Sunday, July 17, 2011

Don’t stand too close to me! – finding the right place to stand in your choir

In some formal choirs you’re told exactly where to stand when performing. There is often a fixed set-up which varies little from concert to concert.

gasworks choir

Photo by nicksarebi

However, in most community choirs, even though the separate parts might have fixed positions, where you stand within your part is up to you. How do you choose the right place to be?

I thought this would be a short post, but then I got thinking and realised there is a lot in this topic:

  1. choosing where to stand within your part – there is a certain amount of flexibility, so how do you choose?
  2. individual vs. group needs – you want to be a unique individual, but you are just one of many singers who need to serve the choir as a whole
  3. choir formation – not necessarily the typical SATB grouping
  4. responding to the new – why does it feel different singing in different parts of the room?
  5. spatial awareness – how come some people don’t seem to have any awareness of the others around them?

I’ll be writing more on these later on.

Next week I'll be looking at the difference between traditional choir formation in sections and mixing parts up (Flying in choir formation – placing singers effectively), but for now I want to focus on the first issue:

choosing where to stand in your part

  • if you’re tall, probably best to be at the back or the others won’t be able to see the conductor. And if you’re short, stand at the front.
  • if you love harmony and are really confident with your part, it’s a joy to stand on the join between two different harmony parts.
  • but if you’re not that confident with your part, make sure you stand surrounded by others singing the same thing. They will be your support.
  • if you’re very under-confident you will want to hide at the back. Paradoxically though, the best place to be is on the front row with all the other singers backing you up and singing your part clearly into your ears.
  • there are two lonely places to be, and that’s at either end of the choir. Unless you perform in a circle, someone has to be on the end. You’ll need to be very confident of your part as it can feel like you’re very much on your own.
  • if you have the choice, don’t stand next to people who put you off. They might be too loud, or the blend with your voice just doesn’t work, or they might get it wrong more often than you. Whatever the reason, if it puts you off, move.
  • if you can’t see the conductor or read your music/ words easily because of the lighting – move.
  • if you find it hard to smile and engage your body whilst singing (because you’re concentrating so hard), probably best not to be in the front row. You’ll only draw attention to yourself.
  • if you find someone in your part to be supportive for any reason, try to stand next to them (they might smell nice, have a lovely smile or a beautiful voice, they might have a great sense of humour, they might have been to more rehearsals than you). But you must also accept your own responsibility as a singer and not rely on other people too much.
  • don’t leave gaps between you and the other singers. The closer you can get (to the singers on either side, and to the singers in front and back), the better you will hear and the better and more accurate the singing and the harmonies will be.
  • and finally, having taken everything else into consideration and you still have choices, stand in the place that feels “just right” (as Goldilocks would say) – whatever that means for you.

where do you stand?

I’m sure I’ve missed out loads of other things to think about. Do leave a comment and let us know what you think. Have you found yourself standing in a really bad place for a performance? Why was that? What is the best place for you to stand when singing?

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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