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.

We all like to think we’re important and for many people leading a choir can be an ego trip.
Even if it’s not conscious, the behaviour of choir members can reinforce a belief that the choir can’t function without the choir leader.

Choir leaders act as guides, vocal coaches, teachers, facilitators, encouragers, counsellors, and more. It can be a sort of parenting role and it’s all too easy for choir members to fall into the trap of thinking that the choir leader is doing all the work and making things happen.

This can end up feeling a little patronising, and also places enormous stress on the choir leader who feels like they’re carrying the whole choir.

The answer is to give choir members more responsibility. Not just for practical matters of running a choir, but also for the singing itself.

Without the singers there would be no choir, so find ways of letting them understand how accomplished they are.

One of the easiest ways of doing this is to remove yourself from the equation (see Your job as a choir leader is to disappear).

There are many ways of doing this. Here are a few:

  • Once a song is up and running, slowly reduce your conducting gestures and then walk away and just listen to the choir. There might be a little glitch as the choir adjust, but they’ll soon get back on track.
  • Allocate section leaders so you pass some of the responsibility for learning and remembering songs to other choir members.
  • Switch the lights off during a song so singers rely more on listening to each other (see 10 exercises guaranteed to get your singers listening more carefully). And of course they won’t be able to see you!
  • Get someone else to stand out front and lead a song.
  • Stop mouthing the words to songs as you conduct or singers will never bother to remember lyrics.
  • Give different individuals the responsibility to start particular songs by getting them to give out starting notes and count the choir in.
  • Divide the choir up into trios (if it’s a 3-part song) or quartets (if 4-part) with a singer from each part. Conduct the whole choir to get the song started, but then single out clusters of groups or single groups to sing by themselves.
  • Gradually reduce your conducting gestures until they are subtle and almost unnoticeable. The more you can do this, the more singers will begin to listen to each other and work as a team.
  • In performance, have a few songs where you step into the choir as a singer and let the choir lead itself. People haven’t paid to watch your bottom all evening!

One big and important side-effect of trying any of the above is that your singers’ confidence will improve dramatically.

Another is that it will show how much you trust your singers which can only be a good thing (see Trust me – you know it makes sense) and also will help to develop trust between singers as they start to work as a team.

So choir leaders: find as many ways as you can to stop falling into the trap of spoon-feeding your singers and you job will become easier and less stressful.

other useful posts

You might find these other posts useful too:

How will your choir cope if you don’t turn up?

There is no “I” in choir

Does your choir need a conductor?

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

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Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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