Notice that your focus is always about listening (see Singing is all about listening). In that way you won’t lose yourself and allow your voice to take off on its own. Glory in the harmonies rather than your own voice. Celebrate the way your voice connects with the others to make something greater than the sum of the parts.

To make matters more complicated, in performance you need to split your focus between listening, watching the conductor and connecting with the audience. Who said you couldn’t multi-task!

In order to be in a choir you have to give up some freedoms, the main one being the ability to let rip with your voice as if you’re on your own in the shower. It’s a small price to pay though for the resulting music that you’ll make together.

You are still an individual, making your own unique contribution to the whole, just temporarily not a completely free agent.

Chris Rowbury