Sunday, June 03, 2012

Singing: what a difference a man makes!

A woman came up to me last Saturday and said “I like coming to your workshops because there are always lots of men”.

Men's singing workshop 2012

Keen singers from The OK Chorale

Little did she know that only a week before there had been 45 women and just one man enrolled on the workshop!

I love the sound of women singing together, especially those open-throated Balkan and Eastern European groups. I also used to run a small women’s ensemble for many years and remember the shivers up my spine from listening to them sing.

But for some songs, you just need to include men.

why you need men

  • you can’t replace a bloke’s voice – no matter how deep a woman can sing, a man’s voice always brings a different quality
  • more volume – yes, sometimes that can be a problem, but men generally have louder voices. That can help less confident women singers raise their game.
  • greater depth of sound – the bottom end of the range brought by men can root a song and give it depth
  • can bring authenticity – an African or Russian song without a bass section just doesn’t sound right.
  • sense of humour – men are intrinsically funny, whether they’re cracking jokes or just standing there.
  • adds contrast – rather like having a meal of just smoked salmon, it’s nice to have some contrast now and again
  • good at putting out chairs – for some reason men love putting out chairs and carrying tables. Use it to your advantage ladies!

but where are they all?

Trouble is, no matter how important men are, and no matter how many times I tell them that singing is great, they are often thin on the ground in choirs and workshops. The male singer seems to be an endangered species.

I’ve written about this many times before: Men and singing (a series of three posts that start here), Why men won’t sing: a discussion, The problem with men: getting them, handling them and keeping them, Low ladies.

And still I don’t have a solution!

men: buy one get one free

I have a wonderful weekend workshop coming up in the Lake District at the height of the English summer: Singing for all – a weekend in harmony. As you can imagine it’s proving to be very popular and has virtually sold out, but there is only ONE man enrolled!

What kinds of strategies can we use for getting more men to attend?

Here are a couple that I’ve tried recently:

  • if a bloke comes with a male friend, then the two of them together get a discount
  • if a young man aged 16+ who loves singing can persuade his Dad to come, he will get a free place

I know of someone who has offered a free place to every woman who brings a man (that’s some incentive ladies!) and it worked quite well for a one-off.

Wish me luck: I’m off to run a men’s singing day tomorrow – Singing: it’s a bloke thing!

It’s a new local initiative that I’m hoping to run each year. So far I’ve got 14 punters which is great, but pretty much all of them are already in choirs or sing regularly. I want to get hold of those blokes who are yet to discover the joys of singing! I’ll let you know how it goes.

more ideas?

What do you think men bring to a singing group? I’m sure I must have missed some things out. Do you have problems recruiting for your choir or singing workshop? Do you have any other clever ideas for getting men to sing that have been successful?

I’d love to hear what your experiences have been. Do leave a comment and share with us.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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