Sunday, January 12, 2014

7 ways to share your choir’s singing without making a big performance of it

Some choirs don’t perform at all (see Choirs that don’t perform). But most choirs, at some point, will want to share their hard work with others.

song circle
photo by pyramis

It is possible to share your choir songs without it being scary or making it a big deal. I’ll show you how.

Working towards a performance can be very stressful for both choir leaders and choir members. And if you put on your own concerts it’s not just rehearsals you have to contend with but finding venues, producing publicity, raising money, finding an audience, etc.

Despite my best efforts to start choirs which don’t perform, there inevitably comes a time when choir members want to share their hard work with others. They’ve spent many hours learning songs and are proud of the results so why wouldn’t they want to share?

Then singers get hooked on the stimulation of performance and before you know it, you’re on that treadmill of several major concerts a year with expectations and disappointments and “Where has all the fun gone?”

Here are some ways in which you can share your choir’s songs without turning the whole thing into a big performance.

  1. give it another name – don’t use words like ‘concert’ or ‘performance’, but words like ‘sharing’ or ‘appearance’ or ‘singing experience’.
  2. allow for imperfection – instead of setting yourselves up for judgement, allow friends and family to attend an ‘open rehearsal’. They will already know to expect occasional mistakes and will be rooting for you.
  3. don’t do it all yourselves – take the pressure off by appearing with other choirs and singers. That means you don’t have to take responsibility for a whole evening of entertainment. You can swap war stories with other choir members, share a few songs, and be the audience for the others. Or get someone else to organise a concert and you just have a small slot in it.
  4. don’t separate ‘performer’ and ‘audience’ – involve the non-choir-members from the start. Sprinkle the singers amongst those listening. Teach songs to the listeners. Sing in a circle surrounding those listening. Get the singers to listen sometimes and not always be singing. Break down as many barriers as possible.
  5. choose informal venues – and be unannounced. Don’t raise expectations, but surprise any potential audience by not announcing that you will be singing. The more informal the venue the better. Pubs are great because everyone can have a drink to calm nerves! Flash mobs are another idea.
  6. create new structures – don’t go down the “audience sit quietly in rows whilst the choir stand in rows at the front” path. Try different arrangements and different structures. Audience and singers all sit together mixed up. Allow for song requests. Add some dramatic structure. Intersperse with poems. Anything goes!
  7. find ways to remove pressures – one reason why sharing your songs can feel like an ordeal is because of the crazy expectations that we (and we imagine, our audience) place on ourselves. That we have to be ‘good’ (or even ‘perfect’), or at least better than last time; that the audience will be ‘judging’ us; that we need to ‘impress’ everyone and show them how accomplished and clever we are; that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of singing the songs; that we need to be ‘liked’ (or even ‘loved’) by everybody; that we can’t make ‘mistakes’; that anxiety and pressure are necessary to make a good performance.

    Why not find ways of getting rid of all this baggage? Find a way not to care about the reaction of any audience. Who are you singing for any way? Be clear about WHY you want to share your songs. If it’s to be liked, or applauded, or praised, or to impress then you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons.
I’m sure there are many other new and interesting ways of allowing your choir to share their songs without the pressures of a big concert. I’d love to hear from you if you have any other ideas. Do leave a comment and share your thoughts.

The idea for this post came from a discussion thread ‘To Perform or Not To Perform’ on the Natural Voice Dialogue. This is an informal on-line discussion group hosted by David Burbidge on Yahoo Groups which anyone with an interest in the natural voice (a voice which is released rather than forced or trained) can sign up to. Go here to find out more: Natural Voice Dialogue and to sign up.

Chris Rowbury




Chris Rowbury


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