Sunday, April 26, 2009

Getting the best out of your choir 5: preparing for performance PART 2

Last week in part 1 of preparing for performance, I looked at some of the difficulties choirs face when it comes to performance: nerves, fear of failure, not being in the moment, having unrealistic expectations, and not being prepared. In this post I’ll cover the rest of the issues that I consider to be important when preparing for performance.

take your time

When the nerves kick in, or when you think the audience aren’t enjoying it, or when you’re not truly in the moment, everything starts to speed up. The songs race, the choir leader gabbles, and the whole thing’s over before you realise it. This nervous speediness mainly affects the breathing and attention to detail.

To avoid this, make sure you are breathing deeply and easily. What might be just a few seconds in real time can feel like and age in ‘stage time’. You will get used to this and gradually learn to take things much more slowly. The audience will be patient and attentive if you need time to find the right starting notes, or if you stumble over an announcement.

Although you know the songs inside out, this is probably the first time that your audience has heard them. They need to have time for the words and the music to sink in. They will happily listen to several repeated verses of a song, and will need more time if the song is telling a story in English.

To help the singers take their time, don’t start the concert with anything tricky. Choose something simple but effective like a round or a chant with simple words and long sustained notes. This will calm the breathing down and give the choir a chance to settle into their new surroundings. The choir need a little time to get used to the stage lights, size of the auditorium, acoustics of the space and the particular audience.

One of the most vital times not to rush is when starting a song off. Many novice choir leaders who are nervous think they need to get every song off to a perfect start in quick order. But if you get the start wrong, everything else will fall apart. Take time to give out the starting notes properly and make sure that the choir have received them. Let every singer know that they should ask if they haven’t heard their start note properly. Make sure all eyes are on you before you begin the song. And if (heaven forbid!) you do go wrong or give the wrong notes out, just start the song again. The audience will visibly relax now that they realise you are all human after all! In fact, it’s sometimes a good idea to build a ‘mistake’ into the concert for this very reason.

the shock of the new

No matter how much you’ve rehearsed and prepared for your concert, much of the experience will be totally new. You will never have done this exact concert before, there will always be an element of novelty. There may be new songs in the repertoire, new choir formation on stage, new members standing next to you, new venue, new structure for some of the songs, new ways of entering and exiting.

This novelty is exciting, keeps us on our toes and breathes life into old material. It is entertaining for an audience to see a different kind of concert every time you perform. It is thrilling to try out your new songs on an audience. But you have to realise that new means unfamiliar and untested. It won’t always go swimmingly, you may stumble slightly. So factor this into your performance and don’t expect everything to be perfect every time. There will always be a balance between slick and well-rehearsed material and the danger and edginess of new, even improvised, elements in a concert. Be prepared!

stand and deliver

Your last rehearsal was wonderful. Everyone was firing on all cylinders and the overall sound was awesome. But now you’re on stage and it all sounds a bit off, rather muddy, and not resonant at all. You begin to doubt that the choir is that good. Maybe the last rehearsal was a fluke?

Singing in an unfamiliar venue can be a real shock. The acoustics will be different from your familiar rehearsal space. You may end up standing in a choir formation that is not optimal due to the size or shape of the stage. Because of this you may not be able to hear the other harmony parts as strongly as usual. You might find it harder to produce the required dynamics because it feels like you need to be singing loudly all the time just to hear yourself.

Your perception may be very different from your usual rehearsals, but for the audience, the sound may be totally spot on. In this instance you have to trust your director totally as she is the one out front who can hear the overall mix.

So don’t let the venue put you off. Take your time to tune into the new sound and new positions. You may need to adjust where you stand slightly, or incline your head differently. Especially in smaller ensembles, you may need to stand much closer than usual in order to hear each other properly.

what you feel, what they feel

You can’t judge the overall quality of a performance by what you feel as an individual. This may seem strange at first since surely if you feel that the concert was a real belter and that you sang better than you’ve ever done before, then surely the concert must have been brilliant with the audience loving every moment?

But there is a strange kind of effect that goes on in any kind of performance. What you feel, what your fellow singers feel, what the choir leader feels, what the audience as a whole feel, and how good the concert was overall can all be different!

I’ve written about this before (How was it for you?), but it’s worth stating again.

You are just one part of a team, and each audience member is just one part of a much larger organism. Individual experiences don’t reflect the whole. If you remember this, then you can focus on the songs, being in the moment, doing your job well, and performing as well as you can.

As soon as you get carried away with how you or the audience feel, you can get knocked out of the present moment and everything can go pear-shaped.

Perhaps the whole of the front row look bored and sleepy. You assume they hate the show and that puts you off your stride. You begin to doubt that you’re any good. But after the show, those same audience members come up to you in the bar and tell you it’s one of the best concerts they’ve ever been to.

You get to the end of a particularly tricky song and really nail it. You feel so proud that you didn’t make any mistakes and feel that you are on particularly good form tonight. You look around at the other smiling singers and feel that you can do no wrong. You are bathed in a warm glow of self-satisfaction and pride. You know you will knock the audience dead and that every other song in the concert will be performed superbly. You take your eye off the ball and start focusing on the audience rather than the song. You sing loudly and proudly without noticing that you’re drowning out your fellow singers. You are so full of yourself that you forget that the director has cut the repeat at the end and you find yourself singing out loud, wrong and alone.

Tonight you’ve discovered that sweet spot in your voice. You just soar through the songs and have more fun than ever before. You can’t wait to get to the bar after the show and share your joy with the other singers. But you are faced with a lot of gloomy faces. The majority of the choir think it’s one of their worst performances. The director is depressed because nothing went as well as in the dress rehearsal. The responses from audience members are lacklustre. You begin to doubt your own judgment and feel depressed. Maybe you’re not such a good singer after all.

To help avoid these ups and downs, you simply need to focus on the job at hand, do what is expected of you to the best of your ability and really be in the music. At the end of the concert you will feel whatever you feel. Hopefully you will have had fun and done the best you can. Everything else is outside your control. The next concert is the next concert, and when that arrives, you will treat it with beginner’s mind as if it’s the first time you’ve ever sung in a performance.

on with the show!

I do hope these points have been of some use. Performing in public is a very different beast than the normal weekly choir sessions or a concert rehearsal. Sometimes things won’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped, but by considering some of the points I’ve raised, I hope you can find ways of avoiding some of the pitfalls. And if something does go awry, then maybe you’ll now know why!

next week

Next week, in the sixth and final post in this series on how to get the best out of you choir, I want to look at the importance of self-reflection, how to build on your successes, and how to learn from your mistakes.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Getting the best out of your choir 4: preparing for performance PART 1

Sometimes, no matter how much you’ve rehearsed or prepared your choir, the concert just doesn’t quite measure up to your expectations. What worked perfectly in rehearsal ends up sounding quite ropey. Those confident singers suddenly look like a bunch of startled rabbits in the headlights. That wonderful resonant sound you had comes across as thin and lacking in energy. What went wrong? Is there anything you can do to prevent this happening next time?

Of course, I don’t have all the answers, and every choir is a different beast. However, I’ll jot down a few musings here that may be of some use. I’d love to hear from all you silent readers out there if you have any useful tips that might help us get the best out of our choirs in performance.

As usual, I seem to have run away with myself and written a much longer post than I’d intended! Just so you don’t feel overloaded, I’m going to split the post in two so you can read Part 2 next week. There’s no obvious division into two parts, but it may give you time to absorb some of the ideas better.

the butterfly of nerves

Nerves are a good thing. A few butterflies in the tummy means that we care about what we’re doing. A bit of adrenaline raises our game and keeps us on our toes. The day we have no nerves at all before performing is the day that we have become complacent and aren’t really bothered about what happens.

But nerves can get out of control and turn into performance anxiety. Even at a low level, if a singer hasn’t performed much, then nerves can get in the way of a good performance. Inside flutterings and anxiety can:

  • produce quick, shallow breathing
  • make our mouths dry and our tongues stick
  • cause tension in our necks and throats
  • make us forget things (words, song structure, which part we sing, etc.)
  • focus our minds on the wrong thing (i.e. the mistakes that we might make)
  • stop us from noticing our surroundings and fellow singers
  • make things run much faster than we would like

One excellent way of countering these nerves is to simply take a big, deep, long breath. If you also raise your shoulders high when breathing in, and drop them on a sigh when you breathe out, it helps to release any tension in the neck and throat.

fear of failure

One of the reasons we get nerves in the first place is that we want to do good. We want to:

  • get things right and not make mistakes;
  • please and entertain the audience;
  • make everyone like us and think we’re wonderful;
  • support our fellow performers and not let them down;
  • please our choir leader and make them proud;
  • appear skilled, professional and in control — we don’t want to make fools of ourselves!

All good aims indeed. However, we must remember that we’re not in this alone. It’s team work. As long as you know you’ve put the work in, know what you’re supposed to be doing, then you can trust that the whole team will gel and you will carry it off. A large group has a force of its own. Although you’re a vital component of the choir, a minor mistake from one individual will go unnoticed. Prepare well and keep a perspective at all times. It’s only a concert after all!

be here now

When our nerves get the better of us it means that our mind ends up focusing on all the wrong things. We worry about remembering words that we spent all those weeks learning, we fear all the mistakes that we might make in the performance to come, we are concerned about what the audience will think when the concert is over. Instead, we should be focusing on the task at hand and staying in the moment.

Easier said than done, but if you focus on the here and now — how you are breathing, what your posture is like, preparing to sing the first note, being attentive to the conductor — then there will be no room in your head for any worries! You are just here to sing, so that is all you need to do. Stop holding onto the past (“It was better last time we did it”) or being concerned about the future (“I hope I remember to repeat the last verse”) and just be with the music as it arises.

When we see performers on stage and marvel at their ‘presence’ we think that it’s some kind of magic. But the word ‘presence’ simply means that the performers are totally in the present and only engaged on the task at hand. That’s what makes them so watchable.

expectations and beginner’s mind

It’s very hard just to stay with the present moment. We all anticipate and bring expectations with us. We remember that last concert when everything went pear-shaped, or the performance last year which was one of our best and everyone was firing on all cylinders. We know that the tickets have sold out so we expect a large and attentive audience. We are so proud of the complicated song that we’ve been working on for the last few months and are convinced that it will go down a storm.

Unfortunately, our expectations are seldom met! We are often disappointed when things don’t turn out as we had hoped, or are totally surprised when something goes extremely well. The way to avoid disappointment and to bring freshness to every performance is to imagine that this is the first time you’ve ever done a concert and the first time you’ve ever sung these particular songs. Have no expectations other than to do your best under the given circumstances. What will happen will happen regardless of what you expect. You have no control over it.

I’ve written before about this idea which Zen Bhuddism calls ‘beginner’s mind’ (Blame it on the weather). If you approach a song each time as if for the first time, it will be forever fresh and you will continue to discover new nuances in it.

be prepared

Although you don’t want to come to your performance with expectations, you do need to anticipate things that might happen as you don’t want to be thrown by the unexpected. The most obvious thing to anticipate is that you need to know what you’re doing! So be well-prepared and rehearsed. Know the words, know your part, know the structure of the songs and the order they will be sung in, know where you will be standing, know if you have an encore song and know how to bow at the end.

But this preparation may not be enough to cover all eventualities. There is a big difference, for example, between knowing your words at home and remembering them in a performance situation. You may think you are well-rehearsed, but you need to practice songs in many different circumstances, not just in the familiar rehearsal room set-up. Try remembering the lyrics whilst washing up, whilst driving, whilst walking along the street, whilst making the bed. The greater the range of contexts that you practice in, the more the song will be embedded in your memory.

Similarly for any song, don’t always stand next to the same person, or always face the same way in the rehearsal room. Find all the ways of doing the song in the ‘wrong’ style (as opera, as country and western, as reggae). Rehearse a song while the whole choir is walking around the room at random. Practice a harmony song in small groups not just in the whole choir. Work out a strange dance routine to practice whilst singing a familiar song. Sing a song in reverse order. Swap parts around. Play with songs in as many different ways as you can, then when you come to doing it ‘straight’ it will be much easier.

One important thing that you can’t ever really be prepared for is the audience’s reaction. Sometimes they will applaud every song loudly and jump to their feet at the end. Other times they may appear to be sleeping and applaud in a lacklustre way. This can have a huge effect on the singers. If the response isn’t as enthusiastic as we need, then we suddenly think they don’t like us and the whole performance becomes filled with doubt and lack of confidence.

On the other hand, you can just as easily be thrown by an over-enthusiastic response to a song that you think you didn’t perform well!

You have to sing the songs for yourselves more than for the audience. Go out there to have a good time, and if the audience like it too, that’s just an added bonus. It’s impossible to work out how an audience feel towards a performance just by how they applaud or appear to be paying attention (see What you feel, what they feel next week).

that’s all folks!

Well, that’s all I’ve got space for this week. Next week in Part 2 of preparing for performance I’ll look at stage time vs. real time, standing positions on stage, how new things affect us, and why people can have such different experiences at the same concert.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Getting the best out of your choir 3: the moderate choir leader

We first came across ‘the martinet’ in the first post in this series (Getting the best out of your choir 1: moderate or martinet?), and met her opposite number ‘the mouse’ in last week’s post. My contention is that there is a middle way between these two extremes, that the kind of leader to get the best out of a choir is one who is moderate in temper and approach.

Here is my definition of the ideal choir leader. Maybe we’re not all there yet, but it’s certainly something to aspire to!

the moderate

You need someone out front who can keep their calm whilst all around them is chaos and confusion (Calm down dear, it’s only a song!).

There will come a point with every choir when

  • the singers seem to lose all their self-confidence;
  • you tackle a song that seems to be just too hard to deal with;
  • the rehearsal is going so bad that everyone wants to go home and bury their heads in the sand;
  • no matter how hard you try the whole thing sounds just awful;
  • the hideously complicated structure of the song you’re working on is just beyond everyone’s comprehension;
  • the song that you’d perfected last week just falls apart in front of everyone’s eyes;
  • everybody is stumbling over the words of the latest foreign song;
  • despite weeks of hard work, the altos still can’t get their part right;
  • hardly anyone turns up to the final rehearsal before a big concert because there’s a vicious bug going around;
  • the lead soloist fails to turn up for the concert …

You get the picture: if something can go wrong, it will! In these situations it doesn’t help anyone if the choir leader gets stressed out, begins to shout, loses the plot, and generally has a melt-down. You need someone who is steady, takes it all in their stride, fills the choir with the confidence that everything is going to be all right, trusts in the process, and realises that in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a bunch of people singing songs.

fun-loving and playful
Bringing humour into the equation is a fantastic way of helping people relax and lose their inhibitions. A few laughs lets people off the hook and helps them to realise that it’s not the end of the world if they get something wrong.

In concerts, if the choir leader has a good rapport with the audience, they are immediately on your side. If you laugh at any mistakes, then the audience visibly relaxes since you’re not setting yourselves up to be perfection itself. Everybody loves it when they realise that you’re all human and therefore vulnerable.

Having fun and laughter isn’t the same as not being serious about what you do. We can make light of situations without compromising our standards. We still want to strive to be the best that we can and take our job of making music seriously, but approach it in a light-hearted way.

Being playful and child-like, using imagery and storytelling, improvising and trying things differently are all great ways of helping singers learn and to bring out the best. The focus is off the person and the music and onto imagination and risk-taking in a safe environment. Having played with a song in as many ‘wrong’ ways as possible liberates people from over-familiarity and set ways of singing, introduces the idea that there is no ‘right’ way of performing a song, and prepares people for any ‘mistakes’ during a concert which otherwise might throw them.

people person
Any half-way decent choir leader needs to actually like people! It’s not enough to just love music or singing, leading a choir is about working with people, not a bunch of instruments. Sure, it’s fun to have all those voices at your disposal, but behind each one is a unique individual. There will be vulnerabilities, rivalries, misunderstandings, frustrations, jealousies, fear, and so on – all those things that make us human beings. A choir leader has to acknowledge and work with this. You are not dealing with a bunch of robots who can deliver at will.

knows their stuff
Whether or not you use technical jargon or display your musical knowledge freely, you need to know what you’re doing! And if you don’t at any point, you need to be humble enough to admit it to the choir. They need to feel that they are in safe hands and that you know your stuff. Once you have built that confidence, you can take the choir into uncharted areas, but never ever bluff as you will soon be found out!

I like to use the analogy of an explorer. As a choir leader I am taking the choir on a journey. I have all the necessary gear: compass, ropes, warm clothing, maps, etc., together with a great deal of knowledge about navigation, finding trails, dealing with hazards, knowing the terrain, etc. etc. So I am totally equipped to lead people on a journey, but I don’t necessarily know where we will end up! I can guarantee though that we will arrive safely and have lots of fun on the way.

non-judgmental, encouraging and accepting
To get the best out of someone you need to encourage them, to praise them when they get things right or achieve something, but also to accept their limitations, acknowledge that they’re trying their hardest and to not judge them (especially in a community choir).

If you shout at someone, chastise them for making a mistake, sneer at them because they might not be as good as their fellow singers, ask them to do something that is beyond their capabilities, never acknowledge their achievements … then that person will go into their shell and not bother trying hard or taking the risk of getting something wrong. They will stop believing in themselves and will act through fear. This does not make for a good choir!

firm but fair
Being non-judgmental doesn’t mean that you can’t expect high standards. When someone gets something wrong, you can point that out and ask them to do it again. You can set standards and have expectations about a range of things: being on time, choir dress, not talking during rehearsals, learning words off by heart, tuning, etc. But you need to make your expectations clear to everyone and be consistent and fair. It’s not good changing the goal posts every time, especially if you don’t let the choir know! People respect a firm hand if it seen to be fair. Apply any rules you have equally to everyone.

one of the team
You are not the big ‘I am’, you are not the sole reason that the choir sounds good, you are replaceable, you are just one of the team: a vital component of the whole, but not special. You happen to occupy a specific role in the group that is acknowledged by everyone. You may have a particular set of skills and experience, but that doesn’t make you better than everyone else.

You are just one of the team and it is your responsibility – along with everyone else – to make the music as wonderful as possible and for everyone to have as good a time as possible.

focus on the people and the process
This is related to the fact that a good choir leader is very much a people person. To get the best out of your choir you can’t simply focus on the end product or the music alone. You need to acknowledge the individuals who make up the choir and focus more on the process of making music rather than sacrificing everything to the music.

I have talked about this before (We are not here to serve the music) and not every choir leader will agree. But I think that if you are a moderate choir leader with all the attributes that I have outlined above, you will end up making wonderful music, plus have the bonus of a committed group of choir members who work out of love and not fear and who have built a strong sense of community and friendship through their love of singing. A group who come together each week to have a laugh and sing together to make something greater than any particular individual involved.

By following this approach, you can produce great music to a high standard. There are other choirs which are run by martinets who also produce great music, but I know which choir I’d rather be associated with! I truly do not believe that the end justifies the means.


Next week I will be looking at preparing for performance. How come everything was great in rehearsal but it all seemed to fall apart in the concert? I don’t claim to have all the answers by any means and, as always, would love to hear from you and your own experiences.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Getting the best out of your choir 2: not too gentle, not too tough

In this post I’m going to look at two extreme kinds of choir leader, the mouse (unassuming, easily frightened, under-confident, feels small and insignificant) and the martinet who we met last week (loud, strict, stickler for perfection, dictator). I’m going to suggest that neither of these extremes is best for the choir, but there is the middle way of being the moderate.

Why are there different kinds of choir leaders? What turns ordinary people into the extremes of mouse or martinet? Even if we don’t think of ourselves as mice or martinets, we all occasionally drop into such extreme behaviour even if only for a moment. So it’s maybe worth giving some thought to where this behaviour might come from.

Here are a few things which might give an insight into a particular choir leader’s style. Not an exhaustive list by any means, and I’d love to hear from you if you have any other possibilities.

the martinet

control freak
Needs to be in charge of everything. The idea of uncertainty and disorder is a frightening one. People like this can be a little anal and will usually ask for complete accuracy of notes with no room for any variation. Will often use written scores slavishly.

not enough trust
Related to the above, due to their need to be in control, they take it upon themselves to be solely responsible for the music that the choir makes. They don’t see it as a team effort. If everything goes right they take the glory (see ‘look at me!’ below), but if it goes wrong it’s the choir’s fault because they didn’t obey the leader.

fear of failure: needing to get it right
This is more about other people’s perception. For whatever reason, the person is afraid of failing, or appearing to be a failure in any respect. These people don’t take risks, are averse to improvisation, come down like a ton of bricks on any mistakes, and insist on everything being perfect all the time.

look at me!
This is the choir leader as massive ego on legs. They are not really interested in the individual human beings that make up the choir, the singers are simply there to obey their leader and deliver the goods so the leader may be praised. Such leaders tend to over-conduct, like to be seen to be working hard, take the focus off the choir, indulge in pyrotechnic musical displays.

no self-confidence
Some martinets use their behaviour to mask their deep-seated insecurities. They may not have conducted much, or lack musical training, or not have worked with such a large choir, or just generally feel out of their depth. Instead of sharing this with the choir, they cover it up with appearing to be a strict disciplinarian hoping that nobody will notice.

not good with people
Some choir leaders are more interested in the music and can be a little bit ‘geeky’ in that way. They are not socially adept and would much rather be working with instruments who don’t talk back or have bad days. Because they lack social skills, they don’t know how to deal appropriately with choir members’ own insecurities, misunderstandings, and basic humanity. They will insist on over-long rehearsals and ridiculously high standards then not understand why people complain!

over-trained musically
Similar to the previous point, some choir directors are almost totally academic and are just out to realise the dots on the page. They have no understanding of the processes involved in working with human beings and translating dots into real, live music. They use inappropriate jargon when dealing with the choir without realising that most people have no idea what they’re talking about.

the mouse

lack of experience
Some choir leaders simply have little experience of leading a choir. They have no idea how rehearsals work, they don’t know the best way to bring a song to life, they’ve not conducted before, they’re not used to dealing with such large groups of people. Instead of covering this lack of experience with bluster (as a martinet would), they just crumble and are stunned into inactivity, mumbling, unclear instructions, lack of structure, etc.

out of my depth!
Even if a choir leader has a reasonable amount of experience, there will come a time when they feel that something is beyond them, either a particular piece of music, or an exceptionally big concert programme. They can’t bluff, but become even more mouse-like. They also aren’t able to admit that they’re out of their depth and lack the experience and self-confidence to change things to suit their abilities.

discomfort with leadership role/ dislike of responsibility
Some choir leaders just love music and singing, they may even have been a choir member until recently. They see other choirs and think it’s quite easy to lead a choir. But when they find themselves in that position, they realise that an awful lot of responsibility comes with the job. All eyes are on them and they always need to have all the answers. It’s much harder than they thought! But it’s too late to back out now, so they continue, but mice are not good at leading from the front.

just don’t care enough
A choir leader can end up being a mouse because they just don’t care about the resulting music or the choir members. They go through the motions, maybe the job’s been dumped on them, maybe they’ve been doing it too long and they’re bored. Their standards slip, they’re not clear when instructing the choir, they seldom give feedback.

not really musical – don’t know when it’s bad!
It is possible for someone to find themselves as a choir leader due more to enthusiasm than talent! They might love choirs and singing, but have no musical ability or deep understanding of music. They somehow expect it all to come together by magic with no intervention from them. They make a stab at leading and very quickly produce something that seems OK without realising that it’s dreadfully out of tune or the timing is wrong or they’ve taught the wrong part. They just don’t realise!

need to be liked
This is the correlate to the martinet’s “look at me!” desire. It’s not as much an ego thing, but more wanting to be liked and loved by every member of the choir (probably due to deep-seated lack of self-esteem). This means that they want to please everyone all the time. This is impossible in a choir! They will end up sending out mixed messages, and each time you come back to a song, they will approach it differently. They will confuse the choir because they are not giving them clear instructions.

fear of failure: scared of getting it wrong
Like the martinet, the mouse is frightened of failure. Their idea of hell is to be humiliated in front of the choir and an entire audience. If anything goes wrong, they will take it on as their individual responsibility. One way of avoiding this is to never actually finish a song. To have long, waffly rehearsals that don’t really go anywhere. To never commit to a clear idea of how a song should be done. To always avoid making strong choices about how to rehearse or perform a song in case their the wrong choices.

I had a dream

The other night I had a dream. I was trying to rehearse a very large choir made up of members from many choirs and groups that I have worked with over the years. They weren’t paying attention, but were generally milling around and chatting, being very relaxed and informal, not caring about the songs we were trying to rehearse. I was getting very frustrated and ended up shouting and swearing at them. In the end I just stormed outside and left them. I was standing outside leaning on a railing feeling pretty awful, when one of the choir members came out to find out how I was. She said: “That was a big shock! We hadn’t realised how you felt and the you really meant what you said.”

When I woke I had an uncomfortable thought: maybe this is the way I really feel and when I lead a choir I’m suppressing my real feelings. Perhaps I really want to shout and scream at people and all this patience is just a front. But that is definitely not the case. When I’m teaching or leading a choir, I feel calm and clear and enjoy being patient and taking time for a song to evolve. I don’t see any point in shouting, and don’t (well, hardly ever!) feel that I need to get angry or cross. Yes, I’m a dictator (I don’t believe that you can create art by committee, there needs to be one person with a vision in charge), but a totally benign dictator.

What kind of choir leader are you? If you’re a singer in a choir, what kind of leader is your choir leader? And how does it affect the end product?

Next week in Getting the best out of your choir 3 I will look at the characteristics that I believe make for a good, moderate choir leader who can bring the best out of a choir.



Chris Rowbury's website: