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!

a choir isn’t the choir leader

I’ve been reading quite a few Facebook posts recently which begin “I led The Singy McSingers in an amazing performance at …” or “My choir, The Singy McSingers, will be performing at …”

Using language like this immediately separates the choir leader from the singers and implies that the choir IS the choir leader.

It’s just as informative to write “The Singy McSingers will be performing at …” or “The Singy McSingers had an amazing performance at …”

All too often a choir leader can begin to believe that they are indispensable and the only reason that the choir sounds as great as it does. Ego steps in and before you know it there is a big “I” in “choir”.

The danger of this is that the singers might start to believe that they can’t do it without the choir leader. Any choir leader worth their salt should be able to guide and train their singers so they learn to listen carefully and work as one. In fact, in some ways, I believe that a choir leader’s job is to become redundant.

See Does your choir need a conductor? and Your job as a choir leader is to disappear.

When a choir leader takes on too much responsibility for the overall sound of the choir, that is not only disrespectful to the skills of each individual singer, but sets up a dependency which leads singers to believe they have no innate ability but can only perform well with the choir leader in front of them.

See Don’t let your choir leader do all the work – realise how capable you are as a singer.

choral singers can’t just do their own thing

Some singers love to make up their own harmonies when singing along to the radio. Others like to improvise around a drone or chord sequence. Some singers are accomplished creators of melodies in their own right. Others are skilled song arrangers.

But if you want to join a choir, you need to temporarily give up a certain amount of autonomy and fit in with the group as a whole. In exchange for this, you get to make wonderful music with other singers. Creating a choral sound is definitely a team activity. There can be no “I” in “choir” even though the overall sound depends totally on each individual singer and their unique voices.

See Singing in a choir – balancing individual freedom with the demands of the team.

choirs which don’t celebrate the individual can be soulless

Getting individuals to “fit in” can go too far in my opinion. There are choirs which spend so much time striving for the perfect blend, focusing on the music rather than the singers (any singer is replaceable), and wearing identical costumes that the individuality of the singers can get lost. The overall sound becomes so perfect that the humanity of the singers disappears. You may as well make music with robots.

See We are not here to serve the music and In praise of imperfection in art.

this is just my opinion

Of course, these views are all my own and you may disagree. But I am personally drawn to those human beings who do fine work but are humble with it. If you’re confident and do good work there is no need to blow your own trumpet or draw attention to yourself. What do you think?

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Chris Rowbury



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