Sunday, October 31, 2010

A choir is a shining example of the perfect community

Last weekend I ran a singing workshop for 25 strangers. As always everyone worked well together (no prima donnas!) and we produced a wonderful sound at the end of the day.

working together
Working together by lumax

I do workshops like this so often that I take it for granted. But somebody came up to me at the end and reminded me how impressive it is that a group of people can come together for one day and produce such amazing results. That got me thinking about how singing groups and choirs are a model of how communities should work together.

A choir is basically a team of individuals all working towards a common goal. Singing in a choir is a great leveller. What matters is the part you sing, not whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, male or female, young or old. As such, a choir can be seen as a shining example of how a community can work together.

A choir is a microcosm of the real world and choral singing can be seen as a metaphor for life itself.

how it should work

  • no room for egos – to participate fully in harmony singing, you can’t be a prima donna
  • everyone has their part to play – even the director is a cog in the machine
  • everyone is equally important – without every single individual, the thing wouldn’t work
  • co-operation is the only way – if people don’t work as a team, there will be no end result
  • trust and support your fellow singers – you have responsibility for yourself but at the same time total trust and dependency on others – otherwise no harmonies!
  • strength in numbers – but still all individuals
  • a single purpose – apparently having a focus or purpose on something outside oneself brings happiness 

things can go wrong

But just as in real life, things can go wrong. Not every choir is perfect

  • dictators – the leader might be a bit of a fascist
  • selfishness – certain singers can be too selfish and not support others
  • judgment – more experienced singers end up looking down on newcomers
  • blocking – it only takes a few individuals with strong views to block ideas that might suit the choir better as a whole 

why not aim for the best?

I really don’t understand why some choirs end up being less than perfect. It’s just so much easier to be supportive, encouraging, work together, selfless, trusting, etc. It takes much more energy to be fearful, angry, egotistical, disruptive, obstructive and selfish.

I’ve been very lucky in that pretty much all the singing workshops and choirs I’ve ever run have ended up being excellent examples of how communities should work. My theory is that choral singing attracts the right kind of people. If an ego is too big, then solo singing becomes more attractive. If a person is too disruptive, then they will never get to make beautiful music so end up leaving.

So let’s raise a glass to all those fantastic model choirs out there! I do hope yours is one of them. Do drop by and tell us all about it.

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Chris Rowbury



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