Monday, July 21, 2014

It’s summer – where have all the choir gone??!!

The evening’s are lighter, the weather is warmer, the songs are amazing, the singing’s as good as ever – it’s summer!

school attendance
Sunday school by Ansel Adams

So where has everybody gone? Why are people not turning up to choir?

Many choirs find that over the summer months attendance becomes very patchy. Even though members might have paid for the whole term in advance, not everyone turns up to every session.

In fact, it can seem like a totally different choir every week!

Why the lack of attendance?

  • Many older choir members have children and grandchildren spread across the globe and take the opportunity to go and visit.
  • It’s the summer holidays and people take their annual vacation early to avoid the rush when school is over.
  • There are so many other demands on people’s time: the garden, music festivals, trips to the seaside.
  • Summer is the one time of year we can engage in proper outdoor activities. Who wants to be in a stuffy, hot rehearsal room when they can be outside playing tennis?

It's great to be able to work with smaller groups in more detail, but frustrating that we can't build week on week. If I start a new song one week I have to teach it all over again the following week. I almost have to create a self-contained session for each week of the term. That’s a lot of work!

Many choirs have concerts in the summer so patchy attendance can play havoc with rehearsals.

And when singers do turn up, they’re often late. With the light evenings, people don’t realise how late it is. They’re down on the allotment or sitting on the veranda sipping a G&T when they suddenly find it’s almost 9pm and choir is nearly over.

Is there a way round this?

I don’t think it’s possible to force attendance at choir or stop people from going on holiday (see next week’s post on improving choir attendance). You have to work with what you’ve got.

Here are a few ideas:

  • roll with it – treat each week as a brand new, one-off session
  • embrace the summer – go outside and sing the old songs, take a walk to a nearby pub, refine your outdoor singing technique
  • team up – with other choirs in the area who are also down in number, take the opportunity to make connections and share repertoire. If you run more than one choir have some joint sessions.
  • great recruitment tool – use the fine weather as an excuse to do outdoor pop-up choirs all over town to recruit new members for the autumn.
  • stop worrying – don’t try to change what is outside your control. Use it as an excuse to try new ideas out, polish old songs, have fun and sing things in a different way. Don’t see it as an obstacle.
  • do something unique and different – experiment with something you wouldn’t normally do: a different genre of song, improvisation, group song writing. The people who miss that session will only be jealous!
  • don’t force things – it’s often only the choir leader who has a problem with patchy attendance. Bend to the choir that you have, don’t try to force it to be the choir that you want. Have a variety of projects on the go so you won’t get frustrated.
  • oldies are golden – this is a great chance to sing through your back catalogue. Go over all those well-known songs. Most people come to choir to sing and not to learn. Don’t teach anything new over the summer.

I’m sure there are loads of other great ideas out there. Do let me know if you have any others.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer and keep singing!

Chris Rowbury




Chris Rowbury


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