Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to set up a choir if you’re not a choir leader PART 1

I’ve written before about how to set up your own community choir, assuming that you want to run it yourself.

But what if you’re not a musical director and you want to set up a choir?

community choir
photo by Garry Knight

Here’s a guest post by Angela Gracey outlining five key steps to starting a choir. Warning - this venture is not for the faint hearted!

1. Get organised

You need to be a good organiser and administrator.  You don’t have to be a professional at this, but you do need to be someone with the skills and common sense to build the proverbial ship and then captain it.

Be prepared to be a volunteer, there is no money to be made from setting up a choir; it is your job to make sure that others get paid, i.e. the musical director.  You will need to have plenty of spare time and energy and be able to cope with the fact that you do most of the work and don’t get paid for it.

Ideally you need at least one other person who will work with you in setting the choir up, this spreads the work load and gives you a second opinion when you need one.  It is essential that you know that you can rely on this person, trust them and work with them. Working with people you do not know is a serious risk to your health and sanity!

Personality clashes, clashes of ideas and vision do occur with people you do not know and can totally undermine the vision and success of a choir; so start with someone you know well and be prepared for the foibles of human nature to surprise, shock and dismay you.

2. Have a Vision and a Plan

It is essential that you know why you want to set up a choir and what type of choir you want it to be as these will be the foundations that you build your vision on.
Once you are clear on your vision you need to plan how the choir will run and operate.
  • Start with a short term plan for the choir (three or six months).  Aim to have your debut performance either three months or six months from your first rehearsal; this gives every singer a goal to aim for and your MD a clear working time frame.
  • Work out the costs involved and know how much money you need to fund every choir rehearsal.
  • Find a venue and make sure that it is accessible for people with mobility issues and accessible to people who use public transport, if this is applicable in your locality.
  • How often will the choir meet? – once a week, fortnightly etc.
  • When will you meet? – daytime or evening, during the week or at weekends?
  • How long will choir sessions last?
  • How many singers do you have to start the choir off? 
  • Can you call on a group of friends and acquaintances who are 100% committed to forming a choir or do you need to advertise for new members to start it off?
  • How will you attract more singers to join the choir?
  • How will you find a choir leader/ musical director?
  • What sort of musical director do you want?
  • What sort of songs will you sing?
  • Do your singers need to be able to read music? Will you audition singers or are you a choir that is open to all no matter how much or how little musical experience they have?
  • What will the age range be for choir membership?
  • Will you allow young people under the 18 to join? If so then you will need a child protection policy, a child protection officer, CRB clearance on your MD and yourself and ideally someone who has completed the level 1 child protection.
  • Is the choir to be run by you and the MD or will you set it up as a constituted community group with a constitution and a committee?
  • How will you attract enough members to establish and keep a choir going?
  • Where and when will you have your debut performance?  You need to advertise this to your potential choir members so that they all know if they will be available to perform at it. Or let them know that it’s to be a non-performing choir.
  • Advertise your new choir through local newspapers, who will usually run an article on your new choir if you send them the details.  Print off some flyers and place them in your local libraries, shops, community centre, health centre, pubs etc.   Advertise via local organisations websites such as your council, arts organisations, local council for volunteers.
  • Do you need a constitution? If you are going to operate as a constituted community group then you will need a constitution and a bank account. You can find model constitutions on line, most established choirs will happily share their constitution with you and you can modify it to fit your own vision and choir’s needs. You can also ask your local council for volunteers for help in writing a constitution.

    Keep your constitution, simple and workable, it is your governing document and you will need to refer to it from time to time.  Every committee member should be fully aware of its contents and on election agree to abide by the rules within it. The constitution is the document that will oversee that peace is kept in your committee IF any disputes or problems arise with or between committee members. Remember that it’s a working document and that it needs to be revised on an annual basis and amended if necessary as you go along – like the choir it is a work in progress.

Once you have decided and agreed the what, where, when and how of the choir you can prepare to launch.

About Angela Gracey

Angela is currently based in Bury, Lancashire, UK and has sung with many different groups over the years.

Some time ago somebody suggested that she start a local community choir in Bury. Having never done this before, she researched ‘how to set up a community choir’ and formed a choir which is still going to this day.

Angela left in 2012 and once word got out that she was ‘available’ she was asked to set up another choir. She agreed to do so on the condition that after she got the choir up and running she could then retire from running it and just sing.

Angela is now once again ‘just’ a singer in a choir and it feels good!

Email Angela:


In Part 2 of this article, Angela considers how you will pay for the running costs of your choir, how to find a musical director and your first performance and beyond.

Chris Rowbury’s website:

Chris Rowbury


Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.


found this helpful?

I provide this content free of charge, because I like to be helpful. If you have found it useful, you may like to ...

... to say thank you.





Monthly Music Round-up: