Sunday, August 07, 2011

Why ‘singing for fun’ doesn’t mean low standards and poor performances

The other weekend 50 singers performed in public to a large, appreciative audience. We performed eight songs in four part harmony, most in foreign languages and some with dance moves.

singing for fun

The standard was high, the performance was tight and the singers clearly had fun. But this group of singers did not use sheet music, had rehearsed for just six two-hour sessions and welcomed all-comers regardless of singing experience.

open-access does not mean low standards

Just because a group is open-access (i.e. no auditions, no experience necessary) and sings for ‘fun’ doesn’t mean that the singers don’t want to improve and that the performances are of a low standard.

There is a myth amongst many choral educators and leaders of formal choirs that so-called amateur or ‘hobbyist’ singers can’t cut the mustard.

If the words ‘community’ or ‘singing for fun’ or ‘open-access’ are associated with a choir, their belief is that standards are necessarily low.

But I know many community and non-auditioned choirs that perform to a very high standard and have long waiting lists to join. They record professional standard CDs and regularly sell out their concerts.

If a group is open-access it does not mean that rehearsals and performances cater for the lowest common denominator.

set the bar high!

In all my groups I set the bar high, but by working in a relaxed, informal and — dare I say it? — ‘fun’ way, singers rise to the occasion improving week on week, always striving to be better.

Even if a group is a ‘singing for fun’ group, singers want to be challenged and want to have a sense of achievement and fulfilment when they reach certain goals. The bar needs constantly to be raised week after week as singers get more confident and develop their skills.

I always include an element of vocal development and musical training in the warm ups every week. I constantly draw attention to how singers are improving over time.

As voices develop and musicality improves, we can tackle more complex songs. With each new performance under our belt, we begin to think of how we can top it the next time with new surprises, new material and new developments.

taking it seriously can be fun

Many people disparage the notion of ‘singing for fun’, but I wonder what their alternative is: ‘singing for misery’? ‘singing for glum people’?

It is possible to take the work seriously without being ‘serious’. It is possible to have fun whilst learning and improving and rehearsing. This sense of fun (and consequently: physical relaxation, lack of fear and stress, pleasure in singing, etc.) will carry over into performance and make the whole thing more alive and vital.

I would hate to be in a choir run by one of these critics. I can only imagine it to be a po-faced, fear-filled, over-disciplined, dull, serious, self-important, repetitive slog.

Long live singing for fun!


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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