Sunday, October 21, 2007

Choosing songs for a concert

Once again a concert is looming. Time to figure out what songs to sing. WorldSong has a repertoire of around 190 songs so it’s not as though we don’t have many to choose from! However, some of these are warm-up songs, some are songs we’ve not done for many years, some we’ve done too many times recently, and some are only known to a few long-serving members of the choir. To make things slightly easier, this next concert is our Christmas one, so we’ll need to include all our Christmas songs. To date we have learnt 10 Christmas songs in WorldSong, and plan to learn two more this term. That makes choosing songs slightly easier, but it still means there’s lots of space to fill and doesn’t help with the running order.

My normal method is to look at what songs we’ve sung in the last concert and try not to duplicate that entirely. I always put all the new songs we’ve learnt this term into the concert. This means that any new members can join in with at least six or so songs without having to tackle any of our vast back catalogue. I also try and keep in songs that are relatively new, perhaps all those learnt in the last two terms. However, I do like to ring the changes so if someone comes to several concerts in a row they don’t just keep hearing the same set. I also try and accommodate those people who perhaps only come to see us once a year at our Christmas or Spring concerts.

I keep good records of the songs we’ve sung in each concert, so I look up the last couple we’ve done, and the same time slot a year earlier. I cut out songs that we’ve done in both of the last two concerts, plus most of what we did the same time last year. I add all our new ones, and a few that we’ve not sung for a year or more. Then I look at the spread of genres and countries of origin and try to get a good cross-section. Finally I look at the mix of upbeat versus gentle songs and again try to find a balance.

I have rough timings of all the songs in our repertoire, and I reckon that as a rule of thumb, we need about 2/3 of song material to fill a concert. So, for a 90 minute concert (two 45 minute halves), we’ll need 60 minutes of song material. The rest of the time is taken up with my between song banter and singers getting into position. I find that this formula is pretty accurate and we usually come in on time.

Since most of our songs are very short, we tend to get through 30 or so in a 90 minute concert, so the next problem is to find some sensible kind of running order. There is no one way of doing this, and I may use a different method each time. And as I pointed out in an earlier post (Order, order!) I wonder if the audience notice any way!

I did start a trend a way back of joining songs together. These segue ways only work if I can force several songs into the same key, and seem to work best (for some reason) with African songs. I guess if I tried a little harder I could squeeze enough songs together into some kind of medley that we could fill up a complete concert!

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Chris Rowbury


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