Monday, October 03, 2016

What to do when only one man turns up to your mixed choir

There’s a mixed voice singing workshop with plenty of women singers, but only one man turns up. A new community choir starts and only one man comes to the first session, vastly outnumbered by the women.

men wanted
North Walsham Community Choir, Norfolk, UK

How do you deal with the massive imbalance? Here are a few ideas.

It’s happened to the best of us: you have a wonderful arrangement of a song for your next singing workshop or choir season, but then only one person turns up for one of the parts.

Given the way the world works, it’s most likely that it’s a lone man who turns up to a room full of women. It’s extremely rare, but it could be that just one woman turns up to a group of men. Either way, how you deal with it is similar.

Being a minority of one in a group can be very difficult. There’s nowhere to hide! When we walk into a room we like to see others like ourselves and if there aren’t, it can be a little alienating.

It’s particularly noticeable if you have just one male voice amongst lots of women’s voices.

Here are a few obvious tactics:

  • if the man can sing in the tenor range, put him with the low women and get them to sing in the same octave (if a man is singing an octave below the women around him it can stick out and also even sound as if he’s out of tune for some strange reason).
  • give the man the lead or call – it will make him feel important and he’s also not trying to ‘fit in’ with the women’s voices.
  • if you’re lucky enough to have lots of low women’s voices and the man can sing high(ish) tenor, then do two-part harmony songs and have him on the lower part with the low women.
  • do lots of fun, unison singing where it doesn’t really matter that voices are in different octaves – you might even have some very low women who can match his pitch.
  • if the male singer is very experienced and/ or a confident singer, then he may be able to hold a part on his own. Many songs can benefit from having an added bass part, even if it’s a simple drone with only one voice.

The solution you choose depends on the size of the choir (one man amongst 60 is very different from one man amongst 10!), and whether you perform or not.

If the man concerned is a confident singer (and not frightened of women!) then you have quite a lot of scope. I’ve run singing weekends when only one man has turned up. Sometimes it’s fine, the two of us make up the entire bass section and have plenty of laughs doing so.

But what if the man is an inexperienced or nervous singer? You certainly won’t want to draw attention to him. Also, if you’re trying to recruit more men to your choir, you want to hold onto this one so he’ll set an example to others.

This is the most difficult scenario to deal with and there are no easy answers.

In fact, I don’t really have any answers at all!

So now it’s over to you:

  • Do you have any ideas that I haven’t covered to help when a solitary, inexperienced male singer joins a mixed choir?
  • How do you make him feel comfortable and not too different?
  • How can you usefully blend and use his voice in the overall mix without it sticking out?

I’d love to hear any solutions you might have found. I’m sure others will too as this situation can happen a lot.

I look forward to hearing from you. Do leave a comment so others can join in.

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Chris Rowbury



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