Sunday, September 18, 2011

Starting over – going back to choir after a long break

After the long summer break, I used to arrive really early at the first choir session, sit by the door, and worry that nobody would come back.

starting over

Photo by kabun

I worry less now, but there are still many things to consider after your choir has had a long break.

  • will they come? – perhaps people have found something else to do with their time and have decided not to re-join the choir. Don’t rest on your laurels as there are plenty of other activities out there to tempt people. If you need to know who’s coming back, ask people to pay up or commit in advance (offer incentives). If it looks like the numbers will be low, get promoting over the break.
  • picking up where you left off – as the weeks go by there’s a definite sense of continuity and development. After a long break it can be hard to pick up where you left off. The first session is very much a re-establishing session, a way of reminding people why they come and what they know.
  • softly does it – the first session must include a gentle and long warm up as voices (and ears!) will be rusty. Make it fun and thorough and gradually introduce some old familiar songs.
  • revise, renew, revive – slowly ease your singers in. They will be rusty after the break and will have forgotten lots. Start with easy, familiar songs then go on to revise songs that you’ve done relatively recently. You can also use this opportunity to revive and refresh old repertoire in fun and interesting ways.
  • what shall we do now? – choose new songs which complement your existing repertoire. Extend your current repertoire by adding songs in a style which you know the choir have liked in the past. Re-invigorate old material by adding extra harmony parts or new sections to songs.
  • a cunning plan – you’ll need to have prepared a plan for the next block of choir sessions. Think of ways to develop and challenge the choir. Present the plan clearly to your singers in an exciting way whilst reminding them of their progress over the years.
  • come with new ideas – don’t stand still, keep ’em on their toes. Set goals and challenges to achieve. Raising the bar stops things becoming boring and habitual and also gives a real sense of fulfilment to the singers.
  • time to start afresh – this is a unique opportunity to try new things. Re-evaluate your assumptions, methods and approaches. Are they still valid? It’s harder to incorporate new elements once choir sessions are well under way. At the beginning, after a long break, people are more malleable and receptive to giving new things a go.
  • what did you do on your holidays? – ask choir members about what they did during the break. If it’s a large choir, put people in pairs and give them two minutes each and then maybe report back to the rest. You can focus the question by asking them for their musical highlight of the summer for example. This will help to rekindle social bonds and re-awaken the feeling of all being in the same team.

different for members and choir leaders?

I’ve written all the above from my perspective as a choir leader. I’m sure it’s different for choir members. Will I still be able to sing? Can I remember the songs? Will I feel uncomfortable if there are lots of new members?

What are your experiences of coming back to choir after a long break? I’d love to hear about them. Do leave a comment. Thanks.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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