Monday, December 25, 2017

Making a good impression is what counts whether you’re a business, singer or choir leader

I’ll let you into a secret: I’m not glued to my computer on this Christmas day!

photo by Nigel

I wrote this piece a while back and have scheduled it to be published on 25th December.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A little praise goes a long way for both singers AND choir leaders

When things aren’t going well, it’s noticeable. That’s when you give constructive criticism.

well done

But when everything is going smoothly, it’s easy to take it for granted. That’s when a word or two of praise can work wonders.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What to do if you catch a cold and a concert is looming

At this time of year many of you will be singing in Christmas concerts.


It’s also the time of year when there are plenty of bugs around. Here’s a timely reminder of what you can do if you catch a cold and a concert is coming up.

Monday, December 04, 2017

12 false beliefs about singing that can prevent you from even trying – don’t let them stop you!

Many of us had bad singing experiences at school. You might have been kicked out of the choir or told to stand at the back and mime.

school choir

Experiences like that can put you off singing for years, and even if you really want to give it a go in later life there are many ridiculous myths which may prevent you from even trying. Time to explode them!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Is your choir name fit for purpose?

Many choir names are descriptive and give a clear idea of what kind of choir it is.


But choirs change over time. Maybe your choir name doesn’t fit what you do any longer.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Four ways that your choir can begin a song badly – and how to correct them

It’s wonderful when a choir starts a song in a crisp and precise way. But there are so many ways in which this can go wrong.


How can we ensure that every singer gets off to a good start?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Why it’s vital to include voice training in your choir leading

I’m just back from leading a singing weekend for singers who want to improve their small group harmony singing skills. We focused quite a lot on blending which required us to look at vocal technique.

But should you make space for this kind of work in your regular choir? Or have people just come to sing?

Monday, November 06, 2017

Is it time to hand your choir over to another leader?

Nothing lasts forever and change can be a good thing.


There comes a time when it might benefit everyone if you hand your choir over to somebody else. Why would you want to do that?

Monday, October 30, 2017

8 reasons why choir leaders should go to more singing workshops

Recently I went to an amazing weekend for choir leaders led by Stephen Taberner of The Spooky Men’s Chorale.

Sing Africa (Africapella) Portsmouth 2017 (23)

I don’t spend enough time on the receiving end so found it thoroughly refreshing and stimulating. Here’s why it’s good for you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mixed tenor sections: the weirdness of men and women singing the same note

Many community choirs have mixed tenor sections with men and women singing the same part.

men and women singing

That’s when things can get weird! Let’s look at what’s going on.

Monday, October 16, 2017

How to keep your performances interesting

Is it enough for your choir to stand in front of an audience and just sing?

Or do you need to make your performances more ‘interesting’ somehow?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Make your choir leading easier by doing less

Many choir leaders believe that they’re indispensable, that their choir only functions when they’re out front leading.


But this can be stressful and doesn’t take into account the choir’s ability as a whole. Here’s how to make your choir leading easier.

Monday, October 02, 2017

How do you know how loud you should sing in choir?

Your singing teacher is always telling you to be more confident and sing up.

boy shouting

But your choir leader asks you to sing quietly and listen to each other. So how loud should you be singing?

Monday, September 25, 2017

How to help singing groups harmonise even if it seems they can’t

Katharine leads a small informal choir where music is not part of the singers education and the level of musicality is low.

The Excel Quartet of the Vienna-Falls Chorus of Fairfax, Va., sings vocal warm-ups in the restroom, utilizing the great acoustics, April 2, 2013. The Excel quartet is the rookie quartet of the VF Chorus and is well on their way to success and great harmonies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

She’s tried some simple harmony songs and rounds with them, but they seem to have a total inability to harmonise. What can she do?

Monday, September 18, 2017

When a new musical director takes over your choir: a guide for choir members

Last week I wrote about strategies for musical directors who were taking over an established choir.

choir leader
original sculpture by susie mendelsson

This week it’s the singers’ turn. How can you easily adapt when a new choir leader takes over your choir? Here are a few hints which might help.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Taking over an existing choir: a guide for musical directors

Choir leaders don’t last forever. There will come a time when a choir will need a new musical director.

A Village Choir, 1847 (Thomas Webster)

Here is a brief guide for those who find themselves in the position of taking over an established choir.

Monday, September 04, 2017

The most important thing do when choir starts again after a long break

Many choirs have a long break over the holidays and start back in September.


What’s the most important element to focus on in your first session back? Read on and I’ll let you into the secret.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Now THAT’S what I call singing! Volume 3

Many moons ago I wrote a couple of posts to share the kind of songs I like from traditions all over the world.


I thought it was about time I added a few more!

Monday, August 21, 2017

10 ways in which leading a choir is like writing a blog – the day to day challenges

I’ve been writing a weekly blog since 2006 and leading choirs since 1997.


It turns out that there are quite a few things in common between these two seemingly unrelated activities.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What singers can do when choir’s on a break

I know not all choirs take a break at this time of year, but many do.


What can singers usefully do whilst there is no choir?

Monday, August 07, 2017

How men sing (Part 5) – amazing examples from across the globe #getmensinging

This is the fifth in a series of posts which features amazing examples of men singing. Here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Men singing Ladakh
men sing while waiting for the women to arrive at the Bona-na festival in Ladakh

My hope is that if men see a huge variety of different kinds of men singing together, they might be inspired to get off the sofa and go and try it themselves.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Outdoor gigs: how to cope when audiences aren’t interested

It’s summer, the time when many choirs and singing groups perform outdoors.

Summer Safari 2016 (Clare Buxton) (2)
summer Singing Safari, Holywells Park, Ipswich, July 2016

It’s hard enough to sing in the open air, and compete with music on the other stages at festivals, but for me the most difficult thing is when audience members wander off. How do you cope with the heart-sink?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ways into vocal improvisation for singing groups

I’m often asked by choir members if we can do some vocal improvisation.

photo © Aude Vanlathem

Improvising with a large group of singers is really hard, but here are some pointers to get you started.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Do everything you can to support your choir leader – they’re the only one you’ve got!

For the last two weeks I’ve been looking at how to sustain your choir as it grows and develops.

human pyramid

Last week I considered ways to persuade choir members to help run the choir. This week I want to look at how your choir leader’s uniqueness can make your choir vulnerable.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday, July 03, 2017

Choir growing pains: how to sustain your choir as it grows and develops

This post is part of a series of occasional Questions and Answers. Just use the contact form if you want to submit a question.

Hannah writes:

“Our choir started in 2013 very informally with a small membership and modest organisation. We have gone from strength to strength in terms of the quality of our singing and repertoire, membership, community grant, website, the availability of practice recordings for each voice part and each song ... the list goes on!

“We have always had a committee run by volunteers, with a constitution. Inevitably there is a very limited group of people who are stepping up to take committee roles, and after four years there is only so much that can be asked of people.

Monday, June 26, 2017

5 ways to keep things fresh when you’re being taught a song you already know

At any singing workshop I run there will probably be someone who already knows one of the songs I’m teaching.

photo by Sludge G

If that is you, what are your options for staying interested?

Monday, June 19, 2017

The ‘good enough’ singer or how to enjoy performing with your choir

I am often faced with a sea of frowns as singers struggle to get a song ‘right’. The frowns even appear during performances when songs have been well-rehearsed.

singing audition

This self-doubt can begin to pervade everything and then singers start to believe that they’re not good enough.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The nuts and bolts of running a singing workshop – 10 practical tips

I ran a day of singing last weekend and whilst I was setting out the tea and biscuits and putting up tables, I realised that the practical side of running a workshop is at least as important as the singing.

Felden 2016 (5)

Here are 10 handy tips from my experience over the last 20 years.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Does the choir you’re in reveal your political leanings?

An opinion piece this week based on personal observations.

protest singers
photo by Roger Blackwell

Here in the UK a general election is looming and I’m wondering whether the type of choir you’re in reveals your political stance.

Monday, May 29, 2017

There is no “I” in “choir”

A choir is no place for egos. When you join choir you agree to give up a certain amount of autonomy in order to work together as a team.

great leader
photo by Colin J

That also applies to the choir leader, although many would disagree!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Are you a singer with hearing loss? Steps you can take to make life easier in your choir

Last week there was a guest post about what choir leaders can do to help singers who have hearing loss.

ear trumpet

This week I want to look at steps you can take yourself if you’re a singer who is experiencing hearing loss.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Singers with hearing loss: how choir leaders can help

More and more older singers are in choirs these days. Many of those singers will have some kind of hearing loss.

Joshua Reynolds "Self-Portrait as a Deaf Man"

How can you, as a choir leader, help them? Here is a guest post by Bettina Gellinek Turner*.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Some people take pride in saying they can’t sing – but is that just fear talking?

You’ll know by now that I believe that everyone can sing.


Apparently this irritates some people who really think that they can’t sing. Why is that?

Monday, May 01, 2017

How to lead your choir when you’re just not in the mood

We all have off days, even choir leaders.


Here are a few hints on how to cope when you’re feeling low or burnt out.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Is there an alternative to being patient when leading a choir?

I’ve been praised many times by the singers I work with for being so patient.


Which makes me wonder: what’s the alternative?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Do you need to practice outside choir rehearsals?

Many singers come to choir – especially “singing for fun” groups – to get away from the stresses of regular life. They love to sing and find it a relaxing escape from the daily grind.

singing in car
photo by Aka Hige

But if your choir performs, there comes a time when you need to be “off the book”, know all the lyrics and be totally familiar with your part. Can that all be done within the rehearsal sessions?

Monday, April 10, 2017

What singing subjects would you like me to write about?

I’ve been writing this blog since December 2006 and have written over 600 posts. I keep thinking I’ll run out of things to write about, but I’ve not done so yet!

However, there may well be subjects that I’ve not considered or haven’t got around to yet. Which is where you come in.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Why I don’t use name badges at my singing workshops

I’m just back from leading a singing weekend and one of the feedback comments was “It would be good to have name badges.”

name badge

I don’t use name badges at my singing weekends, nor in the choirs that I run. Here’s my reasoning.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Why you should stand front and centre if you’re not a confident singer

When we try something new, we are tentative and like to hide until we feel we know a bit more about what we’re doing.


However, if you’ve not sung in a group before then this is the complete opposite of what you need to do! Here’s why you should stand front and centre instead of hiding at the back.

Monday, March 20, 2017

7 ways to hold onto your choir members: why retention is more important than recruitment

I often hear choirs asking how they can recruit more members.

holding on
photo by Laura LaRose

But if you hold onto your existing members, you won’t need to recruit that often. Here are some of the reasons why singers might leave your choir and what you can do to stop it.

Monday, March 13, 2017

How to sing songs from other cultures more authentically

The other week I wrote about why you shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss songs that aren’t in English.

T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

This week I want to consider how you might make songs from other cultures sound more ‘authentic’.

Monday, March 06, 2017

How to develop perfect warm up exercises for your choir

The choir leader’s (and singer’s) lament: “I’m bored with the warm ups and want new ideas.”

IMG_9507 June 2003

It’s very easy to create your own exciting new warm up exercises. I’ll show you how.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Don’t be too quick to dismiss songs that aren’t in English

Some people are put off when they come across a song with foreign words. They prefer to sing songs in English.

Xhosa singers
photo by Chell Hill

Not only are they missing out on so much great music, but it also widens your cultural horizons. Here’s why you should consider songs that aren’t in English.

Monday, February 20, 2017

How to give and receive starting notes 3: all the ways it can go wrong

There are many ways that starting notes for a song can be given out. There are also plenty of ways that starting notes can be confusing or misheard!

out of tune

Here are some useful tips for making sure you start off on the right note. In Part 3 I look at all the ways in which giving and receiving starting notes can go wrong.

Monday, February 13, 2017

How to give and receive starting notes 2: receiving your note accurately

There are many ways that starting notes for a song can be given out. There are also plenty of ways that starting notes can be confusing or misheard!


Here are some useful tips for making sure you start off on the right note. In Part 2 I consider how starting notes are received by the singer.

Monday, February 06, 2017

How to give and receive starting notes 1: giving notes out

There are many ways that starting notes for a song can be given out. There are also plenty of ways that starting notes can be confusing or misheard!

chromatic pitch pipe

Here are some useful tips for making sure you start off on the right note. In Part 1 I consider how starting notes are given out.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Should you pander to your choir or just run things your way?

Many choir leaders have a strong style and particular choice of repertoire. They lead large, thriving choirs which have a strong vision.


Other choir leaders involve their members more and ask their opinion on repertoire, warm ups, performances, etc. Is one approach better or more successful than the other?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Do your singers know what kind of choir they’re in?

When you lead a choir you have a clear idea of what you want that choir to be. But have you made sure that your choir members are on the same page as you?

animal choir

Everyone makes assumption and you may be surprised at how many different views there are within the same choir.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Before you use songs from other cultures check your sources!

Just because a song is in a foreign language, you still need to respect its origins.

Sami family by Morten Oddvik

There is a huge amount of misinformation out there when it comes to songs from other cultures. Before you pass a song along, make sure you know as much about it as you can – and make sure the information is accurate.

Monday, January 09, 2017

New choir season, new ideas – but how much can you really change?

It’s the time of year when many people decide to change things, to try something new.

good idea

But the problem is that you’re still the same person. How much can things really change?